Responding to #BaltimoreUprising
A JMM “pop-up” exhibit, “In Every Generation” explores Jewish involvement in the struggle for justice
Monday, April 27 was my fifth day on the job as the new Associate Director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. It was also the day that the protests over Freddie Gray’s death turned violent.
That Thursday, just three days after the riots in Baltimore, my first staff meeting at the JMM had a very different agenda than originally planned. For my new colleagues and me, regular museum business simply couldn’t compete with what was happening in our city.
Marvin told us he thought the historical community in the region should band together and create some sort of response to what was going on, but that he was having a hard time coordinating with his counterparts.
Ilene Dackman-Alon, the Education Director, asked “Why can’t we just do something on our own?” and “Yes, let’s do something,” immediately echoed around the table. I felt a surge of pride to be the newest member of this team that is not willing to “wait for the dust to settle.” I was grateful, too, that my professional role would give me this concrete way to respond to the unrest in my beloved hometown.
In an email to friends of the Museum later that day, Marvin wrote, the “Jewish Museum of Maryland is committed to being a part of the healing process. As keepers of an important piece of the community’s records, we know that our history has the ability to show us what we have overcome and to strengthen our will to build a better future.”
Within days, JMM Collections Manager, Joanna Church, had put together a short list of photographs and artifacts from the Museum’s collections. From that list the exhibit’s ad hoc committee (of which I was honored and humbled to be a member) selected the most appropriate materials to display. We also reached out to local activist groups, including Jews United for Justice, in an effort to collect and document the current situation.
In her call for materials for the exhibit, Joanna wrote, “we hope this exhibit will facilitate discussion among our visitors, both of past movements and current events…most importantly, the exhibit includes space for visitors’ thoughts, stories, and contributions.”
The exhibit is now on display in the lobby of the Museum. We’re calling it “In Every Generation,” and we’ve included artifacts and photographs from the 1860s, 1910s, 1930s, 1960s, 1980s and 2015. We’ve set up a guest book (which will become a part of the museum’s permanent collection) for visitors to record their thoughts, reactions and stories. We’ve also left a little room, expecting that we may need to add to the materials on display.
To donate materials to “In Every Generation,” contact Joanna Church, Collections Manager, at email@example.com. The Museum will also accept digital submissions through the use of #InEveryGeneration on social media. Digital collections will be shared with the public via the Museum’s Facebook page, fb.com/jewishmuseummd.