Posted on April 14th, 2014 by Rachel
Part 1 of a 3 part series on using the JMM On-line Database!
Q: What is the first step in conducting research on Jewish history in Maryland?
A: Checking out our free, searchable on-line database, of course! With 74,753 collections records on-line, you can get a good sense of what we have in our collection. Members and non-members currently have access to the database at jmm.pastperfect-online.com or from the collections-research page on our website.
We have just shy of 11,000 three-dimensional objects in the database, ranging from archaeological sherds in the Lloyd Street Synagogue mikveh, to stained glass windows, track trophies, National Bohemian advertising ephemera, beautiful dresses and military uniforms. I am delighted that nearly 89% of the objects in our collection have been photographed!
One of two stained glass skylights from the Komar Building, Baltimore. The skylights were removed from the balcony of the old theater and from the main stairwell of the building. The design of each skylight contains a central medallion featuring a Star of David. The lights are made of opalescent and cathedral glass. The theater skylight has a cartouche and fan motif surrounding the central medallion, the other skylight medallion is flanked by stylized floral emblems set in a geometric field; both lights c. 1915. 1993.038.002
In just one year we have added 11,851 photograph records to our database, bringing us to 60,692 cataloged photographs! With images attached to 73% of these photographs it’s like going through a gigantic photo album. Hopefully, you will find the images you are looking for. I would like to thank volunteers Marvin Spector and Dana Willan who have scanned and cataloged the lion’s share of those new photos.
Volunteer Marvin Spector scans photos faster than we can attach them!
Our 20,459 archival records, however, pose a little bit more of a challenge to researchers looking for immediate (and complete visual) results. That is because our archival records are not digitized. Further, a single catalog record might describe one piece of paper or an entire manuscript collection filled with hundreds of folders filled with information. Don’t despair! Our finding aids can help you narrow down your archival search. Once you’ve identified which records you are interested in looking at in person, you can contact email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 ext.213 and set up a research appointment. Researching at the JMM is free for members and $8/visit for non-members.
Some of our collections are rather extensive! Become a member of the JMM and your research fees are waived.
Q: What if the first step of your research project hasn’t yielded the results you were hoping for?
A: This doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t have what you are looking for, especially if you are searching for specialized biographical information. While they aren’t in our collections database, we do have birth and death records, cemetery records, ship manifests, genealogies (family trees) and vertical files for many Jewish Marylanders who are not listed in our database.
A researcher works in our library.
The family history resource page of the JMM website has many sources that can help you out. We’ve just updated the links to the spreadsheets, so the information is current. You can also contact our volunteer genealogist at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-732-6402 ext.224. Please have patience as it may take up to two weeks for someone to respond to your inquiry (remember, they are volunteers)!
Q: Still having trouble finding what you are looking for?
A: Think about the specific question you are looking to answer. Write it down and read it to yourself. If the question doesn’t make sense when you read it aloud, try to refine the question. Once you’ve formulated your question – or maybe broken down your question into several components—give it a try. You can always send the question to email@example.com or call 410-732-6402 ext.213, but it may take us a while to get back to you.
A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink. To read more posts from Jobi, click here.
Posted on April 11th, 2014 by Rachel
READY FOR OUR CLOSE UP
Some of you may have been pleasantly surprised last Sunday morning as the JMM made its (very short) debut on national television with CBS Sunday Morning. You can view their “Mah Jongg Madness” piece online here. Pay close attention just before the 2:00 minute mark for our on-screen appearance! Successful marketing and publicity is a combination of hard work, inspiration and, honestly, luck. With CBS Sunday Morning and Project Mah Jongg, luck was certainly on our side, but it’s the hard work that’s brought us such a great crop of local publicity.
Leisure-class ladies playing a floating game of mah jongg, 1924.
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.
Many thanks go to Rochelle Eisenberg, the public relations manager we work with at The Associated. Her efforts on our behalf are unparalleled – maybe you saw us on the front page of The Baltimore Sun’s Arts & Entertainment section on Sunday (who can resist our pool-playing mah jongg mavens?). The lovely article by Mary Carole McCauley, which you can read here, wouldn’t have come about without Rochelle’s tireless work.
Perhaps you saw the wonderful cover story by Heather Norris in the Baltimore Jewish Times, which you can also read here. That story has been shared with the Washington Jewish Week and will be run in Pittsburgh’s Jewish Chronicle! The Baltimore Beacon also ran a lovely exhibit preview in March.
If that’s not enough Project Mah Jongg reading for you, Marvin has also written a great post on Mah Jongg and Cultural Adaptation, currently published on The Associated’s blog. UMBC, home of the exhibit’s sound designer, Tim Nohe, has also been calling attention to the exhibit. Then there’s the post over on AsAmNews, “What’s a mah jong exhibit doing at a Jewish Museum?” It seems lots of folks are just as excited as we are about Project Mah Jongg!
But we’re not resting on our laurels! Capitalizing on the interest in the exhibit we’ve arranged an aggressive marketing campaign. In the week leading up to the opening (and with some helpful bonus spots – thanks to our account agent over at WMAR), we ran ads on ABC2 morning programs to reach out to our local audience. And in addition to our normal membership mailing, we sent postcard invitations to the Jewish population of Northwest Baltimore and Owings Mills.
Now that the exhibit has opened we are keeping the momentum going. If you attend any upcoming shows at Centerstage, the Hippodrome, Everyman Theater or the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, keep an eye out for our ads in the program! And of course we are publicizing the exhibit and its related programming through our Facebook pages, twitter feed, website and emails like these – so be sure you’ve “liked” us and followed us and share our events and emails with anyone you think would enjoy Project Mah Jongg. And, in our opinion, everyone will enjoy this delightful exhibit!
This month’s Performance Counts was written by Rachel Kassman, Marketing Manager (and web maven!)
Posted on April 9th, 2014 by Rachel
I think museums are such fascinating places. They are wonderful spaces that promote learning and engagement. Over the years at the JMM, I have enjoyed creating both public programs and educational programming that encourage both discovery and discourse with our visitors. I love how history museums can enable individuals to make meaningful connections to the past. Last spring was no exception, with the creation of our latest living history character from the Leo V. Berger Immigrant’s Trunk – Bessie Bluefeld. I wanted to share with you an extraordinary circumstance that has united two families, showing just how important a role museums play in our lives.
Bessie & Charles, CP 69.2012.001
Bessie and her husband, Charles Bluefeld immigrated to Baltimore by way of Locust Point in 1906. Concerned about her husband working in construction, Bessie persuaded Charles to open a grocery store in Fell’s Point, and by the 1920s the Bluefelds were operating a stall in Lexington Market. Bessie opened a food stand on a beach near Baltimore, and it became the seed for the Bluefeld Catering business. Traveling to Atlantic City and Florida, Bessie developed her refined taste that would later be known as the “Orchid touch” that gave Bluefeld Catering its edge as one of the premier kosher catering businesses in Baltimore – a business that would include her entire family. From 1937 to 1941, Bluefeld Catering blossomed, and Bessie was at the center of everything. Although Bessie died suddenly in 1941, her husband and children maintained the kosher catering business she had worked so hard to build. For decades, Bluefeld Catering was synonymous with elegance and quality in Baltimore’s Jewish community and beyond.
The JMM hired the actress, Terry Nicholetti to play the role of Bessie. Terry wanted to learn more about Bessie, so we went to Bethesda to meet one of Bessie’s children, Mrs. Freda Bluefeld Cohen. We had a lovely afternoon with Freda and she shared some of her memories of her parents and of her early years growing up in Baltimore along with 8 other siblings. As I witnessed Terry and Freda chatting- I knew that these two women were destined to become special friends.
Terry brings Bessie to life.
On April 30, 2013, Terry premiered the role of Bessie Bluefeld at the JMM to a crowd of 100 people. Many of our visitors that evening were the grandchildren and great grandchildren of Bessie. Following the performance, one of Bessie’s grandsons stood and was visibly moved by the performance. He expressed his gratitude to the JMM for helping him to meet his grandmother that he never had the opportunity to meet as she had died prior to his birth.
Last week, I received a call at the JMM from one of Bessie Bluefeld’s granddaughters. She had just learned that her Aunt Freda Bluefeld Cohen had passed, and she wanted to reach out to Terry Nicholetti to let her know, as she knew of the special relationship that Terry and Freda shared. I spoke to Terry the following day. She told me that she was so touched to be notified by the family, and so sad because of the sweet connection that she shared with Freda. Terry went to visit the family during the Shiva and Freda’s family welcomed Terry as if she were a member of their own family. Terry shared with me, “When I took on this role, I had no idea how deeply I would be connected to so many dear people in Bessie’s life. I feel blessed.”
Terry and Freda
The Jewish Museum of Maryland plays such an important role in our community in helping people find connections and meaning to history. The Leo V. Berger Immigrant’s Trunk: Bessie Bluefeld Living History Performance is just another example of how our institution creates those meaningful connections. This incredible performance has enabled one family to connect to its own history; but it has also given meaning to Terry Nicholetti, the actress who portrays Bessie- who has found personal meaning and contentment in her role.
A blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click here.