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Take a (Virtual) Tour: Scrap Yard!

Posted on June 23rd, 2020 by

A JMM Original Exhibit

Even when we’re closed we’re still sharing our stories! We’re pleased to offer a digital tour of our original exhibit Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling for your adult group. This hour long tour is an opportunity to see the exhibit, hear the stories of US scrap families, and learn more about where the stuff you throw away ends up. This experience is led by a JMM staff member, who will lead guests through meaningful discussion and even give behind-the-scenes info about how the exhibit came together. All of this is done over Zoom, for an interactive and accessible tour that you can take in your own home!

In support JMM and staff, the suggested donation for this experience is $50. If this number is not manageable, please contact Talia Makowsky, Visitor Services Coordinator, so that we can find a price that works for your group.

To book this experience, fill out this online form, and a JMM staff member will reach out to you to complete the booking process. Please book at least a week in advance to guarantee your preferred time slot. Up to 25 devices may participate in the tour at one time.

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JMM Insights: Letters from Lloyd Street

Posted on November 22nd, 2019 by

For this month’s edition of JMM Insights, it’s time to check into Talia’s imaginary mail bag to review some real answers to fake customers. 

Hi Lloyd Street,

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the new Scrap Yard exhibit that just opened. I’m thinking about visiting the exhibit, but I wanted to know- why is an exhibit on the scrap industry at the JMM?

~Scrappy Skeptic

Let me try to settle your doubts, Scrappy.

Our newest exhibit, Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling is well worth a visit. At its core, the exhibit is about what we value and even more importantly who we value. Four years in the making, Scrap Yard combines a look at the fascinating and rarely seen process of “harvesting” the material world with the stories of the multi-generational families that made this transformation possible. In many cases the stories of the scrap industry in the US start with immigrants who needed to find work that didn’t require much money or formal education. By the 1930s, it was estimated that 90% of scrap dealers were   Jewish immigrants, who started as peddlers, and built up a prosperous and important industry. These entrepreneurs required ingenuity and perseverance to make a living from what other people had thrown away.

We’re excited to share these stories, some of them from local Maryland families, with you and all of our guests. We’re also thrilled that the exhibit is so dynamic, with film clips, drone footage, and interactives, that there is something for everyone in your family.

Scrap Yard is open now, until April 26, 2020.

~Lloyd Street

Hello Lloyd Street,

I went to last year’s Great Jewish Bake Off and I’m still dreaming about those bakes. I had such a good time and I’m looking forward to this year’s event. Do you have any info about what the bakers will be serving up this year?

~Hungry Hana

Hello Hungry,

You’ll be pleased to hear that this year, our Great Jewish Bake Off theme is cookies! From rugelach, Mandelbrot and kikel, to out-of-season hamantaschen and tayglach – cookies are treats enjoyed by Jews for centuries.  On December 15th, our “amateur” bakers will be bringing their best and most beautiful variations on the theme of holiday cookies to share with the crowd. Make sure you get your tickets early, so that you don’t miss out on any of the delicious treats!

If you’re interested in channeling your own passion for baking, we encourage you to sign up as a baker yourself. Click here for our baker’s sign up form!

~Lloyd Street

Dear Lloyd Street:

I always enjoy coming to your Museum, and I’m looking forward to seeing the new exhibit. I really like to take my time in your galleries, so that I can read everything, but last time I visited, the gallery was full of students. They seemed to be having a lot of fun, as they rushed around counting chickens and pressing down on the baler, but it made it hard for me to absorb the information. Why are there so many kids right now?

~Focused Ferdinand

Hi Focused,

It’s true, there has been an increase in the number of school groups visiting the Museum this fall. It’s all thanks to our amazing education staff and special funding, such as from the late Suzanne Cohen, which makes us more accessible for students and teachers to visit. Through this hard work and support, we’re reaching students who may be walking into a synagogue for the first time, and teaching them stories full of empathy and compassion. It’s no wonder that they’re excited when they visit, as they participate in dynamic educational programs.

When you visited you must have spotted one of these school visits. We offer many different education programs, that connect to themes of immigration, innovation, family, and history.  These programs take place in our historic synagogues, in our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit, and in our special exhibits which rotate over the year. Our newest exhibit, Scrap Yard, has also given us the opportunity to connect history and STEM, as we work with students from public, private, Jewish, and homeschools. All programs are facilitated by our excellent museum educators who help students meaningfully interact with the exhibits.

If you want to join in the fun, or you know a student who would enjoy hands-on, active learning, contact Paige Woodhouse at or (443) 873-5167. Teachers can request a visit using our online school visit form.

~Lloyd Street

Dear Lloyd Street:

I can’t believe it’s already November, and I’m thinking about the holidays coming up! I want to do something meaningful to celebrate Thanksgiving, and I’m trying to figure out what to get everyone for Hanukkah! There’s so much to do, and not enough time to do it. Can you help me out?

~Stressed Shmuel

Hi Stressed,

We can support you in all your holiday needs, so no need to fret! First of all, have you checked out our Upstanders Initiative, in partnership with JVC? Jewish Volunteer Connection has always worked to connect folks to volunteer opportunities in their own neighborhood and they provide lots of levels of engagement. As part of our partnership, we’ve worked together to come up with five different opportunities relating to our newest exhibit, Scrap Yard, ranging from one-on-one tutoring, recycling old clothes, cleaning up green spaces, and more! We encourage you to take the stories from our Museum and turn them into action this holiday season.

As for Hanukkah shopping, you know we have that covered!

Our gift shop, Esther’s Place, always has beautiful Judaica, interesting books, and fun toys for kids to help you out. We even have new products that expand on our Scrap Yard exhibit’s themes of recycling. Plus, we’re participating in Museum Store Sunday on December 1st. Swing by the Museum anytime we’re open to check out all these goodies. Shopping at Esther’s Place isn’t just a great way to check off your gift list, it also helps support the Museum!

~Lloyd Street


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The Color of Transformation

Posted on May 18th, 2017 by

A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

JMM & Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling go to ISRI!

JMM & Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling go to ISRI!

Last month, Marvin and I attended that national conference of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) in New Orleans. JMM is working on an original, national, traveling exhibition about the Scrap industry. Entitled Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, the exhibit is scheduled to open in the fall of 2018, and we hope to send it on the road to four or more venues. (Regular readers of the JMM blog may remember reading about it here.)  Marvin and I were in New Orleans, along with our contract curator, Jill Vexler, working on collecting stories, canvassing for artifacts, and soliciting financial support.

As a total novice to the industry—I’m not even working directly on the exhibit, but was filling in for a colleague at the conference—I was fascinated by what I found on the exhibit floor at ISRI—but maybe not why you expect.

Gershow Recycling facility. Photo by Jeffrey Katz.

Gershow Recycling facility. Photo by Jeffrey Katz.

I have been seeing images from scrap yards around the JMM office for months now. Most notably from the stunning photography of Board Member Jeff Katz, who provided images for our fundraising and marketing materials for the exhibition. Jeff’s photos are textural and gritty. They are also, at least as we ended up using them, black and white.

The exhibit hall at the ISRI conference in the New Orleans Convention Center was in living color.

An array of sunny equipment.

An array of sunny equipment.

As I wandered the floor, looking for swag to bring back to my 5-year-old daughter, I started to notice how brightly colored many of the pieces of sample equipment were.  There were a number of bright yellow items, which is to be expected, I suppose (my childhood toy crane was also a sunny yellow), but there were also bright orange machines and several blue sorters (that were so cool to see demonstrated).

And then I saw the pink one.

And then I saw the pink one.

And from there I started really paying attention. What goes into the manufacturers’ minds as they consider what color to make their equipment for the scrap yard? Some take a very utilitarian approach with dark gray equipment. That seems straightforward and expected. Tools of all sizes, even super huge ones, tend to be gray or silver or black. Why the bright colors? Why pink? I figured it was so that they were easily seen amidst the mountains of trash-colored scrap.

I guess I don’t need to ask why the airbrushed stars and bald eagle (whoa!).

I guess I don’t need to ask why the airbrushed stars and bald eagle (whoa!).

As I met more and more folks on the exhibit hall floor (we were something of an anomaly in an exhibit hall full of shredders and sorters and welders and other must-have technology for the modern scrap or recycling yard), and I told them the story of the exhibit again and again, something sunk in. The scrap industry and now the recycling industry is fundamentally a story of transformation. It is the story of transforming trash into raw materials even as it transformed unemployable immigrants into business-men and entrepreneurs.

I met several men and women who were in a third or fourth generation in the scrap business. They told me great stories of their grandfathers who built a livelihood out of what others considered trash.

And as I wandered the floor on the final day of the conference with these stories and the idea of transformation on my mind, I suddenly really appreciated the bright, look-at-me colors on the floor. These machines are not just tools. They are magical. They turn trash into raw material. That’s a remarkable thing.

Maybe the bright colors are practical—to make the super-expensive equipment highly visible. But to me, it’s more than that. Magical tools deserve magical colors. Colors that nature creates to showcase its beauty and the power are completely appropriate for machines that perform the transformation of matter.

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