Intern Weekly Response: Internship Reflections
Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to look back over the summer and to reflect on what they’ve learned, share some favorite memories, and give us some updates on their projects. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.
A Summer of Stories
by oral history intern Tirza Ochrach-Konradi
The Beth Am project is going swimmingly! So far there are ten interviews, six of which I conducted, with full transcriptions. This adds up to over eight hours of oral history content, and I will be fitting in one more this week! In addition I’ve made contact with five individuals who weren’t available over the summer, but are happy to be interviewed this fall so the project is going to be running full force forward. Beth Am is well on its way to an amazing video commemorating the 100th anniversary of the temple building! I’ve had a great time becoming immersed in the history of Beth Am and have had a wonderful time working with people’s stories.
My favorite memories from this summer are definitely every interview. Being allowed to enter someone’s home and ask them to share their memories is an incredible experience. The majority of the folks I interviewed were retired, which I imagine meant they had time to perfect their decorative skill, because every room I interviewed in was gorgeous. I got to collect all kinds of stories. Some highlights include elephants at Druid Hill Park, Jewish exclusion from Roland Park, details of the Harbor Place renovations, stories of meeting and falling in love, moving to and living in Baltimore City, making Bat Mitzvah corsages out of war stamps, innumerable stories about Dr. Louis L. Kaplan, working in and for Baltimore City, and all of the work that went into getting Beth Am, the self-described do-it-yourself synagogue, up and running.
In my sociology course work I’ve read countless ethnographic pieces that depend on interview material, but I hadn’t done any hands on work to discover whether this kind of research is something I would enjoy. After this internship I can say for certain that interview work is a definite positive! I’m only entering my junior year of undergrad so I have some time to figure out where I’d like to end up. This internship has helped me find the connections between what I’m studying and museum work and has really introduced the field as a possibility.
By education intern Sara Philippe
This internship has taught me a lot about the importance of the programs and education departments of museums, two areas that did not immediately come to mind when thinking about museums prior to this summer. I learned a lot about determining what factors to take into consideration when planning a program as I searched for potential speakers, performers, and films to host at the museum. I also thought a lot about how to create educational materials and experiences that would be appropriate and compelling for a wide range of students. When doing educational work, we always had to consider how it would illuminate the exhibit in question and make it more accessible to the students hoping to learn from it. We also had to tailor activities keeping in mind students’ level of familiarity with Judaism, sometimes putting together activities that could work for both non-Jewish and Jewish students, as well as separate activities to ensure a more meaningful experience for both types of students. I loved all of this work and can definitely see myself continuing to do it in my future. I love that it requires you to stay on your feet, think creatively, and interact with a wide variety of people.
As I look back on this summer, a few memories stand out. Erin and I were tasked with documenting the cracks on the very old walls of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Although sometimes the going got tough, I had a great time posing with our makeshift whiteboard and a yardstick next to a crack on the wall in the heat of the balcony as Erin took photos. I even managed to stave off the temptation to be in every photo. Interacting with student tour groups was one of my favorite aspects of the internship. We recently hosted the junior ambassadors from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and I really enjoyed watching them do the same workshop about Jewish refugees to Baltimore that the interns had done earlier in the summer with Ilene. They had so much important knowledge from their work as Holocaust educators that they were able to bring to the activity. I also loved when the Bell Camp for blind children visited. I painstakingly put together a craft for the kids that would enable them to make stars of David out of popsicle sticks and Velcro. It ended up being more difficult than I thought it would be and not everything went as planned, but it was definitely a valuable learning experience for which I am grateful.
One of my proudest accomplishments this summer has been the mini-exhibit that Erin and I designed for the case in the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Baltimore’s Talmudical Academy, Erin and I carefully crafted a display using artifacts from the JMM’s archives. We feature photographs old and new and real artifacts from TA’s earlier years like a fundraising brochure for a new building in the 1930s and a beautiful, miniscule prayer book. As of yesterday, the display is up and ready to be viewed. I hope people enjoy it and appreciate the connection between TA and the Lloyd Street Synagogue, both homes to Rabbi Schwartz. As our last week comes to an end, we are continuing to work on preparing for the Summer Teachers Institute on Holocaust education taking place next week. Erin and I have been working hard coordinating the three-day event’s logistics and it is shaping up to be a great experience with many learning opportunities and compelling speakers. Also looking ahead to the future, Erin and I finished putting together an educational resource to accompany the JMM’s upcoming exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving the Iraqi Jewish Archive. We did our best to come up with ways to teach the complicated history of Iraqi Jews to students of all grade levels in a meaningful and engaging way, and I’m looking forward to this resource being put to good use.
To find out more about my experience at the JMM this summer, check out Erin and I’s podcast We Know What We Did This Summer! (coming soon)
Au Revoir, et Merci
by exhibitions intern Ryan Mercado
Well, here I am 10 week later from my first day back in June. These last 2 months have been full of many long work days and experiences, and I’m happy I got to have this opportunity. I started out this internship as a recent college graduate, I had no prior experience in museums nor did I even have an internship before. Then I found myself working for the Jewish Museum and I could not have been more excited.
I learned a lot about Museums that I honestly did not know before. One thing that continuously sticks with me is the idea of the Museum being like a business. This came from Marvin’s workshop a few weeks back. I see a business in this museum and in others, from Tracie working the phones to Sue planning the Volunteer Appreciation dinner, there are literally so many aspects to a museum! I also learned that as each department works separately from one another, all of them need to be in balance as they work with one another. The Collections Manager needs to work with the Curator, the Curator with Marketing, etc! The Staff depends on one another and when they all work hard they get wonderful results, such as the Just Married exhibition.
I’m leaving this internship having put a small mark on the upcoming exhibit: Belonging(s): What Connects Us, which will open hopefully in 2019. I did three projects this summer: A character profile on a Jewish Socialist, research on the Maryland Jew Bill, and I started what is perhaps the Museum’s first real in-depth research on converts to Judaism. I hope that what research I did, what quotes I catalogued in excel, and even the siddur I donated to the Museum will help the upcoming exhibition in some way. For myself, as a convert to Judaism, to work in a Jewish Museum being surrounded by Jewish History and helping preserve it and even contribute to it has made me immensely proud and affirms my new Jewish identity. I will miss all the interns as we go our separate ways, and I will miss the JMM staff as well. This museum and this internship defined my summer 2017. It’s tough to say goodbye, but I’m ready to move on to grad school and what awaits me in Montreal.
Looking Back at the Summer
By collections intern Amy Swartz
It seems strange to me that my time interning at the JMM is almost over. During my ten weeks here I have learned more about museum functions and have been able to narrow down future career paths. I learned about handling textiles and putting together a traveling exhibit. Prior to this experience I had always envisioned a future career as a curator. This internship has expanded my interest to collections, especially since curators for exhibits can switch in and out and be outsourced. I find that I enjoy working with physical objects more than research sometimes.
Some of my favorite memories from this summer include forming friendships with the other interns, planning intern night, and helping put together the wedding exhibit. Joelle and I had fun working together in the basement and I will never forget the daily intern lunch talks and our trip to Vaccaro’s. I also really enjoyed going on a mini field trip to look at a possible accession: two large gilded lions.
Most of the collections projects have been wrapped up – quite literally in some cases. The traveling exhibit is mostly condition reported and packed besides larger items that need specialized crates. Our files have been organized and new accessions have been put into PastPerfect. Our podcast is finished and edited and will be up shortly too. Ultimately, as the summer has been coming to an end so too have been our projects. There is one last remaining thing to look forward to however: The Summer’s Teachers Institute next week; I am excited to learn about teaching the Holocaust and visiting the Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.
My Museum Story
by education intern Erin Penn
In one of the first workshops for the interns, Marvin asked us about our museum story. I have always loved museums whether it was a day trip with my family or a school fieldtrip. They were always a place that made me feel comfortable and excited to learn. Ten weeks later, I have an even richer and more personal museum story. I have been able to help every department in both big and small ways. With Just Married!, I was able to help steam the dresses to ensure they were picture perfect for the exhibit. I was lucky to help create posts for all of the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s social media platforms. My specific work with education and programs has provided me with great lessons about the inner workings of both museum education departments and programs. There, I’ve had projects that ranged from creating curriculum for students to organizing the crafts for family day programs. This internship has added a huge chapter to my museum story.
This internship has been full of great and educational memories. I loved helping with intern night gathering the prizes and calling companies. It felt like I was in a race across town to get every last gift card and certificate in a ten mile radius. I also loved being able to sit in on the staff meetings. It was so fascinating to watch the JMM’s staff tackle the upcoming weeks in a fast-paced and exciting environment. I challenged myself to transcribe what each staff member shared. I am excited to look back on the minutes and reflect fondly on the experience of seeing everyone at work.
With the internship wrapping up, the education interns’ projects are in great shape. Our research for the Iraqi Jewish Archives lent itself over for education tools and activities for future school visits to the museum. Our experimental crafting and googling will be used to ensure Iraqi Family Day and other programs are a total blast! The search for Jewish entertainers and performers will help create an exciting line up for JMM Live in March and April. The Lloyd Street display case is now exhibiting our designed and curated look into Talmudical Academy’s 100th year. Summer Teachers Institute opening day quickly approaches and the education interns are making sure the event runs smoothly creating folders and organizing the resources. While most of the projects from the summer will not go into effect until after the internship is over, they allowed me to dive into museum operations and really give back to the JMM.
A Sizeable Dent
By collections intern Joelle Paull
As the internship draws to a close, it is nice to reflect back on the past 10 weeks. As a recent graduate, I went into this summer hoping to explore different interests and gain new experience. Ultimately this summer re-enforced many of future goals and raised new questions for me.
We have wrapped most of our projects up. Over the past couple months we have inventoried a portion of the collection, packed boxes to send a JMM exhibit on the road, and processed new donations. Inventory is ongoing, but we definitely made some a sizeable dent in the list. It was a fun project to begin the summer with, as it gave us the chance to explore the collection.
I really enjoyed spending time with the other interns and our daily lunch conversations. Highlights from the summer include taking a small trip to look at a recent accession and planning intern night. I loved having the opportunity to live in and explore Baltimore including visiting other museums and going out to dinner with fellow interns. I am looking forward to the Summer Teachers Institute next week and excited for new adventures!