Small, But Mighty

This month’s edition of Performance Counts is from Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman. To read more posts from Rachel, click here. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here.

What can you do in less than 60 square feet of vertical space? Turns out, quite a lot.

By now, I’m sure you’ve all spent countless hours exploring our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit in the Shoshana S. and Jerome Cardin Exhibition Gallery, touring our two historic synagogues and sharing Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini, located in the Samson, Rosetta and Sadie B. Feldman Exhibition Gallery, with your friends and family (if not, what are you waiting for? Plan your visit now!). Today I want to turn your attention to a slightly more diminutive – but no less exciting – space: the lobby niche.

Measuring just 80 inches wide and 107 inches tall at its peak, this small space can pack a powerful punch (though we do cheat and get an extra few feet with those side walls!). We have used this space to expand on stories presented in the larger exhibit galleries, as we did for Paul Simon: Words and Music with Marvin’s exhibit An American Tune, which explored Jewish connections to folk rock; and for Inescapable, with A Little Magic from the Collections, highlighting both new and old accessions in the Museum collections with a particularly magical bent. In February we’ll be preparing the space to accompany the Jewish Refugees in Shanghai exhibit, on loan from the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.
The size and flexibility of this space also makes it perfect for displays tied to special events and programs. Most recently you may remember seeing The Book of Joseph: Giving Voice to the Hollander Family, which was on display in conjunction with the play’s run at Everyman Theatre. In 2016, during the run of Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America, we were lucky enough to host a special luncheon for the alumnae of the Sinai Nursing program and used the niche for a display of Sinai nurse-related material from our collections.
We have also created displays on the Jews of Shanghai for the 2014 Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration;  a feature on artist Saul Bernstein when we debuted the updated and recast living history character; and Raise Your Glass, highlighting items from the collections to compliment a Father’s Day program on the Jewish heritage of American whiskey.
Our newest lobby display, which will be on view starting this Sunday, November 11th, is a companion to our special Veteran’s Day program on the Jewish Legion. Generously supported by a gift from the Carole and Hanan Sibel Family Foundation, this display will highlight the various Jewish Legion-related materials in our collections, which will be further discussed at 1:00pm by our archivist Lorie Rombro.
We have also used this space to give our interns a chance to apply their skills and share what they’ve learned over the course of their internship. Most recently we had Just Desserts: Baking and Jewish Identity, created by 2018 summer intern Cara Bennet. 2015 summer intern Falicia Eddy created Recognizing and Responding to Injustice, which focused on using the Holocaust as a teaching tool to combat intolerance as a companion to our annual Summer Teachers Institute.
This space is not the only small gem we can use to tell special stories outside the bounds of our major exhibit offerings (although it is the most consistently filled). In the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue there is a single case that has been used to explore Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, and Shavuot using materials from our collections and is often curated by interns or museum educators.
In the Anne Adalman Goodwin Memorial Library you can often find a small case featuring an item from the collection – perhaps a special menorah around Hanukkah, a Seder plate around Passover, or a funky clock that caught Joanna’s eye down in the stacks this past May.  During the final week of our Just Married! Wedding Stories of Jewish Maryland exhibit, we expanded a little farther into the library to share some special wedding “extras” that we just couldn’t bear not to share, like vintage wedding shoes and additional dresses from the collections.
These small spaces, and others, allow us to be experimental, responsive, and creative. In 2014 we created a tribute to actress Vivienne Shub in light of her passing. In 2015, in response to the unrest and uprising in Baltimore we created In Every Generation, exploring materials in the collections related to protest, public campaigning, and activism in the community.

So keep your eyes on our niches, on our cases tucked in to cozy corners, on those inspiring blank walls – you never know what new stories will pop up!

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Exhibits jewish museum of maryland News

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