Museo Antonio Felmer

Posted on December 13th, 2018 by

A blog post from JMM Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. To read more posts from Wendy, click here.

I knew extremely little about Argentina and Chile until this past month when I was fortunate to spend 2 ½ weeks there.

The majority of the population are descendants of immigrants, just like in the US.  Besides seeing people that resembled those I see on the streets at home, the immigrant similarity really hit home when I visited Museo Antonio Felmer, a museum outside the Chilean city of Puerto Varas.  The collection consisted of objects brought by German immigrants to Chile, starting from the mid 1800’s into the 20th century.  There was a parallel immigration of Germans to Baltimore at the same time.  Some of those Baltimorean immigrants established the congregation that populated our Lloyd Street Synagogue.  I wonder how many of their precious objects they carefully packed and brought to the new world to either help them in daily tasks or with their occupation.

Antonio Felmer, a descendant of one of the German families in Chile, wanting to preserve his community’s history, started collecting household and farm related items which he housed it in his barn.  Antonio has since died, but his son has taken over the ever-growing collection and is running the museum that fills the three floors of the barn.  Much to his son’s chagrin, Antonio didn’t keep records regarding the provenance of the items or the items’ function. It has taken some guess work, and input from visitors to determine the function of some of objects.  For example, for years, he wondered why a chair in the collection had only 10” tall legs.  A visitor recalled that mothers would sit on chairs like that to be close to their children as they sat around her on the floor.

The collection is wonderfully displayed with related items grouped together. Many of them are kept in working condition from items needed for daily living to items used for entertainment.

There were food molds, meat grinders, – wait, didn’t I see similar objects in the pop-up exhibit in the lobby of JMM in September?

There were multiple sewing machines which brought to mind the sewing machine in the Voices of Lombard Street exhibit.

Yes, there were wedding dresses, too, on display.  Most of the wedding dresses in the JMM “Just Married” exhibit were white.

In this collection, some of the dresses were black though the veils were always white.

Why black?  Because the dress owners lived in a poor farming community where the women needed to have the dress to wear for other good occasions and white was not practical to keep clean.

When I saw a steamer trunk on display, I wondered if Houdini held the patent on its design.

The Felmer family obviously has a passion to preserve their history, something all who are associated with the Jewish Museum of Maryland can relate to.

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Volunteers Go A-Walkin’: A Jonestown Tour

Posted on October 24th, 2018 by

A blog post from JMM Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. To read more posts from Wendy, click here.

One of the fun benefits of being a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland is the opportunity to go on field trips with fellow volunteers.  This October, our field trip started at the front door of the museum.  We ventured on a walking tour of our historic neighborhood, Jonestown.  Did you know that after Baltimore was founded in 1729, Jones Town was the first neighborhood established outside the city?  It was originally the home to wealthy residents such as the Carrolls and Edward Johnson, a Baltimore mayor.  Then it became home for generations of immigrants, filled with shops and social institutions.

Using “The Jewish Museum of Maryland Neighborhood Walking Tour” as a guide, Ilene Dackman-Alon  lead us, engaging us in stories about various buildings and the people that lived and work in the area.

Participants shared their impressions:

I have been going to Little Italy for 50 years and never saw Yiddish writing on Amicci’s building. So interesting and thrilling to see that little bit of “Yiddishkeit.”  How amazing that there is so much history in Jonestown. -Robbin Bord, docent

What I found interesting is that using the guidebook provided, you could see where these historic neighborhoods and businesses were. It’s almost like being a time traveler. – Roberta Greenstein, front desk volunteer

So much was new.  I really enjoyed seeing the Star Spangled Banner house and museum.  I had no idea it was even there.  I can’t wait to go back to see the movie and to climb the Shot Tower. – Robin Kaplan, shop volunteer

Touring the interior of the Shot Tower!

We had a fabulous time on the walk around Jonestown! Of course, having grown up in Baltimore -and attending Sunday School -and being involved in the Museum for many years, we’ve known the area was a melting pot for immigrants. But adding actual stories to the lore was wonderful! Ilene was a wealth of information and her enthusiasm infectious! The tour participants’ input and recollections added to the mix. A great time! And, the rains held off until we closed the car door to head back uptown! Thanks for coordinating another nice event!  -Maxine Cohen & Myron Oppenheimer, shop volunteers

I found the walking tour highly informative in providing a real perspective of life in a vital Jewish neighborhood, even though many of the shops, other commercial establishments, and housing structures covered no longer exist. Ilene’ s personal reflections, along with the printed material and photographs handed out elicited many fond firsthand memories from our group as well as stories they heard from parents, grandparents and relatives. The Shot Tower stop was an added bonus to an enjoyable walk. Thanks to Ilene and you for setting us this worthwhile event.  – Phil Sagal, docent

The Jonestown tour was wonderful. Thank you, Ilene. I loved that on Sunday (while talking with JMM visitors) some questions came up and I could answer them. Had I not been on the tour I wouldn’t have been able to. – Helene Goldberg, docent

We all delighted in exploring the neighborhood, seeing up close buildings that we quickly drive by, being able to read the plaques on the historic building, hearing the words of people who walked the streets of Jonestown years ago, appreciating the wonderful teacher Ilene is and enjoying each other’s company.

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Volunteer Spotlight on Fran Banks!

Posted on October 3rd, 2018 by

Post by Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis. Periodically we highlight one of our fantastic JMM volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering with the JMM, send an email to Wendy at wdavis@jewishmuseummd.org or call 443-873-5168! You can also get more information about volunteering at the Museum here.


Fran Banks’ face lights up when she explains what she does as a volunteer at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Her current project is entering information about engagements and weddings announcements from the Jewish Times into the museum database.  She started with issues from 1928 and has progressed to the Second World War years.  Being a Baltimore native, she is familiar with many of the families mentioned in the Jewish Times and most weeks she reads announcements about people she knows personally.  The first week Fran worked on this project, she read an engagement announcement about her aunt and it was written by Fran’s grandparents.  What an engaging way to begin a project!

Of course, as one reads these various announcements, you can’t help but also read the ads adjacent to them.  Fran recalled seeing an advertisement for a venue “the Community Hall” noting soup to nuts meals for $1.25 per person.

The first project Fran worked on at JMM, about two years ago, was entering data from birth announcements kept by area midwives.  She found it interesting that the announcements also included the father’s occupation.  Fran was able to track how the father’s occupation changed as each family grew.  For example, one father was listed as a buttonhole maker when his first son was born, but by the 5th child, he was listed as a master tailor!  First–born sons usually had a name noted, but later-born children within the same family were frequently listed as boy 4, girl 7, etc.

Fran looked specifically at JMM for volunteer opportunities because she wanted to do something totally different than what she did for work. She stated, “I love seeing where small pieces of history fit into a larger picture, so what I’m doing suits me just fine. And I know that I’m entering data that someone will eventually use to find family, friends or get a sense of the Baltimore community.”

Before her 2013 retirement, Fran was an emergency room nurse at Sinai Hospital for 20 years and then she worked for the Baltimore County Department of Aging.  The Department of Aging job entailed home visits, identifying services and / or specific modifications needed to maintain people safely in their homes or to determine if an assistive living facility would be more appropriate.  Fran was amazed by many people she met and how well they were able to deal with issues related to aging and illness.

In addition to volunteering one day a week at JMM, Fran is engaged in many other activities.  She has been taking courses at CCBC on art history and English, is involved in weekly Torah study and a book group.  She is active in her synagogue, Temple Oheb Shalom. She keeps her hands busy doing needle crafts and she is one of the on-line citizen typists for the U.S. Archives.  She transcribed some records on Lee Harvey Oswald and Alger Hiss.  Additionally, she travels to Philadelphia with her husband as often as possible to visit with her son, daughter-in-law and grandson.

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