Shameless Promotion Department

Posted on January 10th, 2011 by

“Wonderful, wonderful. Everyone in Baltimore should see this exhibit.”

—Voices of Lombard Street visitor, 2010

Dr. Deb WeinerOur exhibition Voices of Lombard Street had its third anniversary this past fall, though we didn’t do anything to celebrate it. We tend to take it for granted: it seems to be holding up well, it provides a good “core experience” for our visitors (museum-speak for… actually I’m not sure what that term is supposed to mean), and it enables us to focus our funds and our energies on other projects while keeping one gallery occupied.

Last week we replaced the exhibition’s filled-up visitor comment book with a new one, and I took the old one back to my office and looked through it. Reading the comments of visitors who, three years out, are confronting Voices for the first time, I was happy to see that people still are finding it a valuable—and even powerful and moving—experience.

Voices explores a century of life in the East Baltimore neighborhood surrounding the museum. It evokes immigrant Jewish life in the early to mid 20th century, then moves on to describe the process of urban change that occurred later in the century, and ends with a discussion of the neighborhood today. We wanted it to be thought-provoking as well as nostalgic—entertaining as well as substantive. And relevant to a wide variety of audiences. The comments suggest that we hit the mark—so I thought I’d take this opportunity to share them.

Cover of the Voices of Lombard Street brochure

We wanted Voices to be relevant to people of different generations, cultures, and places of origin:

“This was the world of my grandparents and great grandparents—and was totally unknown to me until today. Thanks for keeping history alive for my generation.”—from Boise, Idaho

“I loved every picture, every minute. Maybe because I remember so much.”

“I attended the museum for credit for my Socl 141 class. Midway through, tears began to well in my eyes as I read the stories of immigrant Jews and the stories of other ethnic [groups]. I was not aware of the rich history of the Jewish, Italian, Irish, and African American community in Baltimore city.”— a non-Jewish Catonsville resident

“Brought tears to my eyes as this was the generation of my grandparents.”

“I have come here from Israel for this and it is worth it!”

“My son, age 4, was thoroughly engaged and asked me to read him many placards. Thanks for the kitchen utensils, sewing machine, etc. Beautifully done.”

“Oh do I remember. This brings back memories of my childhood coming to Lombard Street with my mother to get fresh chickens for the holiday.”

“I’ve lived here 80 years and learned new things today.”

“Excellent introduction for visitors to Baltimore.”—from a Knoxville, Tennessee resident

The original entrance to Weiss delicatessen, 1127 E. Lombard Street

The original entrance to Weiss delicatessen, 1127 E. Lombard Street, prior to the fire that gutted it in 1985. Photograph by Elinor B. Cahn. 1985.031.005

We wanted to tell a compelling story that engages people intellectually and emotionally—that they can feel, hear, and sense:

“This exhibit comes to life as you stroll through. I felt as though I met the residents on Lombard Street. Great job!”

“The sounds were the best—really made the pictures come alive.”

“It captured wonderfully the atmosphere of a bye-gone age.”—from Lancashire, UK

“Many things you can relate to and identify with through personal experience, e.g. sugar sack night gowns.”

“We loved being able to interact with the exhibit.”

“Grabs your attention. A great experience.”

“Outstanding—nostalgia overwhelms me and I am left with a fuzzy warm heart.”

“Wonderful. For a moment I was again with my father.”

“I am amazed by the way you told such a compelling and relevant story almost entirely through the reminiscences of neighborhood residents. I loved it.”

Hand-tinted lantern slide of a man reading the paper in front of a store on East Lombard Street. Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection. 1988.226.004a

We wanted to place the Jewish experience within the complex history of Baltimore as an ever-changing American city:

“It was really eye opening and put a real history to this district.”

“Wonderful! I never knew so much about Baltimore and I’ve lived here all my life.”

“A fabulous job telling the complex historical tale from all perspectives. We loved it!”

“I think you told it like it was…”

“So much to learn—wow! The parts about Martin Luther King were especially interesting.”

“I was particularly interested by the sections dealing with other communities in Lombard Street . . . a really well-rounded portrait of an area.”

“I’m surprised that the details of working class life were NOT suppressed. Good job.”

“The exhibit had wonderful 21st century insights.”

Two boys looking in the window of a butcher shop on East Lombard Street, 1963. Photograph by John McGrain.1995.187.016

We wanted kids to enjoy Voices. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I especially liked the outhouse and bowl of chicken soup.”

“Scary and interesting.”

“Chickens were awesome! But I wanted to see fish!”

“The noises rocked. Loved the signs and quotes.”

“Very interesting… but the soup needs salt.”

“I thought it was amazing to see what we’ve actually been learning about in school.”

A girls ballet class, 1937. 1992.231.079

Just-plain-superlatives section:

“This is the best museum I have been to in Baltimore! I thought the exhibition was excellent, mixing factual panels with quotes from local people and handling objects and activities for children—what a museum should be. . . . Thank you for putting together such a well-conceived and engaging exhibition!”—from a resident of Vienna

“Another hidden treasure of Baltimore.”

“This is an American Jewish treasure!”—from a resident of Los Angeles

“Fantastic exhibit. Even as a New York Jew I identified and could picture my ancestors going through similar trials, tribulations, and joys.”

“Wondrous! So much more than we expected.”

“Unbelievable.”

“Wow!”

OK, you get the picture. The upshot is, if you haven’t seen Voices of Lombard Street, please come! I think you’ll like it.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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