Living History and Beyond!

Posted on April 14th, 2017 by

Over the past 14 years, the Jewish Museum of Maryland has developed significant expertise in the creation of compelling living history characters, along with a national reputation for excellence in this medium.  In consultation with a team of professional historians, script writers, directors and actors, we have created historical performances based on extensive research.  These performances illuminate key themes about American Jewish history in an accessible and personal manner.  These interactive  performances incorporate reproductions of artifacts, photographs, and documents from the JMM collections.

Our first four living history characters

The JMM has created five living history characters, Ida Rehr, a Ukrainian immigrant who worked in the garment industry; Saul Bernstein, a Lithuanian peddler who became a professional artist;  Bessie Bluefeld, a Russian immigrant who started a renowned catering business;  and Mendes I. Cohen, veteran of the Battle of Baltimore, businessman, and Jewish adventurer.  Our latest character is Henrietta Szold, daughter of Rabbi Benjamin Szold and born in Baltimore in 1860, who premiered in September, 2016.  All five characters have performed around the region for students and adult audiences alike.

Natalie Pilcher with students from Western High School

A few weeks ago, the Henrietta Szold Living History character performed at Western High School in Baltimore City.  The education staff contacted the administration at the school about the possibility of having a performance at the school. Henrietta Szold graduated from Western Female High School in 1877 and in 1901 she became the first president of the Western High Alumni. There is a plaque in the school’s library that bears Szold’s name.

At the school-wide assembly over 960 students and teachers were in attendance. Following the performance, the students asked many questions to the actress that portrays Henrietta, Natalie Pilcher. The students were especially interested in learning about how she prepared for the Henrietta Szold role, and how she teaches acting and performance to area students throughout Baltimore City.

Following the successful Henrietta Szold living performance at Western High School, we started to think about the impact that all of our living history characters and performances have had on the community over the years. We examined our attendance statistics from FY14 to the present, and were quite pleased to see the reach that our living history characters have had on the community. I am certain you will also be quite impressed!

Ida Rehr
Over the past 12 years, the actress Katherine Lyons has engaged school groups with her wonderful portrayal of Ukrainian immigrant Ida Rehr.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 42 performances –to over 1864 audience members. (1,769 students/teachers and 95 attendees from adult groups)

Katherine Lyons as Ida Rehr

Mendes I. Cohen
Over the past 3 years, actor Grant Cloyd has engaged school and adult groups with his portrayal of Colonel Mendes I. Cohen.  Since July 1, 2013 he has given 20 performances as Mendes to over 890 audience members. (371 students/teachers and 519 attendees from adult groups)

Grant Cloyd as Colonel Mendes I. Cohen

Bessie Bluefeld
Over the past 4 years, actress Terry Nicholetti has engaged adult groups with her wonderful portrayal of Bessie Bluefeld.  Since July 1, 2013 she has given 10 performances. (437 adult audience members)

Terry Nicholetti as Bessie Bluefeld

Henrietta Szold
Over the past 7 months, actor Natalie Pilcher has engaged school and adult groups with her portrayal of Henrietta Szold.  Since her debut she has given 13 performances to 1,737 audience members. (1,447 students/teachers and 290 attendees from adult groups)

Natalie Pilcher as Henrietta Szold standing next to her namesake.

The Henrietta Szold Living History Character was made possible through the generous support of the Kolker-Saxon-Hallock Family Foundation, Inc., a supporting foundation of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore. Educational opportunities were made possible by the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund of The Associated.

With all of the numbers combined our living history characters have performed a total number of 85 performances, seen by 4,928 audience members throughout the region since July 2013! By the end of this school year, it is highly likely that our living history program we will reach more than 5,000 audience members and beyond!

Our Living History Program performances are available for schools, public and private events and can take place at the Museum or outside venues.  To schedule a Living History performance or to learn more, please contact Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator, ghumphrey@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443.873.5167.

~Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

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Remembering Auschwitz By the Numbers

Posted on March 10th, 2017 by

Performance Counts: March 2017

This past Sunday, we opened Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity, a unique and important exhibit that encourages visitors to explore Holocaust history and commemoration through the lens of Auschwitz. The following are some interesting facts and figures about the exhibit.

Photo by Will Kirk

Photo by Will Kirk

>Number of Exhibits on Display: 4 (A Town Know As Auschwitz: The Life and Death of a Community, Architecture of Murder, Loss And Beauty: Photographs by Keron Psillas and The Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project)

>Number of Years Exhibit Has Been in the Works: 2 ½ years

Deborah leads a docent tour through "Remembering Auschwitz"

Deborah leads a docent tour through “Remembering Auschwitz”

>Percentage of Jewish Population in Oswiecim (the name of the town prior to Nazi occupation in 1939) in the Years Prior to the Holocaust: As high as 50%

>Number of Synagogues in Oswiecim prior to 1939: 30

>Percentage of Jewish population of Oswiecim Murdered at Auschwitz: 90%

Detail of "Architecture of Death" panel

Detail of “Architecture of Death” panel

>Year in Which Construction of Auschwitz Commenced: 1940

>Number of Camps Constructed at Auschwitz: 3 main camps (Auschwitz I, Auschwitz II – also known as Birkenau and Auschwitz III – also known as Buna and Monowitz

> Estimated Number of Inmates Murdered at Auschwitz: 1.1 million including 1 million Jews

Photo by Will Kirk.

Photo by Will Kirk.

>Number of Photos on Display By Keron Psillas: 25

>Number of Miles Photos Traveled from their Last Installation in Hollywood, Florida: 1080 miles

Photo by Will Kirk.

Photo by Will Kirk.

>Number of Collages Created as Part of the Holocaust Memory Reconstruction Project: 91

>Number of Countries of Origin of Individuals Honored Through Collages: 12

Photo by Will Kirk.

Photo by Will Kirk.

>Total attendance at Sunday’s opening: 242 people

>Number of Related Programs Planned Over the Next Three Months: 16

>Date Exhibit Ends: May 29, 2017

Of course, numbers alone do not tell the whole story, certainly not of the devastation of the Holocaust, nor the impact that we hope this exhibit will have on our visitors. It was an extraordinary experience watching families who participated in the collage making workshops gather around their plaques on display with tears in their eyes and pride in the knowledge that their family members’ stories now have permanent homes at the JMM. While it is too soon to report on the total number of visitors which will include many school group visitors, we look forward to keeping you posted.

~Deborah Cardin, Deputy Director

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The Impact of Federal Funding on JMM

Posted on February 10th, 2017 by

Performance Counts: February 2016

The JMM relies on many different funding streams to support our exhibitions, educational programs, public programs and ongoing operational needs. As our exhibits tend to be our most costly initiatives, we typically develop a multi-year fundraising strategy for each project that targets a mix of private and public prospects from individuals, foundations, corporations and government agencies. We have been especially fortunate over the past few years to have received significant federal support for our exhibits that have provided vital funds for such activities as planning, exhibit design and fabrication and have helped us leverage additional funding from private sources. Total government support in the FY 16 budget (including both federal grants and state funds through the Maryland State Department of Education SAI program and Maryland State Arts Council) was $493,000.

Happy 50th!

Happy 50th NEH!

Our two principal federal funders are the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Through its Public Humanities Project initiative, NEH funds exhibitions that are grounded in the humanities and offers support for both project planning and implementation. The application process is rigorous and requires an intensive amount of staff time for researching humanities connections as well as writing detailed responses to each question of the narrative and preparing budgets and other supporting documentation in the form of letters of support, bibliographies, staff resumes and other relevant material. Applications are subjected to several rounds of review by both NEH program staff as well as a peer review process that involves museum colleagues from museums around the country. The JMM has a long history of successful applications including our most recent award of an implementation grant in the amount of $300,000  for Beyond Chicken Soup. We have recently submitted a planning grant application for our new core exhibit, Belongings and are hopeful that it, too, will be awarded. The NEH stamp of approval is a powerful tool for fundraising and also serves as a mark of distinction among the museum community.

IMLS

IMLS

Likewise, we have frequently been awarded grants from IMLS. Our most recent submission, through the Museums for America initiative, was awarded $150,000 in support of Scrap Yard: Innovations of Recycling. As with NEH, the grant application process is challenging and requires many hours of staff time to complete. The review process is also similar and involves several rounds of evaluation by program staff and peer reviewers. Having participated in panel reviews of other institutions’ applications, which requires many hours of reading applications and then debating their merits over the course of two days of meetings with colleagues from other museums, I can attest to the rigorous vetting process in which applications are subjected before a determination is made of whether or not to award funding. This makes our track record of success especially rewarding.

Robyn and Esther at Museum Advocacy Day 2013.

Robyn and Esther at Museum Advocacy Day 2013.

Because both NEH and IMLS are federal agencies, their budgets are authorized annually by Congress. In recent weeks there has been talk about defunding NEH and IMLS funding prospects are unsure as well. Clearly cuts to these agencies would be detrimental not only to the JMM but to the larger community of museums and historic sites that serve as vital communal educational resources. We are actively engaged in several advocacy efforts to make our voices heard in this debate.  The Greater Baltimore History Alliance (GBHA), a consortium of forty local history museums, is developing a statement of support on behalf of the NEH. We will be represented at the American Alliance of Museums’ Advocacy Day, at the end of February, by JMM consultant and docent extraordinaire, Robyn Hughes. During the two days of meetings with congressional delegations, museum professionals and volunteers from around the country will convey the important message urging our representatives to maintain level funding of all federal arts and humanities agencies.

We encourage citizens who share the belief that history and heritage matter to let their voices be heard by their representatives on this important topic.

deborahA blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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