Posted on January 31st, 2014 by Rachel
On Sunday afternoon of January 26th, the JMM was humming with chatter, school groups and chilly visitors taking shelter from the icy Baltimore air. At 1 pm the commotion came to a pause when speaker Nick Fessenden, a retired history professor, took the stage in the orientation lobby of the JMM. Fessenden presented an intriguing talk titled, “Whose Side Are You On?: Baltimore’s Immigrants and Civil War.” The audience grew quiet and listened attentively as Mr. Fessenden set the scene, drawing them back to the Baltimore of the 1850′s and 1860′s.
Many audience members were surprised to learn that in the year 1860 more than 35% of Baltimore was composed of German, Irish and Jewish Immigrants and their children. The city of Baltimore was split into sections – divided by race, religion, and social ranking. Fessenden made no attempt to sugar coat many of the violent issues surrounding Baltimore and its politics during the Civil War era. Polls were abused and controlled by the native born working class Marylanders. Poll workers were targets of excruciating acts of violence.
Fessenden aimed to describe the difference between each minority group during this high-tension time. The German immigrants were the largest immigrant population in Baltimore at a whopping 25%. They were businessmen and farmers, and were spread across the entire social spectrum. About 7% of the German immigrant population was made up of Jews living in the city.
Fessenden laid out the Jewish perspective during this turbulent time. In Southern Maryland, Jewish slave-holders were incredibly rare. However, because the Jewish people felt insecure in a new, unknown country, they typically adopted the opinions of their neighbors. Jews in the south mostly empathized with the confederacy. On the other hand, Jews residing in Union areas took an anti-slavery stance.
Fessenden’s talk concluded with a flurry of interesting and insightful questions from the audience. The listeners questioned the violence in Baltimore, the voting system in Maryland, and various other questions surrounding Jewish life and culture in Baltimore during the Civil War.
A blog post by Education Intern Molly Gamble. To read more posts by interns, click HERE. If you are interested in interning at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, you can find open internship opportunities HERE.
Posted on January 20th, 2014 by Rachel
An ironstone plate with a maker’s mark on the base.
Despite what we see in museum exhibits, it’s not often that whole, unbroken artifacts are found during archaeological excavations. Most of what an archaeologist might uncover during an excavation of an urban site are small, broken pieces of artifacts like glass and ceramic vessels. These pieces are referred to as “sherds.” The archaeological collection from the 1996 JMM expansion has bags and bags of glass and ceramic sherds, and it fell to Carlyn and me to try to see if we could piece them together into complete artifacts!
Intern Molly works to mend glass oil lamp chimneys.
When sherds have traces of decoration, like painted decoration on ceramics or embossed words on glass bottles, it can be very easy to find matching pieces and “mend” them. It’s also easy to find matching pieces of distinctive artifacts, such as a cup made from an unusual color of glass or a very large ceramic pot. But sometimes it can be much more difficult – one group of artifacts that we dealt with was several bags of small, nondescript clear glass sherds. We were able to tell based on how thin the glass was and the curve of the larger pieces that these sherds came from glass oil lamp chimneys, but even with that knowledge, it was very hard to piece together the sherds!
Intern Carlyn admires a mended stoneware pot.
We were only mending artifacts so that we could keep records of what pieces go together in the collection, so we used tape to hold pieces together or folded paper and other creative solutions to temporarily rebuild artifacts. When artifacts are mended permanently, special glues and other archival means are used to mend broken pieces of an artifact to create the attractive complete artifacts seen on display in museums.
A “mended” 19th century men’s vest with pockets.
We also had to work to “mend” some artifacts that were not glass or ceramic, such as a cloth vest or pieces of shoes. At times, mending can be frustrating work, but it’s a lot like doing a very interesting puzzle, and the results when you can piece things together are really amazing!
An ironstone chamberpot with decorative molded handles.
A blog post by Collections Interns Carlyn Thomas and Molly Greenhouse. To read more posts from JMM interns, click here.
Posted on November 21st, 2013 by Rachel
During the expansion of the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 1996 there were many forgotten artifacts and objects that were found in the grounds beneath the land surrounding the museum and synagogues. My fellow Urban Archeology intern, Molly, and I have been examining these forgotten objects, cataloging, cleaning and photographing them. Most of the materials we handle are different fragments of bottles, glass, ceramics and metal, as well as some unidentified objects.
We have been able to identify the genre of most of the objects, and through research we have been able to pin point dates, regions and companies that certain artifacts originated from. However, amongst the hundreds of objects there have been a handful that we have had to make educated guesses as to what they are, and others are completely miscellaneous and unidentifiable.
Here are some pictures of individual objects that we believe to have identified, and others which we are still uncertain of. Take a look and see if you can guess what they are, what you think they could be or what it may have been used for! If you have any input, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
object E (view 1)
object E (view 2)
Did you try and guess what they are? Here are our findings and educated guesses:
Object A: We believe it is the sole of or part of a shoe.
Object B: Purse/small bag clasps.
Object C: We believe it to be part of a lid of an ornamental ceramic jar.
Object D: We think it is the arm of a small porcelain doll.
Object E: We have absolutely no idea what the material or object is or what it was used for.
Object F: It is clearly made of wood, but we have no idea what this would have been used for.
A blog post by Collections Intern Carlyn Thomas. To read more posts by JMM interns, click here.