Posted on March 18th, 2015 by Rachel
If you’d thought we were finished with answering the questions that pile up inside the Question Box at the end of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit, you would be wrong. In fact, we have a particularly juicy set of questions and answers for you this time. In this edition of Questions About Mendes Cohen, our topics range from the sartorial to the existential, and with plenty of other deep subjects in between!
47.22.2 Mendes I. Cohen
1) Did he know how to daven?
We believe that the Cohen family were observant Jews and, therefore, would have known how to daven. Because there were no established Jewish synagogues at the time of their move to Baltimore, they most likely worshiped in private homes. The family was involved, however, in the establishment of Baltimore’s first Sephardi congregation, Beth Israel, in 1856.
2) What did he wear on his first journey?
Unfortunately, we don’t know what he wore on his first journey. In one of his letters home, he did provide a detailed list of what he brought with him to prevent sea sickness (gingerbread, mint drops, mint lozenges, lemons, limes, pickles, and a medicine package of powders!). The one article of clothing that we do know about is the ornate Middle Eastern style jacket that he’s seen wearing in his portrait. He purchased the jacket during his travels, so he most likely wore it during his travels in the Middle East. We have this particular jacket in our collections, and it’s on display in the room with with the Egyptian antiquities he brought back.
3) Was Mendes educated? If so, how did Mendes Cohen becomes educated? Who taught him, etc.?
We can tell from Mendes’ writing style that he was highly educated, but we don’t know how he was educated. Since public schools did not yet exist, children of wealthy families (like the Cohens) would have been taught either in religious schools or at home. Mendes’ younger brother, Joshua, attended a religious school run by an Episcopalian minister.
Mendes’ travel writing desk.
4) What happened after he died?
Since he had no children, Mendes left most of his belongings and estate to his nieces and nephews. One nephew, also named Mendes, received his collection of Egyptian antiquities which he donated to Johns Hopkins University and is now a part of the university’s Archeological Museum. The younger Mendes Cohen also served as president of the Maryland Historical Society where he donated his uncle’s papers, including the many letters he wrote home during his travels. This is how we know so much about Mendes Cohen!
Selections from Mendes’ archaeological collection.
5) Why was Mendes a “Family Man”?
Mendes spent the majority of his life living with or in close proximity to family members. According to the 1850 and 1860 censuses, he lived with his brothers Jacob and Joshua. Even when he lived on his own in 1870s, he lived nearby his other siblings in Mount Vernon. And while he was away from his family traveling, he wrote many letters home keeping them updated about his adventures.
A letter home from Mendes.
Are there still questions percolating in your mind? Let us know!
Posted on March 17th, 2015 by Rachel
The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church at 410.732.6400 x236 or email email@example.com
Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: July 11, 2014
PastPerfect Accession #: 2001.013.168
Status: Partially Identified! L-R: 1. Sharon (“Sammi”) Mask Kaufman. She was in the Milford Mill H.S. Class of 1962, 2. unidentified child 3. Unidentified
Special Thanks To: Warren Sollod
Posted on March 16th, 2015 by Rachel
I was delighted to have the opportunity to take part in this year’s Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) conference taking place March 8-10 in San Francisco. Attended by more than 100 Jewish museum professionals from all over the US, Canada and Europe, this year’s conference theme, Open Source: Jewish Museums and Collaborative Culture was particularly appropriate for its setting in the Bay Area.
CAJM Conference 2015
What a pleasure it was to leave gray, bleak and snowy Baltimore and to emerge from the BART station on Mission Street in San Francisco to a beautiful sunny day. Things only got better from there. Our first day was spent at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, one of our conference hosts.
exterior, The Contemporary Jewish Museum
Designed by Daniel Libeskind, the Museum’s design incorporates Jewish symbols and is a striking presence in the heart of a bustling commercial and cultural district. (Visit www.thecjm.org/about/building to learn more about the building)
The CJM provides many wonderful opportunities for community engagement. I was drawn to its warm and welcoming education center featuring an abundance of creative hands-on activity stations that encourage exploration.
The conference kicked off with a lively keynote address by Nina Simon, executive director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Simon is known for her audience-centered approach to museum design and programming and she challenged CAJM participants to remove barriers of access that often prevent people from visiting their institutions. Her talk was one of the highlights of the conference as she presented a model for museums as participatory and experimental sites that engage in social bridging by bringing together people of different backgrounds. (You can read more about Simon’s groundbreaking views about the role of museums in her Museum 2.0 blog.)
One of my favorite aspects of CAJM conferences is the opportunity to visit other museums and San Francisco did not disappoint. Kudos to conference organizers for casting off the tradition of using buses as the primary mode of transportation and instead relying on public transportation. It was quite a feat that they managed to successfully herd dozens of conferees up and down subway platforms and onto the appropriate trains!
Sites visited included the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life where we had the chance to view Gourmet Ghettos: Modern Food Rituals, the California Historical Society and the Oakland Museum of California. Visiting the recently restored core exhibition galleries of art and history at the Oakland Museum provided inspiration for thinking about the concept of core exhibits as did a related session held that afternoon, “Getting to the Core: Options and Models”. The Museum’s executive director, Lori Fogarty, talked about the history of the project as well as its development process that actively included feedback from a wide range of community members.
A display exploring the gold rush from the new core exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California
One of my favorite labels ever marked the entrance to the art gallery explaining to visitors the symbols on works of art and asking that they refrain from licking the paintings!
By the end of the conference on Tuesday afternoon, I was simultaneously exhausted and energized and looking forward to sharing what I learned with my JMM colleagues.
Learn more about the conference HERE.
A blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.