Gardens Gardens Everywhere!

Posted on May 23rd, 2012 by

A new community garden at Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan, a school located near my home in Washington, DC.

It is definitely not new news that community gardens are a popular trend these days. There are waitlists to reserve plots in neighborhood gardens and children’s books like Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman are being profiled on NPR. The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s newest exhibition, Chosen Food: Cuisine, Culture, and Jewish Identity, has given the education staff a wonderful impetus to explore community gardening with some of our school partnerships and through some of our partners.

What CJR’s community garden looks like today.

Several weeks ago Elena Rosemond-Hoerr and I found out that we received a Food & Faith grant from the Center for a Livable Future at JohnHopkinsUniversity(http:/// This grant money is allowing us to build a community garden with one of our long-term school partners, Commodore John Rodgers Elementary and Middle School (CJR). This past fall Elena and I worked with the middle school students to create a recipe book based on family recipes. This spring the project is continuing and the students are learning about local plants and climate as well as how to design a garden. After the planter boxes are built it is our goal to have the students plant herbs and spices that were used in the family recipes from the cookbook. A lot of volunteer work by JMM and CJR staff is currently being done to transfer CJR’s butterfly garden into a well maintained and fruitful garden.

An example of how we would like our community garden to look. This picture was taken in front of the Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan.

The JMM is also hosting several programs that promote community and urban gardens. On Saturday, June 30, 2012 the museum will host an event called Havdallah Hoedown in partnership with Sol Food, who will be urban farming in Baltimore for a week. The next day the JMM is hosting the Sol Food Community Festival, where visitors can learn about gardening, sprouting, canning and more at the JMM and the McKim Center down the street. You can learn more about both of these events by contacting Rachel Cylus at or (410) 732-6400.

One of Capitol Hill Montessori’s garden beds. Our beds will look similar.

The JMM is incredibly excited to be participating in partnerships and hosting events that encourage local greening and urban farming. The staff is committed enough to these projects that many of them have volunteered their time to help get several community gardens in the neighborhood up and running. Just down the street from the museum on Exeter Streetis another new community garden called Exeter Gardens that is in the process of being built. We plan to partner with them to increase our efforts to teach about food culture and local foods to students and visitors to the museum.

To learn more about our garden initiatives please contact me,  Rachael Binning, at or (410) 732-6400.

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The Fox Point Oral History Project

Posted on April 27th, 2012 by

A blog post by Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

This past month I had the pleasure of being on a panel at the Oral History Mid-Atlantic Region (OHMAR) Conference. The presentation was very special for me because I had the opportunity to talk about my work at the Jewish Museum of Maryland and my graduate work while studying at Brown University. The conference allowed me to have a mini-reunion with my fellow Brown alumni who I worked with on a project called The Fox Point Oral History Project.

One of my greatest accomplishments at Brown was working on The Fox Point Oral History Project. The project began as an oral history and community engagement project that has continued to grow each year. While I was a student I interviewed former and past residents of Fox Point, a neighborhood that borders on Brown’s campus. The residents had wonderful stories and photographs that documented the diverse communities that lived and worked there, including Cape Verdeans, Portuguese, and African Americans. The neighborhood is located on the water in Providence so many residents there worked as longshoremen and stevedores.  The landscape of the neighborhood has changed and population has transitioned from a mostly working class neighborhood to one filled with student, professors, and professionals. Students and teachers at Brown realized the importance of this neighborhood and how it has rapidly changed and therefore began collecting oral histories and photographs from long time residents of the neighborhood.

After establishing a relationship with the community and collecting stories and memories we proceeded to share this history with the current residents of the neighborhood. We established a relationship with the local elementary school called Vartan Gregorian Elementary School and installed an exhibit in the hallways of the school using photographs and oral histories from the oral histories we collected. We then worked with the middle school students to teach them about the history of their neighborhood. After studying the history of the neighborhood the 6th graders added their own photographs to the exhibit that documented their current perspective of the neighborhood. Finally, the 6th graders were trained as docents and gave tours of the exhibition to their fellow students and members of the community at the exhibition opening and throughout the year.

The Fox Point Oral History Project was a wonderful opportunity for me. Talking about it at the OHMAR panel in relation to my work at the JMM really reminded me how much my graduate work helped to launch my career doing outreach and community engagement work. It also made me appreciate how lucky I am to have the opportunity to continue to do great community-museum work at the JMM through projects such as our partnership with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School. I’m looking forward to see what community projects are in store for next year.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Findings in the Basement

Posted on February 24th, 2012 by

A blog post by Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

For some of you the title of my blog post may be surprising. After all, I’m part of the education team and the education staff rarely makes it down to the basement, where most of our collection is stored.  In fact, I feel confident in saying that it’s probably for the best that we don’t go down there too often. Unlike the collection staff, who are trained in handling the objects in our collection, I feel more comfortable interacting with people. That’s not to say that I don’t love having the opportunity to go downstairs and visiting all of the crazy objects in our collection that are not currently on display in our exhibits.

A few weeks ago much of the museum staff was on a necessary kick to clean out the basement. Among the shelves in the basement outside of our collections is a storage area for education material. Learning about this secret stash of education material was a surprise to me, so when I heard that we needed to clean it out I was excited to do so. Over the course of two days Rachel Cylus, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, and I went through boxes of “lost” education props and material including a Purim puppet show, a box of about 50 bright yellow t-shirts, and more tinsel that you can imagine.

Below are some pictures of my favorite findings. Since I’ve only been working at the JMM for a year or so it was hard for me to imagine what all of these props were used for. If you know the origin of some of these objects, please let know because I’m really really curious!

A box full of Holga Cameras.

We found a box of Holga cameras along with some beautiful pictures mounted on foam core. I imagine that at some point an education staff member did a project with a local school or community group. The photos that were developed are beautiful. I’m hoping that we can use these cameras for a project I’m dreaming up that documents life in the Lombard Street neighborhood as it stands today.

A handful of unpainted wooden dreidels.

My (very intelligent) guess is that these dreidels were used for a Hanukkah program. This past December during “Esther Fest” Elena and I were looking for dreidels and these would have been perfect. For next year’s program we will definitely be incorporating these. Personally I’m really looking forward to bedazzling my very own dreidel.

A box of cocktail umbrellas.

My desk-gnome relaxing under the umbrellas.

I’m not sure what to say about the hundreds of umbrellas that we found except that I like them. Look forward to a Brews & Schmooze with these in your future.

Painted Russian nesting dolls.

I’m fascinated by these Russian nesting dolls and the way that they were decorated. I have no idea why, but at some point in time the JMM had a program or event where people decorated the dolls using tissue paper and magazine cut outs. I find them to be adorable and a tad bit creepy. Luckily there were a few blank dolls left so I plan on painting mine soon.

I hope that these random pictures have entertained you as much as they have entertained me. Until next time!

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