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JMM Insights: It’s Groundhog Day

Posted on April 3rd, 2020 by

It’s Groundhog Day!

Ok, I know that yesterday was April Fool’s Day, but today still feels like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. 

The monotony and stress of self-quarantined life, the same news stories when we wake up each morning, and the depressing notion that this will not end soon. Bill Murray’s character is able to escape from his confinement in Punxatawney, PA only by accepting his situation, improving himself and improving the lives of his neighbors.

At JMM, we’ve taken the important first step of accepting reality. We will not reopen our doors until at least the middle of May, and we have cancelled or postponed all public programs through June. As Dr. Fauci has advised, we don’t set the timeline the virus sets the timeline. We will follow that advice.

For those holding paid tickets for events in April, May or June we hope you will consider donating the cost of the ticket to our continued operations or hold onto your tickets to exchange for credit toward a rescheduled or future program. Every gift makes a difference as we work hard (from home!) to maintain our capacity to create great programs you care about. (If neither of these options are feasible for you, please let us know and we will make arrangements for a refund.)

The second step in Ground Hog Day liberation is self-improvement.

While we haven’t spent time learning to speak French or play the piano, we have been retooling JMM as a digital museum (temporarily). Last week we introduced you to Wondernauts, this week we are sharing resources related to our current exhibit Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling.

Scrap Yard was originally scheduled to close on April 26, but our revised plan will keep the exhibit on the floor through July, in the hope that more of you will be able to enjoy it after we reopen. In the meantime, we’ll be adding content to our digital museum every week.

The last step in freeing ourselves from the Coronavirus Groundhog Day involves helping our neighbors.

Everyone who is reading this while restricting their travel outside of home is already off to a good start. Those of us who are also able to give to the Associated as well as JMM, are fulfilling a double mitzvah, helping those in urgent need and preserving our heritage so that it’s there for our children and grandchildren when this dark winter finally recedes.

If you are looking for other ways to volunteer from home, let me recommend this link to our partners at Jewish Volunteer Connection. The Passover narrative tells us that our people endured 430 years of slavery before liberation, I think that working together and supporting each other we can make it through a few months of isolation.



Experience Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling through our eyes!

As part of our digital museum offerings, we’ve put together a few extra experiences for you related to our original exhibit Scrap Yard. We hope you’ll take a little time this week to explore this bonus content and let us know what you think.

First, check out this awesome series, Talia’s Tour Highlights. Talia Makowsky, our Visitor Services Coordinator, spends a lot of her time creating engaging experiences for our adult group visitors, including special tours for our exhibits – including for Scrap Yard.

And we didn’t want to leave our younger visitors out, so here’s a Blue’s-Clues-style series with Museum Educator Marisa Shultz and a fun design-your-own poster experience!

Plus our programs team has put together an awesome set of hands-on activities for everyone to try at home.

Already an expert on what’s in the exhibit from your previous visits? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered with this series of “Making Of” videos sharing behind-the-scenes information you won’t find anywhere else. Hear from Marvin, Tracie, Joanna and more on some of their favorite stories, facts, and finds of making Scrap Yard – we’ll be adding to this series as we go, so be sure to check back often!

Don’t forget, we also have a whole website dedicated to learning more about Scrap Yard, the history of the industry, and the people involved.

From a breakdown of recyclable materials and their uses to an in-depth glossary of scrap vocabulary (and slang!) to the stories of Scrappers past and present, told in their own words, our Scrap Yard website is worth exploring.

And in case you missed them the first time (or just want to relive the experience), you can watch recordings of a selection of our Scrap Yard lectures:

Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America

Lives Built on Scrap: A Family Biography

Secondhand Travels of a Global Scrap Man

And, for your reading pleasure, a story that hits a lot of boxes – good news, recycling, Maryland, and COVID-19: A Recycling Company Just Discovered 36,000 N95 Masks in a Dumpster.

As always, we thank those who helped make the Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling exhibit, website, and programs possible, including: Institute for Museum and Library Services; National Endowment for The Humanities; Boston Metals Co. in Memory of Morris Schapiro; The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries; David Berg Foundation; Baltimore Scrap: David, Larry, Ken, and Joe Simon; A gift in Loving Memory of Samuel Simon, from the Simon Family; Liebherr. See the full list of contributors here.


Be a part of our Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit exhibit!

Calling all young wondernauts! What would you bring with you to space? Why?

Astronauts living and working on the International Space Station can bring a Personal Preference Kit (PPK) into space with them. This Kit is used to carry their personal belongings. These Kits have size and weight restrictions – just like a suitcase you use for vacations. Imagine you are getting ready for a trip into space. What would you choose to bring with you? Maybe something to entertain you – a favorite book, perhaps? A favorite food or drink? Maybe something that reminds you of your family? Something to represent your culture? Something to practice your religion?

But remember, space is limited so you can only choose 5 things to fit in your PPK.

Students are invited to create an artwork inspired by your choices! Follow the directions found here and submit your work to potentially be included in our upcoming special exhibit!


This week on the JMM blog, Talia introduces her new #Upstanders series of Mental Health Monday posts, offering some suggestions for those of us struggling to work effectively from home.

For those of us looking for more exotic escapes from work, the JMM program team has prepared a compilation of resources, including musical performances and craft activities, related to our 2017 exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage while Talia takes us into the virtual world with a quick review of the newly released video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons and its in-game museum!


With Passover fast approaching, you might pull out your old Passover Seder plate and notice it is time for a replacement; maybe it’s chipped in some places or the colors are faded, or maybe it is just time for a change.

If this is the case, take a look at our burgundy and gold glass Seder plate (left) currently offered on our online shop. With deep, pre-formed spaces for placing traditional foods, the colorful decorations and metal inlay are guaranteed to add an impressive display to your Passover meals. The change in scenery during your Passover celebrations will add a little more excitement and calm to this stressful time.

Don’t see something you’re interested in at the online shop? Contact Shop Manager Chris Sniezek at and let us know.



JCA Virtual Seder
Sunday, Aprul 5, 2020
at 4:30pm

Join a virtual seder with Jewish Community Action (Minnesota), Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (New York), Detroit Jews for JusticeCarolina Jews for Justice and Jews United for Justice (DMV).  Here the story of Exodus, connect it with our modern struggles for liberation and come together as a community to take action and stand together in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Camp Girls: Fireside Lessons on Friendship Courage and Loyalty
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
at 7:00pm

Join author (and JMM board member!) Iris Krasnow as she discusses her newest book, Camp Girls, about her life-long experiences with Jewish summer camp and how camp gives us character traits that can form the spine of a successful life.

Music Festival
April 1 – 7, 2020
Various Times

Organized by NYC musicians Sirintip, Thana Alexa, Owen Broder and their nonprofit partner MusicTalks, the festival is proud to present a stellar lineup of artists contributing their time and talents to this cause.


This week’s #WhatWereReading comes from Director of Education Ilene Dackman-Alon, and two of our Trustees, Roberta Greenstein and Toby Gordon!

From Ilene: Being home over the past few weeks, has allowed me to do things that I never really have time to do. One of the first things I did at the start of my “new work schedule” was to head to the bookcase and grabbed Ernest Hemingway’s, The Sun Also Rises.  I don’t recall reading the book, in fact, I can’t recall ever reading any of Hemingway’s books. I liked to read F. Scott Fitzgerald in high school! Check out the rest of Ilene’s review here.

From Roberta: A charming, hilarious, and sweetly inspiring celebration of bad food and good company, Love Nina makes a young woman’s adventures in a new world come alive.

In 1982, 20-year-old Nina Stibbe moved to London to work as a nanny to two opinionated and lively young boys.  In frequent letters home to her sister, Nina describes her trials and triumphs, among them, a cat nobody likes, visits from a famous local playwright, and other adventures.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, tells the story of seventeen-year-old Cassandra and her family, who live in not so genteel poverty in a ramshackle old English Castle. She strives, over six turbulent months, to hone her writing skills. She fills three notebooks with sharply funny yet poignant entries. By the time she pens her final entry, she has “captured the castle” – and the heart of the reader – in one of literature’s most enchanting entertainments.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler is a collection of ideas, stories, and questions about the stuff of life, big and small, funny and sad. The book is largely a portrait of confidence. Reading it, some of it rubs off on us. It demonstrates the skill of the excellent comedic actress, a funny woman who roots hilarity in specifics.

From Toby: I am reading The Splendid and The Vile, Eric Larson’s new book about Churchill. It helps to read about his leadership in a crisis, and to think how people coped with the bombing of London. Next up is Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots by Deborah Feldman!

What are you reading this week? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Animal Crossing and the New Museum

Posted on April 2nd, 2020 by

From Visitor Services Coordinator Talia Makowsky. To read more posts from Talia, click here.

Everyone has different ways to unwind. Hobbies are especially important right now, as we adjust to working from home and social distancing to protect ourselves and others. I know I’ve been doing a lot more baking lately, as a way to relax (more on that in a later blog post). But one of my favorite ways to unwind and find some escapism is through video games.

I can go on and on about how amazing video games have become, whether they be hugely epic, and story fueled, or a hilarious and fun way to play with friends. My most recent video game acquisition, and indeed becoming my new favorite, is Animal Crossing: New Horizons.

For some background, Animal Crossing is a franchise from Nintendo (yes, the Nintendo that makes Mario and Zelda games if you’re familiar), and the basic premise of all the games is the same. You are a person moving to a new town (or island), and your goal is to simply enjoy your new place. Players can earn bells, or money, to make their houses bigger and buy furniture or clothing to customize their abodes. They can also interact with their fellow villagers, who are all anthropomorphic animals, complete tasks for them, and become friends. To earn money, players can collect fruit, catch fish and bugs, and more.

One of my favorite parts of all the franchises has always been the museum. In each game, a loveable but talkative owl named Blathers acts as the museum director, accepting donations of fish, bugs, fossils, and artworks to the museum.

Blathers loves to tell you about the things you collect but has a fear of bugs. And given the facts he tells you about tarantulas, I don’t blame him!

I’ve always enjoyed working to collect all the different critters and objects that the museum accepts, and it’s incredibly rewarding to walk through the virtual museum and see all of the donations I’ve brought displayed. I guess I’ve always been a museum person, even from childhood!

These pictures from the Gamecube version of the game show the original museum. Forgiving the outdated graphics, the museum itself was not very dynamic, instead just a way to collect all of these different items into one place. In this image you can see the entrance way, the art gallery, the aquarium room, and the fossil room. This image is not mine.

With the new game, I was especially looking forward to the changes they made to the Animal Crossing museum. I had seen a couple of images of what the new museum looked like, but I wanted to explore for myself. And I was not disappointed.

Maybe due to my time spent as a museum professional, but I was totally impressed with the way they’ve updated the new museum. In the previous games I’ve played the most (Animal Crossing on the Gamecube back in 2002, and Animal Crossing: New Leaf on Nintendo DS), the museum was a simple display of all the items I’ve donated. I still found it satisfying to walk around and see the result of my hard work as I caught fish and bugs, but they didn’t look like modern museums.

This shows the entrance to the museum from New Leaf, which came out on the Nintendo DS in 2013. You can see it looks essentially the same as the one from the Gamecube version, but with updated graphics. This image is not mine.

At least in New Leaf they put benches in the aquarium, to watch the fish. But the museum was still limited in its creativity. This image is not mine.

In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, however, it feels like they have a museum architect and exhibit designer on staff, for the entire building has had a major overhaul. The following images of the New Horizons museum are from my own game.

From the very start, it’s clear that the game designers have created something totally new.

Just in entering the lobby, you can see the differences between this game and the previous ones. The lobby is stately and exciting, with staircases leading to various halls. I have a feeling that as I unlock more of the game, this lobby will change too, to include more halls and rooms.

The new bug exhibit is lovely, with interesting paths and places to sit to observe. But my favorite part about it is the butterfly room.

If this was a real place, I’d sit here for hours.

This butterfly room gives me lots of nostalgia for the butterfly houses and gardens in zoos I visited as a child. And as you read the labels about the various butterflies, the camera focuses on each one.

One very museum-nerdy part of the bug exhibit is the little science lab in the back.

In this image, the paper kite butterfly sits in the tank, to be studied.

The addition of this little room really gives me the feeling that this is a real scientific museum. More and more science museums, and museums in general, are trying to find ways to engage their visitors and show them the behind the scenes work. Having a research lab that students can get involved in provides them with insight into the work required to take care and protect different animals and creatures and may inspire them to pursue science-based careers as they grow up. I thought this little addition was a great representation of the important work zoos and other educational places do to understand the creatures around us, and how to protect them for future zoo-goers to see and learn about.

This wasn’t the only part that made my museum-nerd heart sing. On the way to the fossil exhibit, I noticed a few small details that made me very excited.

In these two images I’ve pointed out the brochure racks and the fire panel that are in the entrance of the fossil exhibit.

It seems insignificant, but the inclusion of the brochure rack and the fire panels, along with many other tiny details like lights on the stairs, realistic looking seating areas, and more, truly transported me to this virtual museum. The people who chose to render these details really understood what makes up a museum. It’s not just the collection of objects or creatures inside, but in the way that people work to make it a welcoming and safe place. These details are a nod to all the various parts that make up a museum, from the curators to the visitor services coordinators. (So far, the only thing missing is a museum shop!)

The aquarium part of the museum is gorgeous as well, and from what I’ve seen, the fish tanks adapt and change as you donate more fish!

The aquarium is so fun to walk around, with places to watch pond fish, schools of anchovies, and more. They even have a display about deep-sea diving, and you can walk through tunnels in the tanks.

This area gave me big National Aquarium vibes, with the interesting and creative displays, and the way you can explore the area.

I look forward to expanding my Animal Crossing museum, while museums in our country remain closed to protect the health and safety of our visitors and staff. I’m sad I can’t go and explore real museums right now, but for the moment, this is giving me that taste of excitement and learning I crave when I visit. I highly recommend it as an alternative to actually visiting museums right now, and especially if you like these types of games in general. And if you do pick up a copy, let me know! I’d be happy to invite you to visit my island and give you a museum tour!

Come visit my island anytime!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Calling all Professors, Lecturers, and College Instructors!

Posted on March 30th, 2020 by

A blog post by Museum Educator Marisa Shultz! To read more posts from Marisa, click here.

As our essential efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19 are grinding traditional in-classroom learning to a halt, many colleges, school districts, and other educational institutions are determining the best way forward for their teachers and students alike. At the JMM, we’ve been brainstorming, designing, and producing new ways for you, our JMM family, to still access and enjoy the stories that we preserve and tell. Today, I am happy to provide a teaser for an upcoming resource from the JMM!

While we may not be able to teach in front of our students right now (as Dr. Shimon Shokek, former professor of Mysticism at Baltimore Hebrew University, did in this photograph) we can still provide engaging and profound learning opportunities for our students. Baltimore Hebrew University Archives Collection, JMM 2009.40.3466.

As many colleges are moving to the realm of online and distance learning, the JMM education team has decided to take the plunge as well. We are currently designing several online programs geared toward college classes on the history of immigration to Baltimore through Locust Point, the history of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, and on Jewish customs and beliefs. During these presentations, professors will be able to beam a member of our staff into their online class sessions through a digital software such as Zoom. The presentations will include photographic and documentary primary sources and will be based on our Voices of Lombard Street and The Synagogue Speaks exhibits.

Pictured here is the Class of 1923, the very first graduating class of Baltimore Hebrew University, now the Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University. Baltimore Hebrew University Archives Collection, JMM 2009.40.4969.

We are really excited about the prospect of seeing (virtually, of course) some familiar faces and working with some new folks in the near future! If you’re a professor, lecturer, instructor, or even a college student, who is interested in this endeavor, please contact Paige Woodhouse, our School Program Coordinator ( to learn more or sign up! In the meantime, be on the lookout for our new weekly JMM Insights series.  In this weekly newsletter, we’re announcing all kinds of new opportunities and resources!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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