Oral Histories: Gaining Insights and Learning Personal Stories

Posted on July 28th, 2014 by

During my Exhibitions Research Internship at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I have had the opportunity to conduct research on the Sinai Hospital Nurses Training Program for the upcoming Jews, Health, and Healing exhibition.  This research has included reading several oral history interviews from nurses who trained at Sinai Hospital (the program ended in 1975).  These interviews have not only given me new insights into the hospital and its program, but also have allowed me to learn some of each woman’s personality.

A group of Sinai nurses in gathered in their residence eating pizza, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

A group of Sinai nurses in gathered in their residence eating pizza, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

Oral histories collect and record personal memories and commentaries, and are one of the most important sources of information available to historians.  An oral history allows one to learn about the lives of people that are not ordinarily covered in history textbooks.  The information gathered in an oral history can be used for research, excerpted in publication, filmed for documentary, or displayed in museum exhibition.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is home to hundreds of oral histories.  Those histories that have not yet been digitized or transcribed are kept in audiocassette form and organized in filing cabinets.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland is home to hundreds of oral histories. Those histories that have not yet been digitized or transcribed are kept in audiocassette form and organized in filing cabinets.

Information we have gathered through the nurses’ oral histories will better allow us to place exhibition objects into context and craft a narrative for their display.  As Curator Karen Falk wrote in her “JMM Insights, July 2014: Where Culture Meets Science” blog post, Bobbie Horwitz’s interview gave context for the elaborate silver tea gifted to JMM by the Sinai Nursing Alumnae Association.  Horwitz explained, “They wanted to make ladies of us.”  One of the ways they did so was through a civilized “tea” held every Friday.

Sinai nurses drinking from their silver tea set, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

Sinai nurses drinking from their silver tea set, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

Another interesting story I came across was from former Sinai nurse Senator Rosalie S. Abrams.  Abrams recounted how she learned Yiddish while working in the men’s ward.  “I was a head nurse for the men’s ward,” she said. “That’s where I learned my Yiddish—on the men’s ward.  We used to sing them Jewish songs.”  Such stories illustrate the intersection of Jewish culture and medicine in the space of the hospital.

Three Sinai nursing students and their instructor stand around a patient in his hospital bed, June 1960. Accession # 2010.020.316. Courtesy of Nurses Alumnae Association of Sinai Hospital.

Three Sinai nursing students and their instructor stand around a patient in his hospital bed, June 1960. Accession # 2010.020.316. Courtesy of Nurses Alumnae Association of Sinai Hospital.

After reading so many interesting stories I was excited to receive training, with my fellow interns, from Curator Karen Falk on how to conduct an oral history.  We went over how to use the museum’s recording equipment and preparing the proper documentation for the interview.  It is crucial to be prepared for the interview.  One of the most important things to consider is what you want to learn.  You should know your topic and what information you hope to gain.  Prepare a list of questions that get at the heart of what you want to know and familiarize yourself with them.  Your rapport will be easily interrupted if you keep pausing to look down at your questions.  Keep in mind that you should also be flexible with your questions.  Your interviewee may bring up interesting points you never considered, but would like to explore.

Prior to conducting your oral history make sure all your recording equipment works.  Familiarize yourself with it and practice.  You do not want to waste your interviewee’s time trying to set up equipment that you do not know how to use or that does not work.

image 5.recording equip

Some of JMM’s oral history recording equipment, including a digital recorder and microphone.

Upcoming research for the Jews, Health, and Healing exhibition will include conducting more oral history interviews with Jewish medical professionals.  I hope that some of the great accounts from the Sinai nurses’ oral histories will be incorporated into the exhibit.

Sarah MooreA blog post by Exhibitions Research Intern Sarah Moore. To read more posts by interns click HERE.

During my Exhibitions Research Internship at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, I have had the opportunity to conduct research on the Sinai Hospital Nurses Training Program for the upcoming Jews, Health, and Healing exhibition.  This research has included reading several oral history interviews from nurses who trained at Sinai Hospital (the program ended in 1975).  These interviews have not only given me new insights into the hospital and its program, but also have allowed me to learn some of each woman’s personality. 

Image 1: A group of Sinai nurses in gathered in their residence eating pizza, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

Oral histories collect and record personal memories and commentaries, and are one of the most important sources of information available to historians.  An oral history allows one to learn about the lives of people that are not ordinarily covered in history textbooks.  The information gathered in an oral history can be used for research, excerpted in publication, filmed for documentary, or displayed in museum exhibition. 

Image 2:  The Jewish Museum of Maryland is home to hundreds of oral histories.  Those histories that have not yet been digitized or transcribed are kept in audiocassette form and organized in filing cabinets.

Information we have gathered through the nurses’ oral histories will better allow us to place exhibition objects into context and craft a narrative for their display.  As Curator Karen Falk wrote in her “JMM Insights, July 2014: Where Culture Meets Science” blog post, Bobbie Horwitz’s interview gave context for the elaborate silver tea gifted to JMM by the Sinai Nursing Alumnae Association.  Horwitz explained, “They wanted to make ladies of us.”  One of the ways they did so was through a civilized “tea” held every Friday.

Image 3:  Sinai nurses drinking from their silver tea set, no date. Courtesy of Sinai Hospital of Baltimore.

Another interesting story I came across was from former Sinai nurse Senator Rosalie S. Abrams.  Abrams recounted how she learned Yiddish while working in the men’s ward.  “I was a head nurse for the men’s ward,” she said. “That’s where I learned my Yiddish—on the men’s ward.  We used to sing them Jewish songs.”  Such stories illustrate the intersection of Jewish culture and medicine in the space of the hospital.

Image 4:  Three Sinai nursing students and their instructor stand around a patient in his hospital bed, June 1960. Accession # 2010.020.316. Courtesy of Nurses Alumnae Association of Sinai Hospital.

After reading so many interesting stories I was excited to receive training, with my fellow interns, from Curator Karen Falk on how to conduct an oral history.  We went over how to use the museum’s recording equipment and preparing the proper documentation for the interview.  It is crucial to be prepared for the interview.  One of the most important things to consider is what you want to learn.  You should know your topic and what information you hope to gain.  Prepare a list of questions that get at the heart of what you want to know and familiarize yourself with them.  Your rapport will be easily interrupted if you keep pausing to look down at your questions.  Keep in mind that you should also be flexible with your questions.  Your interviewee may bring up interesting points you never considered, but would like to explore.

Prior to conducting your oral history make sure all your recording equipment works.  Familiarize yourself with it and practice.  You do not want to waste your interviewee’s time trying to set up equipment that you do not know how to use or that does not work.

Image 5: Some of JMM’s oral history recording equipment, including a digital recorder and microphone.

Upcoming research for the Jews, Health, and Healing exhibition will include conducting more oral history interviews with Jewish medical professionals.  I hope that some of the great accounts from the Sinai nurses’ oral histories will be incorporated into the exhibit.

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Once Upon a Time…07.19.2013

Posted on January 14th, 2014 by

Did you miss us? Our apologies for being so quiet over the last month! But no worries, we’ve got plenty of photo identifications coming up on future Tuesdays!

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or jzink@jewishmuseummd.org.

2010.020.178

2010.020.178

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times:  July 19, 2013

 

PastPerfect Accession #:  2010.020.178

 

Status:  Mostly Identified – a fine flock of Sinai Nurses! 1. Pat DeHaven Cimino  2. Toby Kurland Mower  3. Phyllis Silberman  4.  unidentified  5. Ann Yerman  6.  Sara Jane Brown  7. Linda Ridenour 

 

Special Thanks To: Barbara Sachs and Toby Mower  

 

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Life of a Collections Intern

Posted on August 6th, 2013 by

Clare RobbinsA blog post by Collections Intern Clare Robbins. Clare works under the supervision of Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts by Clare and other JMM interns, click here.

I cannot believe that this is my last week here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  The summer has gone by so quickly!  I’ve learned so much, and am incredibly grateful for the experience.  One of my primary tasks for the summer was to process the objects from the 2012-2013 collections.  So for my last blog post, I decided to highlight some of the interesting new additions to the museum’s collection.

One of the first objects I catalogued was a thin brown rope. This rope was worn around Susie Williams Gaumer’s waist when she was a nursing student at Sinai in the 1950s.  The Sinai nursing students spent three months at Sheppard Pratt Hospital for their psychiatric training where all of the doors were locked and needed keys for entry. They wore this rope with the keys around our waist under their uniform. The rope came out of a designated space in their uniform at the waist. By keeping the keys inside their uniforms the nurses could ensure that the patients did not get the keys

Rope used by Sinai nursing students to keep the hospital keys safe, 2012.117.1

Rope used by Sinai nursing students to keep the hospital keys safe, 2012.117.1

Edmart, a Jewish Deli in the Baltimore area, also donated several items this past year, including this cigar box wrapped in red tin foil.  The cigar box came from the cigar shop across the street from Edmart.  Marty Lev wrapped the cigar box in red foil to be used as a display stand

Cigar box used as a display case at Edmart, 2012.121.2

Cigar box used as a display case at Edmart, 2012.121.2

Edmart also donated several signs like this one that advertises Edmart sandwiches at Camden Yards

Edmart sign, 2012.121.11

Edmart sign, 2012.121.11

Another fun item is this t-shirt worn by our very own Deborah Cardin when her father, Ben Cardin, ran for Maryland House of Delegates in 1974

Cardin’s t-shirt, 2013.5.1

Cardin’s t-shirt, 2013.5.1

We also received a set of six Mah Jong button covers  that was purchased at a Senior Expo in Montgomery County

Mah Jong button covers, 2012.127.1

Mah Jong button covers, 2012.127.1

And in anticipation for the upcoming football season, I leave you with this Baltimore Ravens t-shirt that says “Wacko for Flacco” in Hebrew

Go Ravens! 2013.24.1

Go Ravens! 2013.24.1

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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