Intern Weekly Response: Museum Accessibility

Posted on July 5th, 2018 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to reflect on a recent Museum Accessibility workshop led by our visitor services coordinator Paige Woodhouse and to read and respond to a selection of articles – including suggestions for JMM to apply. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


Museums and Accessibility: What’s in a Label?

~Intern Cara Bennet

Labels play a huge role in making museum exhibits accessible to a diverse audience. A label’s content, language, format, and style all have an impact on a visitor’s experience and their ability to understand and retain the information being presented. As I’ve learned through my museum studies courses, the best labels use clear, concise, simple language that can be understood by visitors of varying age ranges and educational backgrounds. The Smithsonian’s guidelines for accessible exhibit design argues for the use of active voice in labels, explaining that “people who have difficulty reading English are most successful when the active voice is used in short sentences. Subject-verb-object sentence structure ensures better understanding.” While many of the JMM’s individual object captions in its permanent exhibit “Voices of Lombard Street” are clear and concise, many of the exhibit’s introductory text panels are quite long and wordy. These panels also use words that may be unfamiliar or difficult for some visitors such as “artery” or “knell.”

Label styles and formats also play an important role in making an exhibit accessible to a wider audience. Many museums offer labels in braille and other languages for people that have vision impairments or are non-native English speakers. Even small design details like font type, size, spacing, and color contrast (all things I’ve never really considered before) play a huge role in making labels more accessible for visitors with disabilities.

White text on a yellow background was not the best design choice for these labels. The Smithsonian’s guidelines explain that “contrast is an essential element for people with low vision.”

While the JMM has done a great job making its accessible by offering large print and braille exhibit guides, I would suggest making the following changes to make its exhibits even more accessible to visitors. In addition to offering large print and braille exhibit guides, the JMM should also offer visitors exhibit guides in foreign languages. Currently these guides are kept at the front desk and must be requested by visitors. I would suggest that the JMM make it clear that these guides are available either by displaying them at the exhibit entrance or posting signs near the exhibit entrance notifying visitors that these guides are available. I would also suggest that museum includes braille and foreign language labels within the actual exhibit, but I understand that working with a small museum’s budget and limited exhibition space this isn’t always an option. I would also suggest that the JMM simplify and condense some of the text panels in its permanent exhibit to make the content more accessible to a wider audience. I would also suggest that the JMM replace all low-contrast labels to make them easier for all visitors to read.

The San Diego Natural History Museum offers labels in both English and Spanish. Image via.


Website Accessibility

~Intern Alexia Orengo Green

Museums are the perfect place to learn about a topic, increase your interest, or admire a piece of art. For many, museums are places where they can enjoy themselves while engaging in a learning environment. But, even though for some, museums are safe heavens others feel excluded because of the lack of accessibility these have.

Last week, we had a Museum Accessibility workshop with Paige Woodhouse. There we learned the different types of accessibility that museums need to have, and methods museums are using to become inclusive to all. On the workshop we also learned how the JMM is accessible and its plans to grant accessibility to everyone, making their experience more enjoyable.

One of the ways in which the JMM is planning to become more accessible is through its website. Most of the visitors of the JMM access the website to learn about the different exhibits and events happening in the museum. Because of this, it is important that everyone can engage with the website in a comfortable way.

Underneath is a list of suggestions for the new JMM website that I created following the recommendations from our workshop and readings.

List or Recommendations:

1. Bigger Text: For people who have vision impairments, such as poor vision, it may be difficult to read a small font size.

2. Night mode: The bright colors of the page might give headaches to people with vision impairments or suffer from migraines.

3. Declutter: Decluttering the page may help people, for example, with ADHD to focus better while visiting the page.

4. Underline hyperlinks: Underlining the hyperlinks would make the website’s experience for people who are color blind better by not relaying on color.

5. Smaller paragraphs: Having smaller paragraphs on the website may also help people to focus better while reading the website’s information.


Accessible Websites and The JMM

~Intern Ash Turner

Good website design can sometimes be underappreciated. As Jared Spool, a writer and researcher, states, “Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.” And poor design negatively affects a website’s accessibility and usability.

This week, I did my readings on website design and accessibility. I found that there are a lot of checklists and articles about creating more readable and accessible websites. There are articles on different disabilities, and how to best design for them. They range from overall best-practices articles such as this one, to articles that are more specific, such as this one about designing for color-blindness.

“Posters showing the dos and don’ts of designing for users with accessibility needs including autism, blindness, low vision, D/deaf or hard of hearing, mobility and dyslexia.” Image and caption from the gov.uk article, “Dos and don’ts on designing for accessibility”

The key trait for all good web design, though, seems to be clarity. Pages need to be simple and clean, from their font and color choices, to the language used, all the way to the layout of the page and its navigation. There are other things to keep in mind as well for website accessibility, such as having image descriptions for photos, captions or transcriptions for video content, and multiple ways of understanding the content for all pages.

After my research, I have a few suggestions for improving the accessibility of the Jewish Museum of Maryland website:

>Simplify and clarify the navigation

-This includes using less colors and more consistency, and underlining or differentiating links from other non-clickable text

-Declutter the navigation by making sure it’s all in the same area and easily findable

>Use larger font sizes (for both computers and mobile)

-As stated in this article about readability on websites, larger font sizes increase text readability for all users, not just those that are vision-impaired

A screenshot taken of the JMM mobile website. Notice how small all of the text is, which can create problems for readability

>Use a mix of media to convey information

-Using different types of media (such as video, sound, or images along with text) gives people the option to understand content in different ways

-For example, the museum location page could include a small map graphic for visual understanding

>Think about changing the body text font to sans-serif

-Fonts that are more common are easier to read, and sans-serif fonts are most common on the internet for body text

>Test the website with different people

-This is especially important, since all good design should be centered on actual people

-Make sure to test with those who use assistive technology

-As the accessibility blog on Gov.uk states, “Testing with people who use assistive technology can be a quick and effective way of identifying issues that affect all users”

Overall, increasing accessibility through web design can only create a better experience for everyone.


Avoiding Stagnation

~Intern Marisa Shultz

While closely considering accessibility for this week’s intern response – I say closely because accessibility is something we should be considering often – a quote from Mary Ann Wojton, Joe Heimlich, and Natalie Shaheen’s article: “Accommodating Blind Learners Helps All Learners” stood out:

“Museum Educators generally design educational programs that they believe accommodate all visitors.”

What is so essential about this quote is that it emphasizes that museum educators believe they have accommodated all kinds of visitors, implying two things. First, that museum educators have not been as successful in this endeavor as they perceive, and second, that some museum educators may be stagnant because they feel a permanent and fulfilling solution has already been found and implemented.

So how can we, at the JMM, avoid being stagnant, and continue to accommodate our diverse visitors? While the article I was inspired by specifically describes how to accommodate the Blind and Low-Vision communities, I would like to address our Deaf visitors and their experience on the Lloyd Street Synagogue tour.

The museum has an excellent tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel, but we do not have staff members and docents trained in American Sign Language (ASL). This lack of ASL trained staff and docents may make Deaf visitors feel alienated. While the ideal solution is to have two ASL trained staff members or docents on site each day (one to accommodate Deaf visitors at the front desk and another on the Synagogue tour), I feel this may not be a realistic goal in the short term. Perhaps instead then, we can approach this in a two-pronged manner. If we could hire (or train) a staff member or docent who knows ASL, we could schedule and advertise multiple ASL tours each week at a variety of times corresponding with the work schedule of the staff member/docent.

Additionally, our website has a section devoted to accessibility with our wonderful Paige Woodhouse as a contact; perhaps members of the Deaf community could schedule ASL tours on dates and times that are most convenient for them (barring of course, when the museum is closed). If it is not possible to hire (or train) a staff member/docent with ASL skills, perhaps it would be possible for the museum to pay for an interpreter; however, this would require a prior arrangement, and we should be striving to be accessible to all visitors, all of the time.

It is also important to note, that not all members of the Deaf community know ASL; therefore, these accommodations would only make the museum more accessible to some members of this community. Perhaps then, we could work in conjunction with an organization such as the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to create accommodations based around the community’s knowledge and experience, in order to create a more accessible environment.


Consider a Touch Tour

~Intern Ellie Smith

Accessibility should be a high priority for all museums. Accessibility allows for diverse audiences to patron museums and enjoy the museum community. For those with disabilities museums may not be the most welcoming place but as museum staffers we need to work hard to improve our accessibility standards so that everyone who comes to a museum can enjoy and benefit from it. Issues of accessibility range from having wheel chair ramps to providing noise canceling headphones for those with auditory sensory issues. Patrons with sight impairment or blindness need different experiences than other patrons. Museums like the Smithsonian and many others provide verbal description tours and touch tours. Verbal description tours are led by a docent who provides extremely detailed descriptions of objects that are in the museum. Docents not only describe the objects they also provide historical context and other information about how this object relates to the exhibit and the museum. Touch tours are tours where patrons wear special gloves and are allowed to touch the objects on display while a docent provides a verbal description. The Smithsonian has set a high standard for touch tours as described in their “Guidelines for Accessible Exhibit Design”.[1] This resource is available online and provides an in-depth look at how a successful museum provides the highest in accessibility standards.

Other patrons may require other forms of accessibility. Patrons who are deaf or have hearing impairment need videos with captions and transcriptions of any verbal pieces of exhibits. The Smithsonian takes great care to ensure that all patrons are able to experience the exhibits to the fullest. Another exhibit that has taken great care in making sure it is accessible to diverse audiences is Nano which is an interactive exhibit “designed by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network.”[2] The designers of Nano worked to create an exhibit that has different pieces that patrons with different skill levels can interact with. Instructions for these activities are written in both braille, English, and Spanish. They are also in video form with captions. And there are also demonstration videos. Interactive parts of the exhibit are placed at different heights so children as well as those in wheel chairs or short people can access them. Nano is a prime example of an accessible exhibit which allows diverse audiences to participate.

I believe the Jewish Museum of Maryland could benefit from adding a touch tour to our exhibits. The Voices of Lombard Street exhibits lends itself well to a touch tour because it already has so many interactive pieces.

For example, there is a part of the exhibit that looks like a family dining room. Patrons can sit down and feel the reproduction objects on the table and a docent could read from the panels within the exhibit in order to make those objects relevant to the rest of the exhibit. The next room that a patron and docent walk into is set up like a garment factory. There is an interactive sewing machine. A patron can sit and feel the machine and fabric and press their foot on the peddle of the machine.

While this is taking place a docent can provide a verbal description of what the patron is touching and then tell the history of the garment industry in Baltimore. With new exhibits we should work hard to make sure that a touch tour can occur. Along with this we should also consider providing an audio tour that patrons can use independently and training docents to provide accessible tours. By improving our accessibility standards we can accommodate a more diverse audience and create an overall better museum experience for patrons.

 

[1] https://www.si.edu/accessibility/sgaed

[2] Rae Ostman and Catherine McCarthy, “Nano: Creating an Exhibition that is Inclusive of Multiple and Diverse Audiences”. Exhibitionist, fall 2015.

 

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Intern Weekly Response: Podcast Nation

Posted on June 28th, 2018 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to select a museum-related podcast and share their reviews, in preparation for creating their own podcast episodes later in the summer. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


Podcast: American Icons

Intern Alexia M. Orengo Green

As someone who recently got interested in podcasts this week’s response was fun because it gave me the opportunity to find new shows. Podcasts can be an informal and fun way to learn about a certain subject on your way to work, while on the train, or even while cooking dinner. This week I discovered the podcast American Icons by Studio 360 on WNYC. As the tittle indicates, this podcast explores several American Icons and how they became icons. The podcast goes from explaining more serious topics such as the Lincoln Memorial to less formal topics such as The Wizard of Oz. This ratio of topics makes the podcast appeal to a greater audience and gives more options to its listeners.

The Wizard of Oz Theatrical Poster. Image via Wikimedia Commons

American Icons is a well-done podcast that explains its different topics in an informal academic way. By doing this the audience feels its learning something new, but not taking a lecture. Another aspect of the podcast I enjoyed is how it interacts with the audience asking them questions, sparking curiosity, and challenging their knowledge. American Icons also makes historical connections to the episode’s topic, an example being Superman and the Jewish community that immigrated to America.

Jerry Siegel, co-creator of Superman, son of Jewish immigrants that arrived in the United States in 1900. Image via Wikimedia Commons

 The podcast also incorporates the social factors that influenced America to create icons. An example of this would be the controversy surrounding the Vietnam Memorial. The controversy arose because of the anti-war sentiment the Vietnam War had and the proposal that was selected for the memorial. This memorial sparked sentiment and forced people to have a conversation about the war. The memorial is made of a black granite wall, in which visitors can see their reflection. In the memorial, the names written on the wall are on the order from the first soldier that died during the war to the last. This memorial was the first one of its kind making it and American icon. The podcast tangles perfectly the historical and social factors making the listener connect with the story.

Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC. Image via Wikimedia Commons

American Icons explains different aspects of American history in a thought-provoking way. The podcast brings different topics to the 21st century and allows its listeners to connect to different stories. This show connects historical, cultural, and social factors while appealing to a large audience.


Museum Podcasts, Visitor Engagement, and Accessibility

Intern Cara Bennet

Admission fees, location, and hours shouldn’t prevent people from accessing all the information that museums have to offer. Museum podcasts are a great solution to this problem. They allow people to learn from and engage with a museum for free whenever it’s convenient for them. Podcasts connect students living in remote locations like Alaska or Hawai’i to museums in Washington, D.C. despite time differences or their ability to travel. Podcasts give museums the opportunity to highlight certain objects in their collections and the roles of various staff members, discuss important issues in the museum field, and to promote upcoming exhibits and public programs. Podcasts also help museums keep visitors engaged by educating and continuing conversations long after they’ve left the museum.

The International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C.

This past week I’ve been listening to “Spycast” a podcast produced by the International Spy Museum. While I’ve been to the Spy Museum a few times before, I’ve already learned so much more about the museum and its collections from the podcast. Episodes feature interviews with authors, historians, and intelligence professionals. Some of my favorite episodes I’ve listened to so far are interviews with former intelligence professionals, particularly women that got started in the CIA in its early days as an agency. Listening to their first-hand accounts is fascinating and not necessarily something visitors could experience by just visiting the museum.

The episode of “Spycast” I’m listening to as I write this blog post.


Spies, Covert Ops, and Secrets, Oh My!

Intern Marisa Shultz

Admittedly, I have always been a bit iffy on podcasts. I am such a visual person that I even prefer to watch television and movies with subtitles, and I have had my fair share of run-ins with podcasts so poorly done that they have taken an interested topic and made it utterly boring. But, I have been pleasantly surprised, actually, way more than pleasantly surprised by SpyCast, put together by the International Spy Museum in Washington D.C.. One of the greatest beauties of the program is that the project began in 2006 and has had weekly installments since 2015, so for someone just discovering this gem, there are many episodes to explore and lots of content to learn. Also due to the series length, if a particular episode does not interest you, there are so many more to choose from.

However, it would be challenging to find an uninteresting episode, for the podcast prides itself on telling unusual and fascinating stories about a corner of history often shrouded in deceit and shadow.

While the scope of the show may be somewhat limited due to its subject (governmental intelligence, espionage, and their implications) the podcast covers a great deal of ground, both historical and modern, within that scope. From the Pope’s spies in World War II to the Pentagon Papers and everything in between both micro and macro, SpyCast covers it all.

While the extent of content and number of episodes is a huge bonus for the podcast, there are two major reasons it works so well. For one, the guests they choose to interview are always experts (often with recently published books) or individuals who have experience in the intelligence or espionage fields; the guests are always well-spoken, interesting, and insightful too.

The other reason is the podcast’s host: Dr. Vince Houghton.

Dr. Houghton does an excellent job at maintaining the programs energy and keeping the conversation flowing. He asks insightful questions that encourage the speakers to share their thoughts and experiences, and while he may tell a short anecdote from time to time, he largely allows the spotlight to be on the guest. Overall, I would say that SpyCast has found a formula that works brilliantly!


Nostalgic Tales from The Memory Palace

Intern Ash Turner

With a name like The Memory Palace, it’s easy to get a sense of what type of podcast you’ll be listening to: an artful sound piece, with swaying background music, and someone describing something to you as if it is his memory. Sleepy, wistful music was an apt choice for the background sound in the first episode I listened to, “Dreamland.”

“Dreamland at twilight, Coney Island, N.Y.” from the Library of Congress

In this episode, you hear a low voice, as if a bedtime story is being read to you, and you are slipping into sleep, mixing what is a dream with what is reality. But what is being told really happened, and you’re transported to the memory of this place—Dreamland on Coney Island. You’re slowly dipped into this time period, this piece of history. It is a story at the same time it is descriptively real, and in this way, it feels like a memory, where it sits comfortably somewhere between dream and reality.

“Ball room, Dreamland, Coney Island, N.Y.” from the Library of Congress

This way of telling history through sound creates an experience for the listener. I found myself pulled in through The Memory Palace’s sound design and detailed, almost nostalgic, historical descriptions. Some of the episodes were heavier with their facts and left me with a specific thought or critique about the historical subject. Other episodes were lighter and invoked a feeling of living in that period of time, or a sense of being in a certain place. I enjoyed that the episodes shifted between heavier and more wistful episodes, since some episodes and their subjects (such as “Hercules,” about George Washington’s slave who escaped to freedom) fit in better with a critical narrator, rather than with dewy-eyed descriptions.

The Memory Palace stands as its own memorable art piece, as its own sort of museum, weaving together fact with story and sound. Each episode is its own small experience, each like a historical artifact, to be taken in one by one.


Listening to the Voices of Survivors

Intern Ellie Smith

Podcasts allow museums to present information in a new way. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum utilizes podcast in order to share the stories of Holocaust survivors. Through their podcast series “First Person: Conversations with Holocaust Survivors” audiences can listen to excerpts from longer interviews from survivors. These podcast are fairly short about five to fifteen minutes which allows the audience to listen to several in a small amount of time. There is something extremely powerful about hearing the stories of survival and Holocaust experiences from those who actually lived it. Reading a memoir does not provide the same experience as listening to the voices of survivors.

Knowing that some of these individuals have already passed away makes being able to listen to their stories more powerful.

This podcast series has a variety of different interviews. Some individuals talk about their experiences in the camps and others discuss death marches or Kristallnacht. The series allows audiences to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the copious experiences of the Holocaust. Often people only know about the camps; Auschwitz is all they know about the Holocaust. But this series allows listeners to gain knowledge of ghetto life, experiences of the death marches, transportations, and other parts of the Holocaust experience. I think this is a wonderful podcast series which allows people to personally connect to the stories of those who survived the Holocaust.

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Intern Weekly Response: Project Updates

Posted on June 21st, 2018 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to share about their projects here at the Museum. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


Exploring the Lloyd Street Synagogue

-Intern Alexia M. Orengo Green

By now I’m three weeks in on my internship at The Jewish Museum of Maryland and the experience has been great. I have been able to work on various projects regarding the Lloyd Street Synagogue. This incredible building constructed in 1845 is the first synagogue in Maryland.   Even though the synagogue’s history and architecture are impressive, they are not the only things that make the building significant. It is the synagogue’s impact on the Baltimore Jewish community that makes the synagogue unique.

Exterior of the Lloyd Street Synagogue Photo from the Jewish Museum of Maryland webpage.

My first project regarding the Lloyd Street Synagogue was updating the archival inventory of the synagogue. During the duration of this project I went through hundreds of documents concerning the synagogue. This project allowed me to learn about previous research done regarding the synagogue and the various restorations the building has had throughout the years. What stroke me the most from this project was the hard work and dedication the staff from the Jewish Museum of Maryland have put throughout the years to have the synagogue recognized by the city as a historical building. Without this hard work and dedication Baltimore would not have the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Cuspidor from the Lloyd Street Synagogue exhibited on the “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit. Photo by: Alexia M. Orengo Green.

After finishing updating the archival inventory I began working with the archaeological artifacts excavated in the Lloyd Street Synagogue. This project has fascinated me! I’ve been cataloguing and describing each of the artifacts found. I’ve been able to encounter fabric, ceramics, and even iron nails! What I love the most about this project is getting to study each artifact and see how it fits on the Lloyd Street Synagogue narrative. Every time that I work with archaeological artifacts I try to imagine how they used to look at their period and who used them. I believe this helps putting the artifacts on perspective and helps me connect with the story.

Both projects have been wonderful, and I can’t wait for what is next!


“Inescapable: From Script to Reality”

-Intern Cara Bennet

One of the coolest parts about working in a museum is seeing an exhibit that was once just an idea and some words on a page come to life. Over the past few weeks I have been working on updating the Houdini exhibition script to make sure that the text and labels match the panels that have actually been installed in the exhibit. Usually the script should be finalized before text panels have been printed but I’m learning that sometimes you just have to go with the flow and tweak things along the way. Reviewing the script has been a great learning experience. The Houdini exhibit has been a good example of the different ways an exhibit can be broken up into themes and still tell a consistent narrative. Reviewing the script has also given me an excuse to read every piece of text that has gone into this exhibit. Although I try, I’m never able to read every label and text panel at museum exhibits. Reviewing the script has made me appreciate how much effort and research has gone into this exhibit. Each label and text panel has been written to tell a fascinating story in a relatively small amount of space.

Behind the scenes…exciting things are happening!

After spending days reviewing the script, floorplans, and renderings I got the opportunity to watch the exhibit come to life. It has been so cool watching the exhibit come together piece by piece. While I haven’t had any experience with exhibit installation, this week fellow intern Alexia and I got to help clean all the vitrines in the exhibit. This may not sound super exciting, but it was so cool to get to contribute to this exhibit in some small way. Alexia and I also got the opportunity to help arrange the handcuff display. While we were concerned at first that the handcuffs and picks wouldn’t stand out enough against the black velvet fabric, the objects ended up showing up. I’ve learned that a small museum sometimes you just have to work with what you have and make the most of it.

Alexia and I were only slightly concerned about being trapped in the vitrine. Luckily, we weren’t asked to perform any Houdini inspired escapes.


Making Magic

-Intern Elllie Smith

For the last few weeks I have been helping prepare for the Houdini opening and the Jonestown Festival. For the Houdini opening we constructed houses of cards for table decorations and a card mobile that will decorate the lobby area. We will be making magicians hats and wands at the Jewish Museum of Maryland table at the Jonestown Festival. I spent my time last week prototyping the crafts. I was surprised how long it took me to figure out the exact measurements for the wands and the hats.

I am excited to see the culmination of all of our hard work at both of the events.

When I was not working on crafts and decorations for Houdini I was beginning researching for a pair of exhibits that will open next spring called Stitching History from the Holocaust and Fashion Statement. Stitching History is a traveling exhibit which was created at the Jewish Museum in Milwaukee.

It tells the story of a woman who attempted to gain asylum into the United States during the Holocaust. She tried to prove her value with her fashion designs. She unfortunately was not granted access into the United States and perished in the Holocaust. Her family in Milwaukee kept the designs and donated them to the museum where they were brought to life and now travel around the country. Fashion Statement will be an original exhibit created here at JMM which focuses on the Maryland connection to fashion and designs. I will continue to do research and work to develop programs for both of these exhibits.

For the education department I have been working on creating bags that can be taken on tours of the synagogues to engage children. The activities in the bags will be based around the Synagogue Speaks book. I am working on developing an activity booklet that parents can pick up at the desk before their tours. I am also working on the education aspects of Stitching History and Fashion Statement which include creating lesson plans and activities for school groups. It is a very exciting time at the museum right now and I look forward to seeing what the rest of the summer holds.


Planning Ahead

~Intern Marisa Shultz

It’s been a busy, but extremely exciting start to my internship here at the Jewish Museum of Maryland; let me catch you up on what I’ve been working on! Over the past two and a half weeks, I have started two major, overarching projects that I will work on throughout the course of my internship.

The first is planning programming for the Jewish Refugees and Shanghai exhibit from the Shanghai Jewish Museum that is set to open during the Lunar New Year of 2019. The exhibit explores the experiences of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi persecution who settled in the port city of Shanghai, China. I feel well-equipped and especially excited for this task, as I studied Chinese in both high school and college. Last week, I spent a great deal of time familiarizing myself with the stories of the survivors of the Hongkou ghetto. From there, I have begun brainstorming programs. So far, I have found several potential speakers, a few hands-on events, and many activities for family day, and I am excited to continue looking for and planning programming that is educational, experimental, and fun!

The other major project is creating bags of activities for parents and grandparents to do with their children in the Lloyd Street Synagogue; these activities will be a supplement/experiential element to the book The Synagogue Speaks. So far, I have been working on finding ways to introduce families to the different congregations that used the Lloyd Street Synagogue, as well as providing an opportunity for parents and grandparents to teach their children about Jewish customs and traditions. I hope to make the bags modular, so the experience will be new and fresh each time a family returns to the museum. I have had the pleasure of working with Ellie Smith on this project and am looking forward to continued collaboration!

In addition to these projects, Ellie and I have both been hard at work on the final touches for both the Preview of Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini (6/21) and the Magic of Jonestown Festival (6/24).

I don’t want to give too much away and ruin the magic of surprise, but here is a sneak peek!

I have also been prototyping and building the “code books” for the Vanishing Elephant education program, which will help the kids crack the magic code! I am super excited to see this program in action!

It’s been an incredible two and a half weeks, and I am so proud to be part of this institution this summer!


Histories Found in Scrapbooks

~Intern Ash Turner

Daintily placed prom tickets and corsages. House addresses written neatly on envelopes. Valentines and birthday cards tucked between pages. I’ve been milling through all the odds and ends found in scrapbooks these past weeks, either to write detailed documents of what I find, or to search for specific information.

So far at the JMM, I’ve been learning how to process donated objects, mostly scrapbooks, and I’ve been learning how to correctly handle these objects. I’ve never looked through a stranger’s scrapbook before, much less written up a whole document on someone I don’t know based solely off of what they put in a scrapbook. I’ve also been able to see first hand how scrapbooks stay together and fall apart through the years.

Gift from Eleanor Yuspa, JMM 2015.008.008.

I’ve mostly been surprised by how tangible these different decades, these histories, feel to me now. Sure, I can read in a book about where someone lived in the 1930s, or read facts about who they married and when. But there’s something so much more fulfilling and engaging when you are looking for something else, flipping through pages filled with small objects and scraps of paper, and stumble upon someone’s address, only to realize that they lived on the same street as you – although they lived there 100 years ago.

Tickets pasted into Isaac Hecht’s travel scrapbook from a trip to France. Gift from Eleanor Yuspa, JMM 2015.008.005.

I’ve developed a deeper sense of how Baltimore as a city has changed, even just through the early to mid 1900s. I also appreciate, more than I did before, scrapbooks and the people who make them.

Picture inside Catherine Hecht’s scrapbook. Gift from Eleanor Yuspa, JMM 2015.008.004.

Although I’m only a few weeks into my internship, I’m really looking forward to handling more objects, more slips of paper and newspaper clippings, old advertisements and cartoons. I’m looking forward to the history, and the stories, they hold. I also am hoping to learn more about Baltimore’s history and my own sense of connection to its Jewish roots.

 

 

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