Friday, June 19, 2009

The Secret Lives of Interns: Week 2

With no rest for the weary the interns started right in on their second week at the JMM. After a whirlwind introduction, we got down to business.

This week was a week of firsts for me. First staff meeting (and I was late for it!); first time transferring phone calls; first time transcribing an interview; first collections committee meeting; and first time taking the Baltimore metro (which, I found, nearly doubles my traveling time). – Abby (exhibitions intern)

Development Intern Ilana is hard at work in
the boardroom with her supervisor Lee Hendleman!

This week at the Jewish Museum was great and really busy! I started working on different development initiatives and projects which will likely be carried throughout my internship. I am becoming involved with other departments and getting to know other people in the museum as well, since one of my projects is to interview the staff members who are working on various grants for either specific or non-specific projects. It's really nice to feel that I am getting things done and making a difference at the Museum. Being able to wallow in the Baltimore humidity is a great part of this experience as well! – Ilana

On Tuesday, archival intern Alison accompanied staff to Baltimore Hebrew University for the first round of an extensive project – labeling boxes! Sounds small, but it was an extremely important step in keeping a large collection (currently 300+ boxes!) organized and under control.

That’s a lot of boxes!

One thing I learned this week...well, I learned that not all "collections" are kept in the best condition (a.k.a. the BHU archives). They really were just kept in the basement. Since I got to actually see a little bit of the BHU archives, I'm excited to actually get to look in the boxes and see what kind of interesting stuff (hopefully interesting in a good way) is in there. – Alison

While Alison was toiling away in a basement in Park Heights, the rest of the interns were treated to the full staff monthly meetings. A lively discussion took place about “what the Museum does best,” giving the interns a chance to hear from the entire staff.

One of the biggest events of week two for the collections interns was the Staff Collections Committee meeting on Wednesday. At this meeting collections staff make decisions about all the new materials that have been offered as donations to the museum over the past 3 months. It’s always a time of questions and debate and all of our interns left with homework assignments - to research and report back on all the questions raised during the meeting.

Collections Manager (and professional Intern Wrangler)

Jobi Zink gives the interns what-for at the meeting.

It was a very informative meeting, and they allowed the interns to make suggestions and comments. A lot of time, effort, and research goes into these meetings. I learned that research is key in the selection process and am very excited to learn more at the next meeting. – Berkley

What was different from my expectations [of the meeting] would probably be that from a big collection, not everything was taken, to me it seemed like, sure, if there was one already in collection then it wasn’t necessary for accession but if it was something related to the items already being taken it should go with. That was just my opinion from a tidbit of the meeting. – Sean

The collections committee meeting was especially interesting because, along with the other interns, I got to see the thought process that goes behind accessioning material. The museum can't just accept anything and everything; the material has to be relevant to the museum's mission, and what is considered relevant is sometimes debatable. In particular, there was a City College yearbook from an Italian (non-Jewish) man who was married to a Jewish woman. On the one hand, there was bound to be Jewish students in the yearbook, but on the other, the book had belonged to a non-Jew. The pivotal question was: how important is the book's context? Does the fact of the book's owner matter more than its contents? It's not an easy question to answer, but it's one that has to be considered carefully in such a specialized museum. - Abby

Collections interns also got to start in on some of their main summer projects:

My favorite activity by far was putting new objects into other locations within the collections storage but also entering all the data into Past Perfect and getting that type of experience; another fun part was entering new objects to be accessioned, strenuous and time consuming with all the info that is necessary to fill it out but it offers me time to be creative. I'm a little slow with it all right now but more time with it and I'm going to be rockin' it! - Sean

Also, despite the fact this may sound weird...I actually enjoyed scanning photographs and updating the records for the LSS excavation. I liked looking at the photos and I also felt like I was doing something to help the museum and outside researchers. - Alison

This week at the Jewish Museum of Maryland I started my first project, cataloging a photo collection. It was a great learning experience and I was really interested in the whole process. – Berkley

And on a slightly different note, Shelby, one of our exhibition interns who is working long-distance for the month reports on life outside the museum!
Maggie and the cats: Play nice!

I've been in Florida for the past week, unpacking all the belongings I've acquired over the four years I've been in school in Baltimore and visiting relatives. We have a new addition to the family, a mutt named Maggie we adopted from a local rescue group. It's nice having a dog in the house again, and she's been a great excuse to take leisurely strolls along the beach in the evenings. While attempting to train her not to chase our cats and jump up on the furniture, I've also been trying my hand at cooking. I prepared a sweet couscous salad with almonds and dates (and discovered that I am allergic to dates in the process) and a chopped vegetable Israeli salad. – Shelby

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