Volunteer Spotlight on: Robyn Hughes

Posted on August 4th, 2014 by



Robyn Hughes has been volunteering at the JMM since 2005.  From the time she was a Jewish Studies major at the University of Maryland, she dreamt about working at the JMM.  She has volunteered in many capacities.  She began as a docent and continues as a weekly (sometimes twice weekly!) afternoon docent who leads tours of the synagogues.  In the intervening years, she worked as a Summer Education Intern and a Fall Research Fellow in 2006, during which time she organized a wine and cheese reception for Art Beyond Sight, established a Salon program, and collected oral history interviews from historically significant Maryland Jews.  She continues to represent the JMM on Capitol Hill at the annual Museum Advocacy Day, plus acts as the Educator for museum programs for guests who read Braille and ensures that the Museum supports the standards for Common Core Braille literacy.

She volunteers at the JMM because she loves it.  She particularly appreciates the geographic and professional diversity of all of the guests, staff and fellow volunteers, and finds it fascinating getting to know everyone.

Robyn in flight

Robyn in flight

Three interesting facts about Robyn that make her even more endearing…  She lived in Israel for a total of 3 years, beginning as a tourist then returning to spend time at Hebrew University and as a graduate student also.  She is an expert on German Jewish Coffeehouse Intellectuals—she studies the social and political writings of Karl Kraus and Stefan Zweig.   She is taking flying lessons.  She learned how to pilot a Cessna 172 aircraft.  Prior to flying, she enjoyed learning to rock climb.  Plus, she continues to enjoy traveling, having done academic research in London, Paris, Berlin and Vienna.

Rockin' the wall

Rockin’ the wall

ilene cohenA blog post by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen. The first Monday(ish) of every month she will be highlighting one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, drop her an email at icohen@jewishmuseummd.org or call 410-732-6402 x217! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.

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The Tale of The Twin Vision Book and Read Across America Day at The JMM

Posted on March 11th, 2013 by

Robin as RobinA blog post by Museum Volunteer Robyn Hughes, MA.

As a docent at the JMM, I not only get to give tours to the public, but I also have the opportunity to work on a wide array of programs and projects. My most recent project was the production of a twin vision book. A twin vision book is a book with braille text, print text and print illustrations. The idea to create this book first entered my mind when I saw the print books in the reading nook in our new exhibit ZAP! POW! BAM! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938 – 1950, during Docent training prior to the exhibit opening. I shared my idea with my colleagues and they were as excited about the project as I was! We were motivated to bring to fruition at the JMM the aspiration “That All May Read,” a quote that I had seen years before on the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped’s web page and have always been moved by. If you are curious about the number of potential Museum guests who could benefit from having access to a book in this format, some medical researchers have estimated that at least five million Americans have a severe visual impairment or blindness.

Picture 029The production of the book was truly a team effort. First, my supervisor Ilene Dackman-Alon, the Director of Education at the JMM, searched for a story in a classic comic book for us to translate. She selected the Madcap Mariner by Walt Disney Comics. Ilene then transcribed the print text into a Word file and emailed it to me. I used braille translation software to translate it and to print it on my braille printer. The translation and printing process is not as laborious as one may think, thanks to braille translation software. It actually only takes five mouse clicks to complete. I proof read the translated text to check for translation errors, but the braille translation software programs are so accurate these days that mistakes in straightforward text documents are uncommon. After the braille text was completed, my mother Norma Service, with assistance from her husband Bill photocopied the print text and illustrations in a large font size, so that the book would be accessible to as many visitors as possible. We then assembled the book.

The most time consuming part of the project for my mother and me was trying to get the braille text to correspond with the print text on each page, because braille is approximately twice the size of print.  After much work that included some reformatting of the braille text, we were successful. We had created the first publicly available twin vision book adaptation of a story from a classic comic book in the United States (at least as far as we know)! The original print version of the story is 4 pages long with 487 words; in contrast the twin vision book with the same number of words is 29 pages long.

Picture 028Now that we had a book, we needed to let the world (or at least our part of it) know about it. That was when the real fun began! I started looking on the major national low vision organizations’ online calendars for programs that would tie-in-with both our book and our exhibit. I was amazed at our good fortune, I saw that the National Federation of the Blind was planning their own celebration of Read Across America Day (a nationwide commemoration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday), which was (at that time) just a week away on March 2nd. I contacted Melissa Riccobono, the President of the National Federation of the Blind of Maryland to invite her to help us at the JMM celebrate the Day. She accepted our invitation and came and read The Madcap Mariner in the Feldman Gallery to much applause. Please come be a part of this continuing Tale of The Twin Vision Book and explore the world of the classic comic book at the JMM! The exhibit will be at the Museum until August 18th, 2013.

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Highlights from Docent Training

Posted on February 14th, 2011 by

By Robyn Hughes, MA

Yesterday I attended docent training for the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s Spring exhibition titled Loring Cornish: In Each Other’s Shoes. This exhibition explores the shared experiences of African Americans and American Jews which include: violent persecution, discrimination, poverty, transcendence, hope and prosperity through the prism of the 1950s and 1960s Civil Rights Movement in the United States. The creator of the exhibition, Loring Cornish, is a Visionary Artist who utilizes found objects as the medium for his three dimensional vividly colored mosaics. Mr. Cornish explained to us at the docent training session that he felt deeply inspired to create an exhibition that has a social action theme.

A piece in the JMM lobby

As I entered the exhibition, I felt as though I was embarking upon a journey back in time to the Civil Rights era southern United States. The large brilliantly colored pieces of art which filled the gallery were replete with Civil Rights era iconography, which included images of a large gold painted peace symbol and Civil Rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., President John F. Kennedy and U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy. The first piece that I viewed was titled Target Shalom (peace), which featured the aforementioned Civil Rights leaders with drops of blood on one side of the piece and a large gold colored peace symbol on the other side. I was immediately struck by the juxtaposition of the black colored background with the contrast of the bright gold colored peace symbol. This juxtaposition of light and dark colors is a recurrent theme throughout the exhibition. This use of color opposition reminded me of the contrast between the feelings of fear and despair, and the feelings of idealism and hope, which were all recurrent themes that existed as a constituent part of the collective consciousness of the Civil Rights Movement.

Encountering “March on Washington:

The second piece that I viewed was titled March on Washington. This piece was filled on one side by square shaped white colored glass pieces which were joined together to create the soles of human feet, which were set against a black background. The instant that I saw this piece, it evoked images in my mind of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington DC.

Docents diligently take notes

The third piece that I encountered was titled Montgomery Bus Boycott. This piece was composed of pieces from a variety of brand name tennis shoes such as Nike and Reebok. The pieces of white and camel colored shoes together formed the words Montgomery Bus Boycott. As I gazed at this piece, I reflected upon the juxtapositions of the lack of civil liberties and of the poverty that many African Americans and American Jews faced in the past in contrast with the civil liberties and the economic prosperity that many from both communities enjoy today, due in large part to the Civil Rights Movement.

Engaging with the art

The fourth piece that I explored, titled Souls Awaiting Justice, was for me the most powerful piece in the exhibition. The front side of the piece was covered in brightly colored glass stones, which Mr. Cornish explained symbolized the hope, the prosperity and the achievement of African Americans and Jews; while the opposite side of the piece featured leather, which was meticulously sculpted into a representation of dead bodies. The base which was created by Rashaud Williams in collaboration with Mr. Cornish featured a six candle menorah meant to represent the six million Jews who were murdered in the Shoah (Holocaust) and chains which symbolized the enslavement of African Americans. I was moved by the sense of hope that was offered by the one side of the piece and I felt a deep sense of loss when I viewed the opposite side of the piece. I imagined both the graphic sight and smell of dead charred human flesh that is found in mass graves.

“Souls Awaiting Justice”

My journey through this powerful and evocative exhibition culminated with the vividly colored piece titled Where We’ve Been and Where We’re Going. This piece dramatically depicted the transformative sojourn of the African American and the American Jewish communities and the optimism that such a sojourn engenders. This one of a kind exhibition has made the Civil Rights Movement, which was created and experienced by African Americans and American Jews real for me in a personal way that can not be replicated by a two dimensional documentary, lecture or history text book.

*photographs by Jennifer Vess

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