Greetings from the New Collections Manager!

Posted on September 29th, 2014 by

Greetings, blog readers! My name is Joanna Church, and I’m the new Collections Manager at the JMM.  There’s something a little nerve-wracking about starting a new job; before starting here, I wondered: What will the office be like? How tricky is the commute? Will the new colleagues be pleasant? And is there a coffee maker?* For those of us who work with museum collections, however, there’s one almost-guarantee when joining the staff of a new museum: The collections themselves – no matter what they actually are – will be interesting.  In my few weeks here at the JMM, this has definitely proved to be true.

I am a Maryland native, but new to Baltimore. Searching our database for something first-blog-post-appropriate, I found a foam hat that says “Welcome to Baltimore.” Thank you, hat!

1992.190.001, front view

1992.190.001, front view

This old-fashioned hat, with a four inch high crown, was made around 1990, mimicking the style of a circa 1900s boater (right down to the ‘woven straw’ look to the molded foam). The printed paper ‘ribbon’ around the crown reads in full, “Welcome to Baltimore UAHC NFTS ’91.”  The donor, E.B. Hirsh, was one of thousands of delegates to the Union of American Hebrew Congregations/National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods biennial convention, held in Baltimore from October 31st to November 5th, 1991.

1992.190.001, front view

1992.190.001, side view

According to the Baltimore Sun there were plenty of important issues discussed at this meeting of representatives from over 850 Reform synagogues. Nevertheless, what’s a convention without a party? Our hat and its welcoming message have an opening-day-festivities vibe, suggesting that there were opportunities for fun amidst the more serious activities.  (If any readers attended the conference and can share some info, please do!)

As for the type of hat itself, straw boaters or “skimmers” were popular summer headwear for men and women in the late 19th – early 20th centuries. Here are a few Baltimore residents sporting the style in 1924:

Abe Sherman, his father Moses, and two unidentified men at Abe Sherman's newsstand in Battle Monument Square, August 1924. Donated to the JMM by Brig. Gen. Philip Sherman. 1989.021.001

Abe Sherman, his father Moses, and two unidentified men at Abe Sherman’s newsstand in Battle Monument Square, August 1924. Donated to the JMM by Brig. Gen. Philip Sherman. 1989.021.001

By the 1950s, however, the boater had dwindled from everyday garb to costume, and it is most likely to be seen today on members of a barbershop quartet; actors in a production of, say, “The Music Man;” or attendees at a political rally. Though I can’t tell you exactly why a boater became appropriate convention-wear, it’s enough of a stylistic trope that plastic and Styrofoam hats are marketed specifically for these events.  Our example was manufactured in the U.S. by the Lewtan Line, a company founded in 1947 by Marvin Lewtan.

…As you may have guessed by now, things are my thing. I look forward to sharing more of the stories and histories of the JMM’s fabulous artifacts, images, and archival records!


*Answers: Great; not bad so far; absolutely; and (thankfully) yes.

JoannaA blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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.

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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

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