Travel the World… Without Leaving the Studio

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

Throughout August, we’ve showcased travel: from correspondence, to Grace Hecht’s ongoing diaries, to opportunities to explore the collections and histories of Jewish museums around the world. It’s been fun, but it’s hard not to forget that for the most part, for many of us, travel has become extremely restricted, if not off the table altogether. Virtual backgrounds for online meetings are about as close as some of us can get right now to experiencing a change of scenery.

Those Zoom backdrops, showing everything from your favorite vacation spot to your actual (in normal circumstances) place of work to the outer reaches of the galaxy, have been reminding me of the painted scenery that can be found in postcards and photo portraits of a century ago. Granted, those “here I am… kind of!” images were usually due to the limitations of photographic technology, not to restricted travel – people were often photographed in front of a facsimile of a place that was just a few steps outside the studio’s doors – but all the same, there’s a certain similarity of spirit to them, an interest in documenting (or fabricating) the surroundings you want to be in, even if only in imagination.

Joseph and Tena Zamoiski on vacation in Atlantic City, NJ, on the “Atlantic City Express,” circa 1915. Photographic postcard taken in The Dittrich Studios, on the boardwalk. Gift of Ernestine K. Wiesenfeld. JMM 1987.106.4
Moses and Charne Silberman, with their niece Dora, “at” a stone castle, circa 1900. Taken at the studio of Arthur Kravetz, Baltimore. (I love this photo; I’ve written about their little family here.) Gift of Ida and Sol Levy. JMM 1976.14.2
Louis and Rosalyn Shecter, Harry Greenstein, and Henry Burke at the Eiffel Tower, 1953. Though the note on the back says it was “taken on the Eiffel Tower,” and the image is stamped “Studio Tour Eiffel,” I think it might be a painted backdrop in an on-site (and enclosed) studio, designed for easy souvenirs either before or after ascending the tower. Gift of Louis E. Shecter. JMM 1982.15.24
The Ginsberg family of Baltimore “in” a fancy parlor, August 1917. Studio unknown. Gift of Edith R. Shapiro. JMM 2003.17.62
Benjamin Szold Levin with his mother (or possibly one of his aunts), “at” a municipal building or perhaps something intended as a classical allusion, circa 1905. Studio unknown. If anyone recognizes this edifice, let us know! Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jastrow Levin. JMM 1993.17.51
Someday I’ll devote a whole blog to the many “seaside” photos in our collections, but right now I could not resist ending with this image – for a gentleman less convinced of the wisdom of posing in his bathing suit on a fabric covered ‘rock,’ I’ve yet to see. Isaac Epstein, probably in Atlantic City, circa 1900. Studio unknown. Gift of the estate of Carolyn Weinberg.  JMM 1991.65.1.56b


Collections jewish museum of maryland

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