Preserving the Past: The Challenges that Museums Face

Posted on June 28th, 2013 by

Erin PruhsA blog post by Archaeology Intern Erin Pruhs. Erin is working with the Lloyd Street Synagogue Archaeology Collection under the supervision of Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. You can see other posts by Erin and the rest of our interns here.

As an archaeologist I have a very vested interest in preserving our past. Within most museums there are conservators and collection management professionals that work together to determine the best ways to protect our past. Conservation involves a lot of know-how with a wide variety of materials and objects, like Flags! The Star Spangled Banner Flag, which was sewn at the house that is located on the grounds of The Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, had been under extensive conservation over the past few years and is now on display for the public to view at The National Museum of American History Smithsonian Institution.

Photo via

Photo via

Conservation began in a laboratory in 1998 where museum visitors observed the conservation process through a 50-foot long glass wall.  In order to figure out the best way to protect and preserve the flag, the current condition of the flag was noted.  After the flag had been properly treated it was photographed.  Due to its size, 73 separate photos were taken and pieced together to get a full image.  After the treatment was completed, the flag was put on display in its new case at a 10 degree angle which provides proper support for the flag and which also allows the best view for visitors.

Photo via

Photo via

Public interaction with museums is important.  Museums offer a distinct learning environment for the public and for schools; it is more than just “pretty things” in display cases – it is a different forum for gaining knowledge.  Objects tell a story and often, as is the case with the Star- Spangled Banner, they are powerful stories.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

A Walk Around Collections

Posted on June 20th, 2013 by

Kathleen MorrisonA blog post from Archives Intern Kathleen Morrison. Kathleen is working with Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

Since I’ve been at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I’ve mostly been downstairs in the archival rooms cataloging papers. While down there, I get to work around objects and pictures hanging on the racks. Sometimes I get up and I take a walk around the aisles. Some of the objects are very ornate and special, and others are regular items.

When we go through school, we learn mostly about big names and events, but items like the ones we have here at the museum remind me that, as much as I love Great Man/Woman-based history, the majority of the world was and is ordinary people going about their lives. Their hopes and their problems are what makes history tangible. We have objects brought over from Russia and Eastern Europe by immigrants seeking a new life in a country where it was safer to be Jewish. The other day, I cataloged the US Customs ID card from 1918 that belonged to a young man. We have kitchen utensils, clothes, books, pins, badges, flags, sheet music. All the ephemera from daily life in the Jewish community and the Baltimore community one could imagine are here. It makes me wonder what people will be preserving in the future from this decade.

Kathleen photoIncluded is a photo of my favorite object, a bottle of camphor oil that has settled and begun to separate.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

The Bone Test!

Posted on June 19th, 2013 by

Erin PruhsA blog post by collections intern Erin Pruh. Erin is working with the Lloyd Street Synagogue archaeological collections this summer with Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

LSS_Erin 006

This is a weird artifact that appeared while taking pictures of the Lloyd Street Synagogue archaeological excavation materials. most of the objects have been parts of bricks, glass or rusted nails, but this appears to be a bead.

LSS_Erin 007

The bead looked like it was made of bone, but I wanted to be sure, so I tested it.

LSS_Erin 001

One way to test, which there is a pretend picture of, is putting the end of the bone to your tongue – if it sticks, it’s bone. (No objects were actually licked in the making of this photoset.)

Another way, which is the way that was done, is putting it in water.  If it floats, it's wood - if it sinks, it's bone.

Another way, which is the way that was done, is putting it in water. If it floats, it’s wood – if it sinks, it’s bone.

It is, in fact, bone!

It is, in fact, bone!

ETA:  In response to some comments over on our facebook page: “I did more research when i got home – I had very little time to actually look into it before it was posted. had a friend of mine who is a bioanth look at pics and she says it’s not bone. It’s really hard to tell. It doesn’t look like any kind of ceramic that i have seen. i specialize in late prehistoric ceramics (grit and shell tempers). I was debating about it being clay – but considered it. The records don’t give any information and previous interns considered it possibly bone. Another option, which I am really skeptical about, is it being made from horn. I appreciate the input and will definitely look more into it. A pipe stem would fit the context. There are some records where past interns noted objects that would be from prehistoric context, such as a stone tool, which is missing…but there are no records that indicate that there was any prehistoric activity in this area. thanks for letting me know what it is!” -Erin

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

« Previous PageNext Page »