Travels with Grace: Algiers, 1929

Posted on May 21st, 2019 by

Welcome to this week’s segment of our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace. Today Grace shares her first visit to shore in the city of Algiers. As mentioned earlier, Grace’s language and word choices are not always progressive – this entry in particularly contains insensitive and classist language.

July 4, 1929

Algiers, North Africa. When we come out on our balcony this morning a beautiful scene greets our eyes. There on the shore of the blue Mediterranean hangs a diadem of pearls, the white houses of Algiers gleaming softly in the morning sunlight, tapering up to a point on the hills. Soon a number of little boats of every description are swarming around us and little boys and men, almost nude, are diving into the water for coins which are thrown to them. They look exactly like frogs swimming about, their agile bodies browned to a bronzy hue. Then there is laid a long pontoon bridge which is quickly lined with native merchants displaying their several wares, notably rugs, tapestries, articles in copper and brass, curved knives and silver jewelry. Over this bridge we cross to the shore. It is very got in the sun, a dry heat, but pleasant in the shade and when driving. The city is half French, half Arab. The architecture is predominantly Moorish, though in the European quarter the houses are strongly reminiscent of Paris and they even have a park named after the Bois de Boulogne.

The city and harbor of Algiers, Algeria, from Collier’s New Encyclopedia. Volume 1, 1921. Via.

The Arab men wear the long white bernous, white turbans twisted around and around their heads, they are usually bare-footed and wear scraggly beards. The women are also swathed in white (not unfortunately spotless however), their faces veiled up to their eyes, no stockings but high-heeled slippers and a bracelet around each ankle. Nearly all of them carry babies. There are also a number of Turks wearing the red fez. These people are far from clean. Many of the little boys have monkeys on a leash and these are the commonest household pets. I was told they are caught over in the Atlas Mountains where they live wild. The manner of their capture is as follows: being very fond of nuts, they are enticed by gourds filled with this delicacy, into which they thrust a hand. With this hand full of nuts they cannot extricate it and they will not relinquish the prize. Thus struggling they are caught.

Former stronghold of Barbary Pirates, ocean front approach and mosque in distance, Algiers, 1925. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

We visited a carpet factory where oriental rugs are manufactured. Little girls from five years of age up to ten or twelve work at the looms. At each loom are two little girls and one older girl who sits between. They follow their patters with rich and deep colors and make the knots with incredible speed. (It is pitiful to see such tots work but it teaches them a trade and keeps them from mischief or from begging on the streets.) Their long plaits are wrapped closely in strips of cloth, they look like a chinaman’s queue and this is to prevent the hair from getting mixed up with their threads. Some of the little girls are quite pretty in a dark, roguish way. They beg slyly when the forelady is not looking. Next door is a shop where they sell the rugs and also beautifully embroidered shawls, scarves and dresses of the purest wool.

We next visit the governor’s winter palace, archbishop’s palace, Cathedral and Post Office, all handsome structures in the Moorish style, richly ornamented with mosaics in which light blue and gold predominate against a white background, and slender fluted columns of marble. Heavy doors of hard wood are embellished with carvings and large copper nail heads. The walls are covered with lacy arabesques while tall minarets and sparkling domes dominate the exteriors. We ride through the old Arab quarter and look up the little side streets which are in reality narrow winding stairways over which the walls of the houses almost meet. They lead up to the Kasbah or fortifications on the top of the pyramid formed by the buildings.

The Kasbah, 1920s. Via.

Here the natives live in the utmost squalor with no notion of sanitation. The wider thoroughfares are nearly all arcaded as a protection from the dazzling sunshine. Men are frequently seen sprawled out on the pavement fast asleep. We see the flea market where odds and ends of junk are sold and the produce market where the fruits and vegetables look very fine. We see a mosque and a synagogue, both similar in architecture. Most of the Jews look like Turks. On the principal shopping street, Rue de la Marine, are some pretty stores, the Bon Marche being similar to the one in Paris and the women seen in this section look very stylish. The Library, Opera House and National University are very nice buildings. We ride out in the open country, up through the hills where the breeze is blowing fresh from the sea. Here the vegetation is green and abundant. Numerous are the fruit trees of all kinds and there are very pretty farms, one we saw being the property of an American, Lovett Henn. There is a country club and extensive golf course, many of the villas are covered with the brilliant bouqainvillia via. We see the handsome summer residence o the Governor which commands a beautiful view, in fact there are many beautiful panoramas opening up form the hills down to the sea which remind me strongly of Nice and the Cote d’Azur. Palm trees abound and the air is fragrant with mimosa.

Jardin d’Essai du Hamma. Via.

On our way back to Algiers we pass the Pasteur Institute where there are lots of cows and we visit the Jardin d’Essait or botanical gardens where the most beautiful tropical plants and trees are growing in almost wild profusion. There are huge hibiscus trees, magnolia, rubber, banyan bamboo, and a lovely tree bearing yellow flowers and thin fringe-like leaves. A part of the garden is laid out in formal French style copied from Versailles, and they are building a new museum of fine arts which, when completed, will look like the Trocadero. We ride along the Quai. Many of the better class homes facing the sea are closed as the wealthy inhabitants live elsewhere during the summer.

Notre-Dame-d’Afrique, early 20th century. Via.

Crowning a high hill overlooking the sea, is the handsome Byzantine Cathedral of Notre Dame of Afrique Birkadem. Many of the Arab homes have flat roofs which serve as the family sitting room at night and here their poor women can unveil their faces and be comfortable. We go to call on the American Consul but do not find him in.

When we return to the ship, we find it full of visitors, this being its first visit to Algiers, they are holding open house and I think all of the European residents are availing themselves of the opportunity to inspect it. Refreshments are served to all. Tonight, a special dinner is served in honor of the 4th of July and the table are decorated with little Italian and American flags. Ice cream is served every night after the dance.

July 5, 1929: We are at sea again and this afternoon sight the Island of Sardinia. Tonight is the Captain’s dinner. Ship treats all to champagne.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. Next week we pick up with the family as they visit Naples. As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager


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Travels with Grace: Steaming Away, 1929

Posted on May 14th, 2019 by

Welcome to this week’s segment of our 2019 #TravelTuesday series: Traveling with Grace. This week Grace and her family embark on a long summer journey east across the ocean, beginning in northern Africa and working their way through parts of Europe.

 Going: June 25, 1929

S.S. Saturnia: Cosulich Line

Cut-away printed in 1927, before the maiden voyage, by Arti Grafiche Modiano of Trieste. The ship portrayed is the Saturnia.” Via

Golda and Meyer were here to see us off. This boat is sumptuous, and everyone is courteous from the captain who introduced himself and offered his services to the little boys who bow us into the elevator like tiny courtiers. There is a gorgeous swimming pool all lined in stone mosaics copied from Pompeii, a wonderful gymnasium fitted with all sorts of apparatus, a children’s play room with every kind of toy to delight the hearts of kiddies and a fascinating painted frieze, a solarium furnished in yellow, red and white which radiates brightness and our own little private balcony where we spend many hours of rest and quiet contemplation.

“The indoor swimming pool, in Pompeian style, the work of Gaetano Moretti.” Via

June 30, 1929

Fencing in the gymnasium. Via

About 2 pm we sight some rocky islands, the Azores, which provide a slight variation to the watery distances of five days duration. There is a travel movie every afternoon in addition to a comedy (after lunch a fine concert on deck), a every night horse races and fencing after which refreshments are served.

July 2, 1929

This afternoon we watch some very amusing games in the 2nd cabin.

July 3, 1929

Gibralter, 1929. Spanish town of La Linea can be seen in the distance. Via.

This a.m. we steam into the harbor of Gibraltar to let a party off on a private yacht. Good view of town from deck of Saturnia. Mask ball tonight.

Thanks for reading “Traveling with Grace,” a series where we’re sharing (and annotating) posts from the travel diaries of Grace Amelia Hecht, native Baltimorean, b. 1897 and d. 1955. Next week Grace and her family make landfall in Algiers! As mentioned in my introductory post transcription errors sometimes occur and I’ve made my best guesses where possible, denoted by [brackets]. – Rachel Kassman, marketing manager

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Crowing About Tweeting (and Tumbling and Doing It for the ‘Gram)

Posted on May 10th, 2019 by

In this month’s edition of Performance Counts, Rachel Kassman, Marketing Manager, offers a quantitative as well as qualitative assessment JMM and social media. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Rachel, click here.

In thinking about what to write for this month’s Performance Counts, it came to my attention that it has been more than two years (2.5 to be exact) since our last look at the Museum and Social Media. I thought it was time for an update and to share some of the new social media-related projects and campaigns we’ve been experimenting with recently.

First, some quick stats: I’m happy to report that we’ve seen growth on all four social media platforms where JMM manages active accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram). Our biggest gains have been on Facebook, where we now count 3,232 followers (that’s over a 30% increase), and Instagram, where the number of people following our account has increased to 958 (That’s more than 1000% growth! To be fair, at last writing, we had only been using Instagram for 3 months, but I’m still pleased with our growth on this visual-focused platform!).

Hootesuite, which you may remember is one of the tools I use to manage all these disparate accounts, has also started offering its own set of analytics. This makes it easier to track progress across the different platforms. One of the features I find most helpful tracks engagements. Engagements can include all sorts of things like sharing a post, liking a photo, or leaving a comment. We didn’t have this base stat two years ago, but at this time I can report on the past 12 months, where we’ve seen 6,900 engagements on Facebook, 1,400 engagements on Twitter, and 12,000(!) engagements on Instagram.

Moving past the numbers, I wanted to call your attention to some of the different ways we’ve been using our social media platforms over the last two years, focused on different departments throughout the Museum.

Education: You may have noticed a significant increase in the number of photos we share from our many field trips! This initiative, spearheaded by our new School Program Coordinator, Paige Woodhouse, has a two-part purpose: First, to showcase the wonderful work our Education Department is doing, along with the diversity of students we serve, and capturing the positive experiences those students have here. Second, to help strengthen and grow our relationships with specific teachers and schools.

By increasing the number of photos we share from school field trips we are able to show students exploring our exhibits, using primary sources in our archival explorations, and capturing the wonder of learning through our synagogue tours, introduction to Judaism programs, and our living history characters. Paige is then able to take our various posts and share them directly with the teachers and administrators whose schools are represented, increasing the opportunity for more interaction between us and the schools. We have found a direct increase in the number of teacher evaluations received as well as deeper, more thoughtful responses within those evaluation. Teachers are also then able to share those posts with their students’ families as proof of the effectiveness and importance of the learning experiences the Museum provides.

Exhibits: Part of our exhibit program has been finding ways to increase the reach and scope of our original exhibits and the online sphere provides the perfect real estate. We decided to use the tools provided by the Tumblr platform to create “mini-sites” for some of our original exhibits – a much cheaper and faster option than creating whole new websites from scratch. Our first foray was in setting up the Marrying Maryland account, which was created as a companion to our Just Married: Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland exhibit. Here we combined material from our collections along with crowd-sourced wedding invitations and photos to tell more stories than would fit into the physical gallery and give them life beyond the close of the exhibit.

The ease of creating Marrying Maryland led us to the second mini-site, Fashion Statement, a companion to our current exhibit of the same name. On this account, curator Joanna Church has been able to tell more stories about the individual items in the gallery and highlight items from our collections that just wouldn’t fit into the limited physical space. The Tumblr platform has proven an easy and effective way to let our exhibits grow beyond their walls and we look forward to our future creations!

A second, smaller innovation in our exhibits and social media is the new ability in Facebook to create multi-date events. This has allowed us to create specific events for the run of our exhibits in a form that is easy for our followers to share and to purchase general admission tickets online. It’s not yet a perfect tool (for instance, we’ve had to break up the current exhibits into multiple events because the time period that they are on display is longer than the current maximum number of dates for a single event), but it is a definite move forward. These events will also allow us to “boost” our exhibits on Facebook to reach a wider, interested audience.

Collections: Much of our social media, past and present, has focused on our collections, often using themed weekly posts like #WetNoseWednesday (featuring pets in the collection) and #ThrowbackThursday as well as unique holidays and observances (like International Jazz Day and National Picnic Day). These posts have continued to prove popular with our audiences across all social media platforms.

One of our longest running themed posts have been #TravelTuesday, which started as general vacation photos from our collection. In 2018, I decided to try a theme-within-a-theme, focusing on the vast array of passports in our collection. This allowed us to share a little bit more about the items in our collections, including stories of the passport’s owners and their families. For 2019, I chose something even more ambitious, introducing a new blog series called Traveling With Grace. This series transcribes the travel diaries of Grace Hecht and illustrates her various journeys. Each of these posts are then shared across our social media accounts. (You can check out the intro to the series here.)

Esther’s Place: One additional innovation we’ve been playing with over the last two years is themed posts about the JMM shop. We began with #MugShotMonday, originally used to highlight mugs in our collections, which allowed us to feature the fantastic selection available in our shop, using a “re-kickoff” post from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Having this campaign in place was perfect when we introduced our first custom products – the announcement post shows up in our top 3 posts of the last 12 months for both Twitter and Facebook!

Following up on that, Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg had the genius idea for #FrameItFriday, featuring the gorgeous photo frames available at Esther’s Place. We’re getting ready to start a new theme – #WearItWednesday, to coordinate with our two current fashion exhibits, featuring the variety of textiles and other wearable items available. We could use some models, so we’d love for you to stop in at Esther’s Place and let us take your photo with one of our beautiful pieces!

JMM continues to present a vibrant, active, and content-rich experience across multiple social-media platforms. I hope you will follow along with us on whichever platform you like best – and if you have any suggestions for what you’d love to see, please let me know!

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