Volunteer Field Trip: National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center

Posted on April 25th, 2019 by

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


One of the benefits of being a volunteer at the JMM is the opportunity to go on field trips with fellow volunteers.  Our last field trip was to visit our new neighbor, the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center.

Did you ever wonder where the fish and marine mammals from the National Aquarium go when they need to take a break from constantly being on display to all the visitors on Baltimore’s Pier 4?  Or where the fish and marine mammals are cared for when ill or before they are integrated with others at the National Aquarium?  They go to the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center in Jonestown, the same neighborhood where the Jewish Museum of Maryland is located.

To develop awareness of the JMM neighbors and just for the fun of it, the JMM volunteers walked the three blocks from the JMM to the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center on April 8th.   We received a wonderful morning tour of the immaculately clean facilities.  There were rooms with multiple tanks that reminded me of above ground swimming pools except these tanks were populated by fish or marine mammals and were attached to elaborate pipes and filters.

They also had windows which allowed us a view of the inhabitants and gave the inhabitants a view of us.  It was fascinating to see how a fish was trained to swim to a specific colored ball.  Using that training, the staff could monitor the amount of food eaten and they could also easily get the fish’s attention when they needed to physically exam him.  Talking about examining the fish, we went to a lab where, with a plastic fish, we learned how a fish could be anesthetized and examined out of the water.

This facility is also where the elaborate National Aquarium displays are created.  From a video we learned about the many considerations needed to be taken into account when designing the displays, such as making the displays lifelike but not toxic if the marine animals nibbles on it thinking it is the real deal.

Now, as I drive by the red brick building of the National Aquarium Animal Care and Rescue Center on my way to JMM, I have a better understanding of what goes on there.  Maybe you too will arrange a tour of the center and hopefully, combine your visit there with a visit to our wonderful Jewish Museum of Maryland.

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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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