The final blog post from Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.
Today marks my last day at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. After working here for 17 years, and enjoying just about each and every day, I have decided to move on to embark on a new adventure. As difficult as this decision has been, one of the most challenging aspects of leaving has been cleaning out my office, a true Herculanean task if there ever was! And as I have been emptying out file folders and deleting old emails, I have enjoyed reminiscing and being reminded of how much the JMM has grown and evolved over the years.
When I first started as the Museum’s Director of Education on December 11, 2000, the JMM had only recently transformed itself from the Jewish Historical Society of Maryland. Exhibits on display at the time included Cornerstones of Community: Historic Synagogues of Maryland and Tchotchkes! Treasures of the Family Museum. Since then, the JMM has installed 24 exhibits in the Feldman and Cardin galleries (before the 2007 opening of Voices of Lombard Street, we regularly changed out both galleries.) To view a full listing of past exhibits going back to 1987, check out https://jewishmuseummd.org/exhibits/past-exhibitions/.
Some of my favorites exhibits include: Enterprising Emporiums: Baltimore’s Downtown Jewish Department Stores, Cabin Fever: Jewish Camping and Jewish Commitment (the first exhibit I ever curated), Lives Lost, Lives Found: Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees, 1933-1945, Loring Cornish: In Each Others Shoes and The A-mazing Mendes Cohen (installing the exhibit maze was truly a team effort and turned out to be a ton of fun too!)
Back in 2000, the Lloyd Street Synagogue looked quite different from how it does today. Visitors were greeted by a building whose exterior was marked by exposed brick and imposing columns that were painted white. After conducting analysis of paint samples and researching archival documentation, we were able to determine that the brick was hidden under paint for much of its history. In 2010, in conjunction with the Museum’s 50th anniversary, we repainted the Lloyd Street Synagogue’s exterior to look as we believe it did in 1860. It’s hard to imagine today, as we have grown accustomed to its lovely pink hue, but when we first unveiled the restoration, many visitors were shocked!
The lower level of the Synagogue has also gone through extensive changes. Gone are the Beit Midrash with its wooden bookshelves and tables and the Golden Land children’s exhibit. In its place The Synagogue Speaks! an exhibit that explores how the building was adapted by each of the different congregations that worshipped within its walls.
While some things have changed, it’s heartening to know that certain traditions continue. Shortly after I started, the JMM held our very first Christmas Day program. With more than 600 visitors that year for a program that celebrated “Chanukah in Prague” with musical performance, puppet shows and art activities, the event affirmed the fact that members of our community were interested in attending Jewish-themed activities on a day traditionally devoted to Chinese food and movies. (For the past several years, we have been pleased to be part of our community’s Mitzvah Day and to give visitors the opportunity to participate in meaningful community service opportunities). To learn more about this year’s program visit https://jewishmuseummd.org/single/mitzvah-day-at-the-jmm/.
So what will I miss most about the JMM? The people! I feel so lucky to have had the chance to work with such an amazing group of co-workers, board members, volunteers, Jewish communal professionals and colleagues from other museums and cultural organizations. And I will miss all the wonderful interactions I’ve had with visitors, members, researchers, school children and teachers.
Starting in January, I will be working at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, just a short drive around the harbor. I’m looking forward to making new memories at a new museum and I hope you will come visit me there!