JMM Insights: Stitching Things Together

Posted on July 19th, 2019 by

It’s all in the timing!  Coordinating exhibit schedules is a task in itself, and when two exhibits occupy the same gallery this can be tricky. This month’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church who will keep the story of Fashion Statement going through mid-September (with a little timely help from our friends). Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


The Feldman Gallery currently holds two separate, but related exhibits: Fashion Statement, created by the JMM, and Stitching History from the Holocaust, created by the Jewish Museum Milwaukee (The other JMM!). We’ve been humbled and grateful for the positive attention these two exhibits have garnered since we opened them in early April (and even before!)

JMore reported on the fact that we would be displaying Gil Sandler’s porkpie hat way back in August of 2018. We were frontpage news for the JewishTimes. JMore named the exhibit a Top Event Pick for April 2019 and went on to dive deep in the whys and hows of the two exhibits with a feature story.

WJZ came to see us twice. Once in their “Coffee With” segment in May and then again for a morning segment on June 23, the day of the Jonestown Festival. Marvin joined his counterpart from the American Visionary Art Museum for an appearance on WYPR’s Midday with Tom Hall. Midday at the Museums discussed the ways the two museums address the Holocaust through textiles in current exhibits.

Attention from the press is amazing. As important is the attention we get from our educator partners. We especially love it when the exhibit in the gallery and students’ experiences in our historic synagogues work together to create discoveries and memories. A few highlights from our teachers, include:

“I just want to thank you again for the field trip yesterday to the museum.  The students were engaged and excited about what they learned and saw.  The amount of time was just perfect.  The activities were so appropriate, and your staff was wonderful and patient.”

“The students and parents all talked about how much they enjoyed their time at the museum.  The students said that they liked learning out the old clothing, the bathing rituals, the synagogue, the Old Testament scrolls, the arc in the synagogue, and the history of the building.  It has been a week and a half, and they still remember a ton!” 

Splitting the gallery the way we did for Fashion Statement and Stitching History from the Holocaust is a great way to maximize our use of the space. It allowed us to get all of this great attention, and share even more stories with our visitors … but what happens when one of those exhibits needs to close sooner than the other?

Stitching History will be closing here on August 5th (so if you haven’t yet had the chance to see it, make your plans now!); after a brief rest, it will go on display again at the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida. That leaves us with a slice of gallery to fill until September 15th, when Fashion Statement closes in its turn and we begin to prepare the gallery for Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling. As we have done often during this clothing-focused year, we’ve turned to Stevenson University and the Stitching Maryland Together project for assistance.

Stevenson’s design students were a tremendous help with our Fashion Statement interactives.

We were also delighted to be part of the Stitching Maryland Together short documentary film project, which premiered at Expedition I, the fashion design school’s gala runway show and senior showcase held May 4, 2019 at Ram’s Head Live. A few members of the JMM staff took the opportunity to attend the event, and – speaking for myself, at least – were awed by the talent and skill displayed by these students, from the fashion collections to the documentary to the logistics of pulling off an event of this scale.

We’ve offered the use of our slice-of-gallery to the fashion department at Stevenson, and while we don’t know yet quite what that will look like – we’re hoping to get some of the clothing featured during the runway show itself! – keep your eyes open for more information on our continued collaboration with these talented young men and women.


 

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More than a Run of the “Mill”

Posted on February 22nd, 2019 by

Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker and Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church collaborated on this month’s edition of JMM Insights which, somewhat coincidentally, is all about collaboration! Missed any previous editions of JMM Insights? You can catch up here!


Have you ever heard of “The Mill” at Stevenson University? Well until last year we hadn’t either. That’s when we held a new projects briefing for Will Backstrom, Senior Vice President for Client and Community Relations at PNC Bank. Will, who has been a great friend and supporter of JMM, stopped the conversation when we brought up the topic of Fashion Statement (the exhibit on the way in which clothing expresses personal and social identity) and Stitching History from the Holocaust (a traveling exhibit from Milwaukee. that celebrates the creative talents of a designer who perished in the Shoah).

Will, who keeps tabs on Baltimore’s cultural scene, pointed out that just as our exhibit was closing next summer the Maryland Historical Society would be putting on a major exhibit of their extraordinary collection of clothing. He thought we might cross-market our projects. And then he had one other thought, “what about the Mill?”

The “Mill” it turns out, is a capstone course for students at Stevenson University with an interest in design. It brings together students from departments like Fashion Design, Graphic Design, Film & Moving Image, and Business Communications to work together, almost as if they were a design and marketing agency, on solving a specific, real-world problem. With Will’s help, JMM, the Maryland Historical Society, and Stevenson U faculty and students came together and we became “clients” of the Mill.

Stevenson students in the Mill are incorporating our project into a much larger endeavor: a public affairs campaign to reinvigorate the fashion industry in the city of Baltimore. They developed a name for the effort (Stitching MD Together), a brand (stitchingmdtogether.org), and a full plan to research, educate, engage, and, they hope, encourage a growth in the fashion industry in the state. They are even hoping that, when the Maryland campaign is successful, other states can use the same template.

As part of this collaboration, JMM staff have visited the Mill classroom a number of times, listening to student presentations, discussing the upcoming projects, and even presenting a unit on social media marketing. Students have also used JMM and MdHS for their research into the history of the fashion industry in Baltimore and in Maryland and are creating a documentary film. Their research proved interesting and productive in more ways than we initially anticipated!

Stevenson University students setting up for documentary filming in the JMM Library, October 26, 2018.

As part of the students’ documentary project, they came to the JMM to interview Joanna, and film some of our textile collections. To make sure those pieces got a good showing, Trillion and Joanna turned the library into a miniature photo studio and prepped a variety of outfits to a presentable display standard, ready for their respective close-ups. A handy side benefit of this process was that we were able to take some good photographs for our own purposes, in advance of the upcoming Fashion Statement exhibit.

This ermine coat (complete with tails sewn into the interior seams), made by Havelock and Selenkow, Baltimore, was a 35th birthday present to Alene Steiger Adler from her husband Charles Adler, Jr., in 1941. It will be featured in “Fashion Statement,” opening April 7, 2019. Gift of Amalie Adler Ascher, JMM 1989.167.30a.

The student film crew got some on-the-ground experience (not that they weren’t already quite skilled) along with the footage they needed for their documentary. In addition, they got the chance to take a close look at museum artifacts, and at techniques for interpretation and display. An article of clothing can tell you so much about the person who wore it and the times and culture in which it was worn, but people haven’t always given that idea much thought; sharing that insight, and seeing students’ respond to it, is a delight. We think this deeper understanding of the roles of clothing and fashion will help them strengthen their campaign.

Joanna talking with Grace Clark, part of the Stitching Maryland Together Communications team, prior to the interview.

In addition to the deliverables of the research and the documentary, we’ve also been partnering with Stevenson students for some of the details of the visitor experience in Fashion Statement, the JMM-curated portion of the double-bill opening April 7th. The interactive experiences in our exhibits are often among the most memorable to our visitors, and among the most complicated for museum staff to create. For Fashion Statement, Stevenson professors have helped us brainstorm interesting mechanisms for engaging visitors even as their students are helping us make those ideas a reality. We are working with several different Stevenson classes and individual students to achieve the interactive visitor experience. From graphic artists to aspiring fashion designers, the collaboration with the University is providing JMM with fresh ideas and talent as well as providing students with real-world, client-driven experiences.

All of these many positive outcomes have much to remind us about the power of partnership and collaboration. And with deep gratitude to Mr. Backstrom, whose eyes lit up when we told him about Fashion Statement, we reiterate the truth of the fact that one person has enormous power to make a difference: all of these synergies and win-win moments were made possible by a single conversation many, many months ago.


 

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