A blog post by Collections Intern Stephanie Daughtery.
My six weeks at the Jewish Museum of Maryland have taught me a lot about collection management. Although I have taken classes on registration and object care for my Masters degree, I did not have the opportunity to process collections. The last institution I worked out was not actively collecting new items, so I had little experience with new acquisitions, donors, and past perfect. While working as the collections intern, I have had the chance to communicate with donors and receive new objects.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of collection management is processing new donations, which involves assigning accession numbers, creating catalog entries in past perfect, photographing, and finding a home in collection storage. At the JMM, there is certainly no shortage in donations. People and organizations in Maryland have tremendous respect for the Jewish Museum of Maryland and continue to entrust the Museum with their ancestor’s belongings, family photographs, ceremonial objects, wedding dresses, and other personal artifacts. While donations come in all shapes and sizes, one of the largest items I processed was Eddy Kramer’s accordion. The donor, who is Eddy’s nephew, provided biographical information about the accordion and Eddy Kramer’s life. This information is valuable for the museum and researchers as it helps contextualize the object’s significance to the community. Eddy served in the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II and played accordion in the Army Air Force Band. Additionally, Eddy was picked to be part of a trio that traveled throughout the U.S. to raise money by selling war bonds. Eddy and his accordion helped raise millions of dollars for the war effort.
Eddy Kramer’s accordion in its original case (2011.86.4a,b)
Another interesting accession was a tea set donated by the Sinai Nurses Alumnae. These objects were used at Friday afternoon teas hosted by the school of nursing. According to the donor, the purpose of the tea was “to make ladies out of us.” The tea set includes two teapots, a sterno, a stand for the sterno, a sugar bowl, and a creamer. Many of the objects have intricate floral designs and the initials “SN.” It was fun assigning numbers to each object and its parts, photographing these pieces, and determining the best way to house silver. My fellow archives and photographs interns were simultaneously going through other materials related to the Sinai School of Nursing. These other materials helped me learn about the history of the Sinai Nursing School and why this tea set is an important addition to JMM’s collection.
Sinai Nurses teapot with “SN” inscription (2012.40.1)
Floral detail of sterno stand (2012.40.4a)
These are just two examples of the old, delicate, beautiful, and sometimes strange objects I get to handle each day at my internship. The collection is really impressive and will continue to grow with generous donations.
Long before Harry Potter’s name blew out of the Goblet of Fire on a burning piece of parchment (but roughly the same time that the Chamber of Secrets was open for the first time), the Rogers Avenue Synagogue had its own Goblet of Fire.
All of Hogwarts watched intently as the Goblet of Fire spews a fourth (and unexpected) time.
The “Rogers Avenue Synagogue” was formed in 1950 when two existing congregations– Ohr Knesseth Israel and Anshe Sphard Congregations — merged. In 1951 they broke ground for their new building in the Upper Park Heights neighborhood on, you guessed it, Rogers Avenue. In 1958 they expanded the building, nearly doubling its capacity. By 1975 the congregation was ready to pay off their mortgage in entirety. (In pure coincidence, Archivist Jennifer Vess will be talking about the Rogers Avenue Synagogue manuscript collection in her next post, so you can find out more about the congregation history from her.)
Although highly uncommon in the early 21st century mortgage burning parties were popular events for synagogues, churches* and even families just a few decades ago. I’m sure a few of our readers can remember when Archie Bunker burned the mortgage on All in the Family.
Approximately 2:00 into the clip below for the famous line “don’t set fire to the house:”
Invitation to the mortgage burning, JMM 1995.165.001b
The mortgage burning at Rogers Avenue Synagogue was talked about with the same amount of excitement as the Tri-Wizard tournament!
Paying off the mortgage is no small feat. It shows the dedication and commitment of the Congregation members, as well as their fiscal responsibility. It was a moment of great celebration and pride for the congregation, as this tremendous financial burden was lifted!.
Program for the mortgage burning, JMM 1993.052.287
At the Rogers Avenue Synagogue, the day’s program combined the mortgage burning with the re-dedication of the building. Cantors Herbert Grossman and Irving Grossman entered the sanctuary singing Matovu, and Rabbi Joshua Shapiro offered the Invocation. Congregational highlights were presented and individuals were recognized. Rabbi Shapiro gave a prelude to the Mortgage Burning and the actual mortgage burning was done by Mr. and Mrs. Albert Trepolsky, Mr. Morris Cohen, Mrs. Ruby Eberlin and Mrs. Stuart Weinberg.
The mortgage is held above the Havdallah candle by Morris Cohen.
Mr. and Mrs. Albert Trepolsky show the burning mortgage to the congregation.
Cantor Grossman and Rabbi Shapiro sing in the liturgical songfest.
Last December the mortgage burning bowl used by the Rogers Avenue Synagogue was donated to the JMM. The collections staff was positively giddy! We already had the documents from the mortgage burning, we had photos from the event, and now we have the actual object that was used. It even has residue of the ash still in its bowl. This is a true piece of Maryland Jewish History!
Ash from the mortgage, JMM 2010.073.001
Now what I want to know is: how was this bowl chosen? It’s gold in color, but not overly shiny and ornate. There are no overt Jewish symbols on the footed compote bowl; it has a petal design.
The shape, however, is perfect for the purposes of burning the mortgage. The sides are tall enough to protect the person holding it, but short enough for congregation members sitting in the back to see the flames!
And it still measures up to our expectations!
The Goblet of Fire illustrated by Mary Grandpre in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Indiana Jones knew that he was looking for a plain cup, created by a carpenter.
Donovan, the villain in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (and later Ilsa) were attracted to the precious gemstones and gleaming gold. They chose poorly.
*Red Church Doors?
Many church doors are painted red. According to some lore, this indicated that the church has paid off its mortgage, but I could find no concrete proof of this. Anglican (Episcopal) churches boast red doors for theological reasons. This goes back to the Middle Ages, when the north, south and east doors were painted red, symbolizing the Blood of Christ, to indicate that churches were designated Sanctuary, where anyone was safe from danger. Some other mainline Protestant churches, such as Lutheran churches, have red doors as Wittenberg Cathedral, where Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses, had red doors, and by tradition, this marks such churches as Reformed churches. Another school of thought holds that church doors are painted red to indicate the mortgage has been paid off!