Posted on July 17th, 2014 by Rachel
My role as an Exhibition Intern at the JMM has largely involved researching and reviewing subjects related to the upcoming Jews, Health, and Healing. My internship thus far has been incredibly rewarding, as I have investigated topics which I have never studied before, namely pharmaceutical history. I’ve read sixteenth century medicinal guide books, studied the changing corner drugstore, and cataloged countless prescriptions. Gradually, I began to gain a greater appreciation of the field, and saw the pharmacy as the true medical marketplace, where doctors, patients, and prescriptions come together.
However, as my supervisor, Curator Karen Falk, adeptly pointed out, I neglected one major detail in my research: how do we make this a Jewish Baltimore story? Individuals may recognize the immense Jewish presence in the field of medicine and pharmacy, but how will we portray this community in the exhibit? As I combed through the JMM’s impressive archives, I began to find the answer: the pharmaceutical fraternity.
An AZO window sticker dating from the 1940s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2001.61.2
The history of AZO parallels the Jewish experience of medical school. In the early twentieth century, American universities used race-based acceptance quotas to counter the tide of Jewish Americans eager to enter the medical professions. Jewish students in Philadelphia realized the challenges placed before them and decided to band together. In 1919, twelve Jewish students formed Alpha Zeta Omega with the goal of a 100% graduation rate. Just three short years later, AZO began to spread and the University of Maryland’s School of Pharmacy founded the Kappa Chapter.
The original symbol of AZO. It was originally referred to as the “Dead Man’s Club” or simply, “The Dozen.”
Though AZO was not an official Jewish fraternity and does not remain one today, Judaism and the Jewish experience was very much at the core of the organization. (One can easily identify Jewish imagery in the organization’s original symbol.) Therefore, AZO developed into more than a fraternity, but a community with similar professional goals and values. In fact, Baltimore’s AZO was so close-knit that the organization founded the first women’s auxiliary: the Azoans.
A group of Azoans after a very successful fundraiser, circa mid-1930s. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2002.2.31
The Azoans was a philanthropic organization of pharmacists’ wives and sisters. The idea for the Azoans was born after Sadie Karpa attended a meeting of the AZO Pharmaceutical Fraternity in Cincinnati and realized how well the women worked together, but without organization. The first meeting was held on October 15, 1931 at the home of Lee Kramer, the first president of the group.
Part of the Azoans ritual was to commemorate the many symbols of the organization. The Azoans were very much a Jewish organization. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19
The woman’s organization developed charity events which would profit medical institutions in Baltimore and Israel. With countless bake sales and auctions, the AZOANS were able to purchase an ambulance for the Red Cross, donate an iron lung to Sinai Hospital, and provide dental care to the Baltimore School for the Blind.
An image from a 1953 Azoan scrapbook. Courtesy of the Ernestine Stiffman Collection, accession #89.109.19
The organization also developed into a vibrant Jewish social organization. When Azoans members had finished their charitable drives and functions, members would often gather together, socialize, and discuss issues of the day. The Azoans were famous for their skits, poems, and songs.
The Azoans were notorious rhymers. Attached is a song dedicated to Esther Pelovitz. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30
The women of the AZOANS represent the strength of Baltimore’s Jewish pharmacy community. Each neighborhood drugstore had its own loyal customers and its own corner. But, on the weekends, the owners and their wives would come together and discuss how their city could profit from partnership, better health, and better facilities. I hope that Jews, Health, and Healing can accurately display that passion.
To close, a speech given by Ms. Lee Kramer. Courtesy of the Kramer-Labovitz Collection, accession #2000.144.30
A blog post by Exhibition Research intern Mandy Benter. To read more posts by interns, click HERE.
Posted on June 16th, 2014 by Rachel
Part 3 of a 3 part series on using the JMM On-line Database
Let’s pretend that you’ve been convinced you to join the 21st century the social media craze. Now that you understand that #tbt stands for Throwback Thursday and means posting an old photo on your Facebook page so people write nostalgic messages, you want to find an image of your high school sweetheart. Since you’ve been following the “Once Upon a Time” feature on the JMM blog, you know that we have a ton of photographs from Jewish Maryland in the collection. You go directly to the JMM online database jmm.pastperfect-online.com and enter a keyword such as “sweetheart” and see what you find…
Unidentified couple being introduced at the AZA Sweetheart dance, 1964. 1995.128.001.026.004
While it was a bit surprising that “sweetheart” actually yielded images, perhaps “dance” would’ve been a better choice, since you distinctly remember smiling for the camera at the spring formal.
A great TBT photo! Black and white photo of a Tau Beta Sigma sorority dance at Hotel Sterling. 1984.211.037
If your sweetheart is from Maryland, you can try entering his or her name in the search box. If you don’t know if she would be catalogued as “Daisy Mae” or “Daisy Duke” “Daisy” will pull up all records with her maiden or married name… and possibly some pictures of pretty flowers. The People record should also indicate alternate names and associated records!
Daisy D. Carawan (Mrs. Barnett) is in the photograph of the 1937 graduating class of the Sinai Hospital School of Nursing. 2010.020.070
Finally, you find the perfect #TBT! You can right click and save image as on your desktop, then attach it to your Facebook page. While the photo should have a light watermark on it, please make sure you tag the Jewish Museum of Maryland in your caption and include the accession number (that long string of numbers starting with a 4-digit year). That what we know when someone has benefited from all our hard work (which always makes us smile!) and folks know where you found the photo—after all, they may be looking some #tbt pictures of their own.
#TBT in action
Just a note of caution: If you “share” an image from the JMM Facebook or twitter, the accession number will be embedded into it. Be prepared to explain to your friends that although the photo is from 1903 and Jewish Museum accession number is 1994.111.3 (meaning that it was brought in to the museum collection in 1994)! You will impress everyone with your knowledge of the JMM and our numbering system!
A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts from Jobi, click here.
Posted on April 14th, 2014 by Rachel
Part 1 of a 3 part series on using the JMM On-line Database!
Q: What is the first step in conducting research on Jewish history in Maryland?
A: Checking out our free, searchable on-line database, of course! With 74,753 collections records on-line, you can get a good sense of what we have in our collection. Members and non-members currently have access to the database at jmm.pastperfect-online.com or from the collections-research page on our website.
We have just shy of 11,000 three-dimensional objects in the database, ranging from archaeological sherds in the Lloyd Street Synagogue mikveh, to stained glass windows, track trophies, National Bohemian advertising ephemera, beautiful dresses and military uniforms. I am delighted that nearly 89% of the objects in our collection have been photographed!
One of two stained glass skylights from the Komar Building, Baltimore. The skylights were removed from the balcony of the old theater and from the main stairwell of the building. The design of each skylight contains a central medallion featuring a Star of David. The lights are made of opalescent and cathedral glass. The theater skylight has a cartouche and fan motif surrounding the central medallion, the other skylight medallion is flanked by stylized floral emblems set in a geometric field; both lights c. 1915. 1993.038.002
In just one year we have added 11,851 photograph records to our database, bringing us to 60,692 cataloged photographs! With images attached to 73% of these photographs it’s like going through a gigantic photo album. Hopefully, you will find the images you are looking for. I would like to thank volunteers Marvin Spector and Dana Willan who have scanned and cataloged the lion’s share of those new photos.
Volunteer Marvin Spector scans photos faster than we can attach them!
Our 20,459 archival records, however, pose a little bit more of a challenge to researchers looking for immediate (and complete visual) results. That is because our archival records are not digitized. Further, a single catalog record might describe one piece of paper or an entire manuscript collection filled with hundreds of folders filled with information. Don’t despair! Our finding aids can help you narrow down your archival search. Once you’ve identified which records you are interested in looking at in person, you can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-732-6402 ext.213 and set up a research appointment. Researching at the JMM is free for members and $8/visit for non-members.
Some of our collections are rather extensive! Become a member of the JMM and your research fees are waived.
Q: What if the first step of your research project hasn’t yielded the results you were hoping for?
A: This doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t have what you are looking for, especially if you are searching for specialized biographical information. While they aren’t in our collections database, we do have birth and death records, cemetery records, ship manifests, genealogies (family trees) and vertical files for many Jewish Marylanders who are not listed in our database.
A researcher works in our library.
The family history resource page of the JMM website has many sources that can help you out. We’ve just updated the links to the spreadsheets, so the information is current. You can also contact our volunteer genealogist at email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 ext.224. Please have patience as it may take up to two weeks for someone to respond to your inquiry (remember, they are volunteers)!
Q: Still having trouble finding what you are looking for?
A: Think about the specific question you are looking to answer. Write it down and read it to yourself. If the question doesn’t make sense when you read it aloud, try to refine the question. Once you’ve formulated your question – or maybe broken down your question into several components—give it a try. You can always send the question to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-732-6402 ext.213, but it may take us a while to get back to you.
A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts from Jobi, click here.