Performance Counts: June 2014

Posted on June 20th, 2014 by

15 Years By the Numbers

For this week’s newsletter, I asked Jobi Zink to try to summarize her history with JMM.  In the spirit of this “Performance Counts”, Jobi has elected to tell her own story “by the numbers”.   On behalf of all our Board members, staff, interns and volunteers, we wish Jobi every success and to let her know that she will be #1 with us forever.

 

JobiAs many of you know, I am leaving the Jewish Museum of Maryland in July. I will be moving to Philadelphia to take the position of Registrar at the Rosenbach Museum and Library. I am sad to say goodbye to my friends and favorite objects, but I am looking forward to this new chapter in my career.

Since making my announcement, I have heard from staff, board, volunteers, and colleagues outside of the JMM about the impact I’ve made on the museum. I thought I would reflect on what I consider to be some of my major accomplishments over my tenure.

Number of Accessions: The first batch recorded in the accession notebook in my handwriting is 1999.037; since then 3,037 new donations have been made to the museum. Of course, over the 60 quarterly meetings that I’ve attended[1], the Collections Committee hasn’t accepted every single batch—they’ve done a diligent job sticking to materials that truly meet the JMM mission.

Number of Objects in the Collection:  10,954. Ironically, 10,000 was the number of objects believed to be in the JMM collections when I started. I am not sure what this early estimate is based on, and whether it included photographs or archival documents. When I organized the first collections inventory in 2000 (really more of a collections count), we discovered that we really had closer to 5,000 3-D artifacts.

Inventories Conducted:   5. Since that initial collections count in 2000, I have overseen 4 additional collections inventories that have each included portions of the archival and photograph collections. I also spoke about our triennial inventory project and procedures for the panel  Inventory: Intimidating! Important! But NOT Impossible!  at the 2012 MAAM Annual Conference.

Number of Hats Worn:  I’ve never actually worn any of the hats in the JMM collection. On the other hand, I’ve worn a decided number of professional hats.  I’ve had four official job titles during my tenure at JMM: Curatorial Assistant; Registrar & Curatorial Assistant; Senior Collections Manager; Acting Building Manager. I’m personally a bit partial to the five unofficial job titles held at the JMM: Queen of Traveling Exhibitions (Traveling Exhibitions Coordinator); Intern Wrangler (Internship Coordinator); Emergency Management Coordinator; Building Manager; Entertainment Committee Co-Chair. These unofficial titles reflect both the fun and serious sides of the JMM and also truly prove that the JMM is a dynamic place where no two days are ever the same.

Kind of hard to believe that its pure coincidence that I wore pink on the day of the earthquake in August 2012… and it matched my hard-hat perfectly.

Kind of hard to believe that its pure coincidence that I wore pink on the day of the earthquake in August 2012… and it matched my hard-hat perfectly.

Number of Archivists: 6. Ginny, Abby, Robin, Erin, Jon & Jennifer.  6 Collections Assistants –David, Karen H., Deborah, Olivia, Renee,  Danyelle, and Chris—(though I suspect I have accidentally forgotten someone!) have also come and gone from that “back cubicle.” All of them have made my registration work and collections management that much easier to control! I thank you all!

Many people, one title

Many people, one title

Number of Skits for Outgoing Employees: 9 (Leah, Erin, Lauren, Melissa, Avi’s retirement plus his surprise 65th birthday party that he nearly missed; Simone x 2, Anita). While a registrar loves to live by the rules, sometimes we just need to be silly. As the Co-Chair of the Entertainment Committee, I probably put in 10 hours of seriously fun work for each production.  And let us be clear, some of these skits were full-blown productions.

Check out that set piece!

Check out that set piece!

Number Pencils Retired:  229. Registrar’s love their pencils! What started as an experiment in June 2006 to see if I could use one pencil from start to finish without losing it has become a slight obsession.[2] Number of pencils on my registration spreadsheet: 444. Most pencils retired in one month: 9[3]. Maximum length for retired pencils: 2” from point to the metal cuff. Number of admitted pencil enthusiasts inducted into the club: 2.

That's nearly 2 FULL jars of retired stubs!

That’s nearly 2 FULL jars of retired stubs!

Number of JT Photos 329 different photographs have been featured in the “Once Upon a Time” and “Snapshots” columns of the Jewish Times. And to date, 213 (64.7%) of these photos have been at least partially identified! This project is nearly as satisfying as retiring a pencil!

Once Upon a Time...

Once Upon a Time…

Number of Exhibitions. I’ve worked on 27 different full-gallery exhibitions—whether it was researching, curating, overseeing the installation, or coordinating the rentals.  And in a close second place, I’ve worked with 26 different lobby exhibits either at the JMM or at an offsite location. Some of these exhibits highlighted select objects from our collections in conjunction with a program while others involved considerable skills in constructing an allegedly simple structure and hanging numerous art pieces. I’ve also travelled our various exhibitions to 50 venues across the state and as far away as the Spertus Museum in Chicago. The most memorable installation by far was installing We Call This Place Home in St. Mary’s County and discovering that the U-Haul we rented not only didn’t have working breaks but had been reported as stolen![4]

Number of Objects in a Single Exhibition. 1124. I didn’t even have to look that stat up, I still remember installing them all in Tchotchkes! Treasures of the Family Museum.

Oh how young and innocent I appear.

Oh how young and innocent I appear.

Boyfriends.  143. Although I got married in 2003, I had 143 “dates” between 2007-2008. Most of these were actually meetings with World War II veterans or their family members to gather photographs in conjunction with Ours to Fight For and lasted approximately 15 minutes, though a few did involve a corned beef sandwich at Attman’s.

Mervin Fribush and Jacob Matz are two of my WWII veteran boyfriends.

Mervin Fribush and Jacob Matz are two of my WWII veteran boyfriends.

Interns.  Since starting the official internship program in 2006, we’ve offered 106 internships[5]  and I’ve personally supervised 28 collections management interns. That’s an awful lot of wrangling!  Not only have I helped train the next generation of museum professionals, but I’ve coordinated field trips, workshops, and activities to introduce the interns to the varied world of museums.

Interns!

Interns!

Just last week I received the highest compliment from a colleague in the field who said, “I know that when an intern has the Jewish Museum of Maryland on their resume that they will come in knowing how to handle objects, use the database, and be ready for whatever task comes their way.”

Magic Number. 15. Number of years I have been at the JMM. Also, an address I will always remember.

 



[1] I have definitely missed a few quarterly meetings over the years, (I can’t believe I missed the meeting when Gina H. announced that she was pregnant with twins!) but my attendance record is pretty good.

[2] For the truly pencil obsessed please check out http://www.artisanalpencilsharpening.com

[3]March 2014. Apparently I found a bunch of previously used pencils and made it my mission to retire as many as possible. Prior to that, six was the most.

[4] I had planned on writing a blog post “Tips for Traveling Exhibitions: Do not rent a stolen truck!” but ran out of time. Feel free to ask Karen Falk or Darrell Monteagudo for the details.

[5] Some interns have done more than one internship at the JMM, working on different projects and even in different departments.

 

To read past issues of Performance Counts, click here.

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Behind the Exhibition Scenes: Condition Reporting

Posted on September 25th, 2013 by

I haven’t sat at my desk must in the last two weeks, which means I haven’t returned phone calls or answered e-mails. If you’ve felt ignored by your favorite registrar-intern wrangler-supervisor- conference presenter-emergency management coordinator-photo order filler-type person, please be assured that I haven’t been ignoring you intentionally! I’ve been performing the essential registrar’s task of condition reporting.

My office is such a disaster area, I’m not sure you would even find me if I were in there!

My office is such a disaster area, I’m not sure you would even find me if I were in there!

Honestly, writing condition reports is one of my favorite parts of being the registrar. (This is only superseded by marking accessing numbers on artifacts.)  What’s so exiting about doing condition reports, you ask? The answer is in the minutiae. The condition report is the document that describes the detailed condition of every facet of each artifact. A completed condition report will document how the objects looked when we received it from the lender—and note any changes that occurred while it was on display. This is a form of insurance protection. In addition to vandalism and theft, light, water, temperature and humidity, pests and honest accidents can easily affect the condition of artifacts on display.  If a lender says, “I gave you that painting in perfect condition. Now look at it! It’s got holes in it. I want your insurance company to cover the damages.”  We can show them the signed and dated condition report that clearly describes the size and location of each hole, scratch, dent, or mar when the piece arrived at the Museum.

 

So how do you begin making this report?  I like to start with a basic template that includes the exhibition name, whether its an incoming report or an outgoing report, and spaces for basic information like object ID or loan number, exhibition ID, exhibition section, and object name. It could have a checklist of frequent condition afflictions—rust, discoloration, accretion, loss, folds, cracks—or it can be free-form (essay style!) there may be space to draw the object and its damage, though its more common now to just use a printed digital photograph. Some museums skip the paper reports altogether and use the condition report module in their collections database!

A blank condition report.

A blank condition report.

In the case of Passages Through the Fire, most of the artifacts came directly from the originating institution, and there were pre-existing condition reports. And, since this is a traveling exhibition, Bonni-Dara Michaels from Yeshiva University Museum came down to help condition report the objects. I was grateful because Bonni-Dara has already seen each object and she knew the object IDs, which helped facilitate the process of checking items on the list because one thing is for certain: I couldn’t tell one civil war soldier from the next!

Don’t panic that the registrar is not wearing gloves. The artifact is still wrapped in plastic.

Don’t panic that the registrar is not wearing gloves. The artifact is still wrapped in plastic.

I think Bonni-Dara and I made a great team for the condition reporting process. I would find the object in the box and call off its exhibition number, and Bonni-Dara would find the condition report. After unwrapping each object we would examine each piece. We’d compare what was written on the original report with the artifact in (gloved) hand. If there were additional problems that I found, Bonni -Dara could verify if these were pre-existing conditions. Fortunately, when dealing with Civil War era objects, its usually obvious when its newly damaged. Fortunately, there were few changes from the outgoing condition reports that Bonnie wrote after de-installation at YUM and the incoming reports that we worked on last week.

 Using the flashlight app on the iphone helps the registrars examine the objects.

Using the flashlight app on the iphone helps the registrars examine the objects.

While the fall interns gathered around us for a lecture on traveling exhibitions and condition reporting, Bonni-Dara and I emphasized the importance of taking photographs during condition reporting. Our written condition reports were also accompanied by a photograph of the object, making the verification tremendously easy. By looking at the photograph, you can see if a crack in the painting was 2 inches before it shipped or if it had grown during transit or unpacking.  The photographs could be used later, for insurance claims or conservation work if necessary, or just added to the database. The interns also got the opportunity to examine the artifacts and write condition reports themselves.

Rachel is really mad that I didn’t take a picture of the demonstration for interns, but here are photos of the interns with some of the swords in the Passages through the Fire exhibition.

Rachel is really mad that I didn’t take a picture of the demonstration for interns, but here are photos of the interns with some of the swords in the Passages through the Fire exhibition.

Condition reporting is time-consuming business. You need to be detail-oriented and focused, with an extensive vocabulary related to damage (Fortunately, MRM5 – The Museum Registration Methods “bible” has an excellent glossary and sample templates). You need to know the object’s upper left from the upper right –and know if the person writing the original report was talking about the proper left—which is sometimes surprisingly difficult. It requires you to wear gloves while handling artifacts—and removing them to write the reports and to sharpen pencils regularly. While there is pressure to get the condition reports done quickly because the curator and the art handlers are anxiously waiting so that they can lay out the exhibition upstairs,  (You’ll hear about this in an upcoming blog post about staging the Civil War.) Condition reporting cant be don’t in haste. You can’t flip through notebook and say, “Yeah, yeah, yeah it all looks fine. “ Because they don’t look fine; there is almost always something to write about.

Now that they are handling the frame of a painting, Jobi and Bonni-Dara have on their white gloves.

Now that they are handling the frame of a painting, Jobi and Bonni-Dara have on their white gloves.

So why do I love condition reporting so much? Unwrapping artifacts for the first time is a bit like opening birthday presents! After discussing the artifacts with the curator and lender for hours, I’ve become attached to the stories that we will tell in the exhibition. There is so much excitement to see the artifact, to “meet” the people in the photographs, and “experience” the artifacts in person.

You’ll  have to come to the Passages Through the Fire exhibition to learn about the individuals who wore these medals and badges.

You’ll have to come to the Passages Through the Fire exhibition to learn about the individuals who wore these medals and badges.

 

JobiA blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Jobi, click here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Reinforcement Crew

Posted on June 10th, 2013 by


AAM logo
Although the AAM conference didn’t officially begin until Sunday, 35 collections care professionals and conservators gathered together in Baltimore on Saturday morning for a pre-conference workshop: The Reinforcement Crew.

Mark Ryan began the Reinforcement Crew in 2007. This year he condition reported an entire tea set belonging to civil rights activist Lillie Carroll Jackson. For more information about Lillie Carroll Jackson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillie_Mae_Carroll_Jackson

Mark Ryan began the Reinforcement Crew in 2007. This year he condition reported an entire tea set belonging to civil rights activist Lillie Carroll Jackson. For more information about Lillie Carroll Jackson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillie_Mae_Carroll_Jackson

Now in its 7th year, the Reinforcement Crew is the brain child of Heather Kajic (United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, DC) and Mark Ryan (Plains Art Museum, Fargo, ND) and is a sub-committee of the AAM Registrar’s Committee. While discussing a session proposal for the 2007 AAM Annual Meeting about the various “helping hands” projects conducted at the regional level, Heather and Mark decided to take it one step further and planned a day-long service project.

This is the 6th time Libby Krecek from Omaha, Nebraska has volunteered with the Reinforcement Crew. Look at that fabulous feather hat!

This is the 6th time Libby Krecek from Omaha, Nebraska has volunteered with the Reinforcement Crew. Look at that fabulous feather hat!

The goal is for collection professionals from around the country to volunteer their time and expertise to assist smaller museums and cultural institutions with collections-based projects that they couldn’t otherwise do on their own.

The Reinforcement Crew is an excellent way for Museum Studies students to get hands-on experience and supervision before beginning their professional careers.

The Reinforcement Crew is an excellent way for Museum Studies students to get hands-on experience and supervision before beginning their professional careers.

In Baltimore Reinforcement Crew dispersed to 4 different sites for a day-long hands-on collections project at the Evergreen House on the Johns Hopkins University Campus, James E. Lewis Museum of Art at Morgan State University, the Lillie Carroll Jackson House (currently housed at the JELMA), and the Fells Point Preservation Society.  We could see the impact of our work immediately.

With guidance from a Washington Conservation Guild volunteer, a Morgan State student constructs a box to house a dress.

With guidance from a Washington Conservation Guild volunteer, a Morgan State student constructs a box to house a dress.

For example, my group of 12–which included museum studies students, a museum board member and volunteer, and a photographer from the Washington Conservation Guild—began an inventory of artifacts from the Lillie Carroll Jackson House, including brief condition reports and photographs. Lillie Carroll Jackson started the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP –and had a wonderful sense of style!

After I untangled the beaded necklace, earrings, and a watch, they were housed in separate bags.

After I untangled the beaded necklace, earrings, and a watch, they were housed in separate bags.

We worked for 5 hours, contributing 60 man-hours of labor! We inventoried over 150 objects, but more importantly we did what amounts to 1.5 weeks of pure, concentrated collections work, which is nearly impossible to complete when you are working by yourself. I think many of us would have loved the opportunity to stay another day (or two or three) to finish the inventory!

The inscription on the back of this photograph appears to read, “To Mrs. Lillie May Jackson With all fond wishes to a distinguished citizen of Baltimore. Theodore McKeldin. Mayor, March 3, 1945.

The inscription on the back of this photograph appears to read, “To Mrs. Lillie May Jackson With all fond wishes to a distinguished citizen of Baltimore. Theodore McKeldin. Mayor, March 3, 1945.

According to James E. Lewis Museum of Art registrar (and former JMM intern) Nicole Paterson, “Months of work was done in just one day.”  Ten members of the Washington Conservation Guild and other Reinforcement Crew volunteers unframed and housed 100 works of art for the JELMA.

Lillie Carroll Jackson seemed equally fond of Mayor McKeldin. I love the details of his office in this souvenir.

Lillie Carroll Jackson seemed equally fond of Mayor McKeldin. I love the details of his office in this souvenir.

The Reinforcement Crew (and the regional groups White Gloves Gang, WCG Angels, and Helping Hands Brigade), is extremely successful because the participants know they are truly helping out their colleagues.  Many of the participants are familiar with one another through the Registrar’s Committee List-Serve, but the camaraderie is built while working together. It is also a wonderful opportunity to network, explore another museum’s collection, share knowledge, and learn something new. All of the participants in the Reinforcement Crew are all volunteers. In fact, they often come at their own expense!  Talk about dedication!!

Nikola Astles from the University of Vermont Museums, worked on Lillie Carroll Jackson’s shoes, which included a set of spurs!

Nikola Astles from the University of Vermont Museums, worked on Lillie Carroll Jackson’s shoes, which included a set of spurs!

The success of the Reinforcement Crew not only depends upon the voluntary time of museum professionals but also the generosity of vendors in the industry. The 2013 Reinforcement crew was sponsored by Terry Dowd Inc., Transport Consultants International (TCI), Materials & Methods and Bonsai Fine Arts. In addition to providing the necessary supplies, and refreshing libations, the sponsors also pitched in for the volunteer event.

Reinforcement Crew sponsor TCI proudly displays their certificate of recognition from the Registrar’s Committee at their booth in the Expo Hall.

Reinforcement Crew sponsor TCI proudly displays their certificate of recognition from the Registrar’s Committee at their booth in the Expo Hall.

At the end of the afternoon, the Crew gathered together for a reception at the Fells Point Preservation Society. We enjoyed some local treats including Utz Crab Chips and Berger cookies, tested the libations from several area breweries, and heard the praises of thanks from our host institutions.

 

Sebastian Encina from the University of Michigan Museum worked at the Evergreen House before he enjoyed a beer and watched the Preakness Stakes.

Sebastian Encina from the University of Michigan Museum worked at the Evergreen House before he enjoyed a beer and watched the Preakness Stakes.

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JobiA blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. Jobi is also the Museum’s Registrar and Intern Wrangler. Click here to read other posts by Jobi!

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