Fashion Statement: Students as Storytellers Part 2

Posted on April 11th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!


(This is Part 2 of a two-part blog post about the latest education programs offered at the Jewish Museum of Maryland for our special exhibits: Stitching History from the Holocaust and Fashion Statement. Missed Part 1? You can check it out here.)


At the Jewish Museum of Maryland, we are stories tellers. We are also storyfinders, storykeepers, and storyprotectors. We are finding new stories all the time. Our current special exhibit, Fashion Statement, is composed of items of clothing that tell stories about their wearers.

During their recent visit, students from John Ruhrah Elementary Middle School had the opportunity to become storytellers. Thinking critically and creatively, they worked in small groups to create stories about the clothing items on display in Fashion Statement.

Students from John Ruhrah’s 7th grade work together to complete their puzzle.

Piecing together a puzzle is like piecing together the story of an object. As each new fact is discovered, another piece of the puzzle falls into place, eventually revealing the whole picture. The 6th to 8th-grade students started with a puzzle. Working together as a team, they completed the puzzle to reveal an item of clothing from the exhibit.

Students made observations about their item of clothing in the exhibit.

After locating their item in the exhibit, students made observations about it. Taking their cue from Nancy Patz’ book “Who Was the Woman Who Wore the Hat?” students asked questions that a researcher would ask when trying to learn more about an object in a Museum. What is the clothing item? What material, or materials, is it made of? Who wore it? Why do you think someone would wear this specific item? Why was it chosen to be on display by the Museum?

Students used their observations and questions about their object to write stories.

Then, mimicking the rhythmic lyrics of Nancy Patz’ book, students worked together to complete fill-in-the-blank stories for their items. Who was the person who wore the (blank) coat? What was she like? Was she (Blank)?

Students thought about what questions they would want to ask the owner of the item. They came up with questions like: “Why did you put your name on it? Why this color? Where was it made? Was it comfortable?”

Taking an active role as the storyteller, students were empowered to think about what clothing represents. In the case of Stitching History from the Holocaust (see Part 1), clothing was a means for survival and representative of a talent lost to the world. In Fashion Statement, clothing is a way to express your identity.

At the end of the visit, students considered: What can we learn about people through their clothing? What can’t we learn about people from their clothing? What does clothing mean to you?

I encourage you to think about these questions as you visit Fashion Statement and explore how Jewish Marylanders, and all human beings, use clothing as one of the ways we assert who we are.

Thank you to the 6th to 8th-graders at John Ruhrah Elementary Middle School for visiting the Jewish Museum of Maryland this spring. If you are interested in bringing your school, summer camp, or group, please contact Paige Woodhouse, School Program Coordinator, at pwoodhouse@jewishmuseummd.org or 443-873-5167.


Not all stories fit on a label in an exhibit. Looking to learn more about some of the items on display? Check out some “extras” here.


 

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Stitching History from the Holocaust: Students as Storytellers Part 1

Posted on April 10th, 2019 by

This post was written by JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. To read more posts from Paige, click here!


(This is Part 1 of a two-part blog post about the latest education programs offered at the Jewish Museum of Maryland for our special exhibits: Stitching History from the Holocaust and Fashion Statement. You can check out part two tomorrow!)


At the Jewish Museum of Maryland, we are stories tellers. We are also storyfinders, storykeepers, and storyprotectors.

We are thrilled to share the poignant story found in Stitching History from the Holocaust on loan to us from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee. This exhibit brings to life the dress designs by Hedy Strnad, who perished in the Holocaust. In doing so, the exhibit aims for visitors to see that each victim of the Holocaust has their own story that deserves to be remembered.

When students from John Ruhrah Elementary Middle School visited this week, they did not just hear the story of Hedy Strnad but took a behind-the-scenes look at how this story came to be.

Many stories begin with a question, a discovery, or someone’s desire to know something more. In the case of Stitching History from the Holocaust, the story began with the discovery by Burton Strnad of a red envelope containing a handwritten letter, a black and white photograph, and eight dress designs. Burton Strnad gave these items to the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee, who then began to piece together the story behind the couple in the photography, Hedy and Paul Strnad.

6th-grade students from John Ruhrah taking a close look at the dresses on display in Stitching History from the Holocaust, on loan to us from the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee.

Sometimes stories don’t begin with just one question. They begin with lots of questions. Students stepped into the shoes of Burton Strnad and the staff at the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee. Imagining they made this discovery, students pondered what would they want to know about these items and the people that they belonged to? Students came up with the questions: Who were the people in the photograph? What did they do? What happened to them? Where did they come from? Are they related to me? How did the letter get there? Who made the dress designs?

Students thought about how they would find the answers to their questions. They could talk to family members, search on the internet, go to the library or a museum. All great ideas (especially the Museum suggestion).

Hedy and Paul’s story is told using dresses that were fabricated from the designs found by Burton Strnad. Students discussed how the dresses represent a family’s attempt for survival. They represent a profession. A talent. An individual. They are a memorial for someone’s talent and potential that was lost because of the Holocaust. They allow Hedy and Paul’s story to live on and pass from generation to generation.

The story of Hedy and Paul is still being uncovered by the Jewish Museum of Milwaukee. As new pieces of information are discovered, the Museum is able to fill in the blanks. Students considered what else they wonder about the dresses and the Strnad family. Students asked: How did Hedy and Paul die? How old was Hedy? Are there any traces of her dress shop? Are there other designs or photos? How long did it take to make the dresses?

Students working with JMM Educator Marisa to think about what they would still like to know after learning about Hedy and Paul Strnad.

Exhibits are three-dimensional storytelling environments that you can move through and interact with. Unlike the paperbound novels that students are reading in class, an exhibit immerses them in the narrative. The dresses on display in Stitching History from the Holocaust do just that. They bring to life the Strnad family’s story and allowed students a behind-the-scenes exploration of how Museum’s tell important stories. Finally, the exhibit and the dresses don’t answer all the questions, but left students inspired to find out more.


Find out how students created their own stories about clothing items on display in the JMM-original exhibit Fashion Statement, in the next blog post, Fashion Statement: Students as Storytellers Part 2 (publishing on April 11, 2019).


 

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Postcards for Paige: The Final Edition

Posted on March 22nd, 2019 by

As our regular readers are aware, in recent years we’ve dedicated one of our monthly newsletters each quarter to tongue-in-cheek “correspondence” between our visitor services coordinator and our visitors. This started with Dear Abby (Abby Krolik) and then Greetings Graham (Graham Humphrey) and most recently Postcards for Paige (Paige Woodhouse).  Paige was recently promoted, but we persuaded her to draft one last newsletter before she left her old job behind. To read more posts from Paige, click here!


Dear Paige:

At mahjong last week my sister’s best friend was telling me that her nephew’s art was being displayed at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and they had attended a packed reception for it! What’s this My Family Story project and how do I get my grandchildren involved in the next one?

~Mahjong Mima

Dear Mima,

The My Family Story program is a fun-filled, meaningful, and multigenerational Jewish journey to the past, where students’ exploration of their Jewish family story culminates in an artistic project. In partnership with the Beit Hatfusot, the Museum of the Jewish People, the JMM has displayed these projects for the last five years! The projects are judged and those selected from each school are entered into Beit Hatfutsot’s international competition.

If you are interested in having your grandchildren involved next year, please tell your community about this great program – especially your grandkid’s Jewish Day or Congregational School. We would love to have more students from our local community get involved! You can also reach out to our Director of Learning and Visitor Experience, Ilene Dackman-Alon, to learn more about the project.

You only have until this Sunday (the 24th) to come and celebrate with us these students’ creativity, stories, and hard work! Don’t miss out! And share your family’s story in our comment book!

~Paige


Hey Paige,

From fashion design majors to material culture minors, the fashion-savvy community on my college campus has been abuzz with news that the next exhibit at the JMM features clothing. Is this rumor true?

~Textile-Trendy Tabitha

Hi Trendy!

The rumors are true. But it gets better – we don’t just have one new exhibit – we have two!

Stitching History From the Holocaust (April 7th to August 4th) on loan to us from the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, brings to life the innovative dress designs of Hedy Strnad, a Czech Jew who tried and failed to use her fashion design skills to escape the Nazis. Hedy’s dress designs were sent to her cousin in Milwaukee in attempt to gain passage to the United States. While this effort failed, her memory lives on in her sketches and letters. The Jewish Museum Milwaukee worked with the Costume Shop of Milwaukee Repertory Theatre to create the dresses from Hedy’s sketches. This exhibit serves as a touchstone for discussion of the human cost of the Holocaust and the plight of refugee populations.

On display concurrently is an original exhibit created by the Jewish Museum of Maryland titled Fashion Statement (April 7th to September 15th). This exhibit explores the messages we send – both subtle and overt – about ourselves through the clothes we wear. This exhibit will encourage you to think more deeply about the messages embedded in articles of clothing.

We have a great line-up of public programs to accompany them. Lots of these programs start at 1:00pm on Sundays (giving lots of time to sleep in on your weekend).

Please keep that buzz on campus alive and share the news. I can’t wait to see you in April.

~Paige


Paige,

I’ve been seeing a new face at the Front Desk of the Museum recently. Who’s the new kid on the block?

~Observant Omar

You don’t miss a beat, Observant! The JMM team is delighted to have a new Visitor Services Coordinator, Talia Makowsky. The next time you come into the Museum, please give her a warm welcome and introduce yourself.

With a new face at the front, there will also be a new answerer to all your quirky Museum-related questions. Talia will be taking over Postcards for Paige as it becomes Lloyd Street Letters. I am leaving you in great hands!

~Paige

PS. Don’t worry, I haven’t gone far! I have started a new role at the JMM as the School Program Coordinator. So please don’t be a stranger when you drop by this spring to see our new fabulous fashion exhibits.


Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


 

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