Thursday, July 29, 2010

Secret Lives of Interns: Field Trip to the Smithsonians Part III

The National Museum of African Art
Photo via their facebook page. Check them out!

The National Museum of African Art is AMAZING! We love it's architecture, especially it's central fountain pool, clean lines and how most of the museum is tucked underground. As part of our interns' "secret mission," we asked them to check out the Artful Animals exhibition. While there we wanted them to draw an artful animal of there own! Sadly the exhibition closed this past Sunday, but you can still see much of it online at the link above.

Working hard on their own "artful animals"

Intern Julie decided not to draw her own,
but rather looked to real life for inspiration.

I LOVE Daffy Duck, and after having seen the cute, tiny ducklings snoozing in the Sculpture Gallery water fountain, I thought of one of my favorite Daffy moments, where he and Bugs Bunny find a treasure cave where Daffy greedily tries to steal everything. A magic Genie eventually shrinks him into a tiny version of himself (much like the Liliputian ducklings), where we see him attempting to abscond a pearl.

Pretty cute, huh?

A sneak preview...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Secret Lives of Interns: Field Trip to the Smithsonians Part II

Before we even headed south to DC, we decided to have a little fun with our interns. Each was given a mysterious packet, not to be opening until we were standing in front of the NMAH! Reportedly the temptation to open their packets early was high, but happily they all held out.

One of the items in their packets was a list of "missions," small tasks to accomplish throughout there day. One mission asked them to check out the "Read My Pins" exhibit in the Smithsonian Castle and choose their favorite pin (and tell us when/why they would wear it)!

My personal favorite, doesn't it just seem super useful?
Liberty, 1997. Gijs Bakker, Netherlands. Sterling silver, stainless-steel watches.
4.2” x 3.6” (10.7cm x 9.2cm). Photo by John Bigelow Taylor

At Read My Pins at the Smithsonian Castle, my favorite pin that Madeline Albright wore was the Heart pin, “Katie’s Heart.” I would wear the pin because of the meaningful significance attached to it, as it was given to Madeline Albright by her daughter, Katie, which represents love as well as the bonds that can be made between different generations. I think it is really special that Madeline Albright continues to treasure this pin as much as she has always done because it
signifies the everlasting mother-daughter bond that the two of them have. If I had a heart pin like this, I would wear it all the time, just like Madeline Albright does, to represent my special relationship with my daughter.

Katie’s Heart, 1972. Katie Albright, USA. Clay. 2.8” x 2.4” (7.2cm x 6cm). Photo by John Bigelow Taylor

My favorite Madeline Albright pins depicted animals. I love animal jewelry and I would be thrilled to have any of the pins pictured above in MY own private collection… but alas for now (and probably forever) I will have to merely daydream about wearing any one of the pins above. My favorite pin is black, circular, and features an animal head. I like that particular pin because it is open to interpretation as to what animal it depicts, and because I like the contrast between the bright stripes and the dark black circle. If I owned this pin, I would wear it all of the time… to bed, in the shower, when running a marathon, etc., etc.

I realize that it is probably supposed to be a palm tree pin, but I would like to think that it is really a palmetto tree pin, as I am from the Palmetto State. We South Carolinians have a lot of state pride and often wear various types of Palmetto tree clothing, shoes, bumper stickers, etc.

I feel that this lipstick pin would be appropriate for so many occasions. I was attracted most by its sass and sparkle, and by its color: bright shiny red. I like to think of Madeleine Albright putting on her shiny red lipstick and her shiny red lipstick pin and going out on the town with foreign dignitaries and heads of state. I’d like to emulate that kind of verve in my life as well. I’d probably wear this pin on the lapel of the nice fitted jacket of my power suit, were I to have one, and clearly I am going to need one if I am to be more like Ms. Albright.

I would love to wear this with my Renaissance costumes or for a special occasion!

Ever since I was a small child, my family has owned a fish tank. We owned the gamut--salt water, fresh water, tropicals, octopus, anemonies, piranhas-- you name it, we had it. I still love fish to this day, and must always have a tank set up; even if it is a small one gallon tank with a beta. My favorite Albright pin is the colorful fish in the upper right corner. (This is a salt-water fish, however I do not recall the name, but trust me, we owned one!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Secret Lives of Interns: Field Trip to the Smithsonians Part I

The gang. Don't worry, you'll find all about their trusty "Paper Partners" later!

Back on July 8th our interns took quite a field trip (along with their trusty supervisors of course) to explore the offerings of the Smithsonian. This trip, which included not only some really cool "backstage" tours but also secret missions for the interns was a big enough adventure that we are blogging it to you as a series! This first installment covers those neat behind the scenes bits where we got to learn about numismatics (that is, the coin collection, one of the oldest Smithsonian collections!) and the photo history department.


I found the image of Lady Liberty portrayed as wild with flowing hair on the early United Stated coin money to be very interesting. I enjoyed seeing the early US coins’ contrast to the more subdued images of Lady Liberty depicted on later coins. I found it interesting that the way in which Lady Liberty’s image was portrayed on coin money mirrored the political situation of the United States, and spoke to the way in which the US preferred to be viewed by the rest of the world. Previously, I had not considered the importance of the images chosen to be represented on coin money.

In our tour of numismatics at the NMAH, I learned that coins were the primary way that the people knew what their leaders looked like. This makes sense – obviously there were more coins available than bronze sculptures – but was not an issue that I had given much thought to. Then I realized, I mostly know what former presidents of the USA looked like because they’re on my money.

I was interested to learn that a relief-style coin was not well desired, because it was commonly thought that germs would be more prolific in that sort of layout.

One of the most interesting things I learned at the Numismatics tour was the way in which the coins and currencies have changed dramatically from their first creation thousands of years ago to today. Whether it be the different colors of the coins, the designs and symbols on them, or the way in which they were made, it was interesting to see their evolution. I especially liked seeing the changes made to the Lady Liberty coin throughout the years.

At numismatics I found learning about the different housings for coins to be fascinating. I thought the cases designed for the “encapsulated” coins were impressive.

Photo History

I enjoyed looking at old post cards and the photographs that were originally used as the front images of the post cards. I found it interesting that post cards were widely used for everyday casual communication between friend and family, much like we use email today. The photographs were beautiful and interesting to look, and left me wishing that I too received a photo postcard from a friend or relative in the mail everyday.

I loved seeing the photography archives at the NMAH, and learned a lot. I had not known much about real photograph postcards before, and was particularly interested to learn that up to a certain point in the 19th century, you could not write a note on the postcard – the photo was the only message. I think we should bring back the practice of sending photos back and forth in the post!

In photo history I was excited to learn more about the postcard pictures because I’ve been scanning so many of them at the JMM.

One of the most interesting things about the Photo History tour was understanding the unique history of photographs and the changes they have undergone throughout the years. It was fascinating to see that not only do the pictures depict people and events throughout history, but also to see how the quality and appearance of the photos has transformed over time. For example, we were shown many different back and white photographed postcards. Even though they were not in color, the events they portrayed and the topics they included were very clear and interesting to interpret.

Shannon gave us a tour of the Photographic History collection in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. I was interested to learn that it isn’t just a photography collection; they also collection photographic apparatus like cameras. Shannon showed us some of her favorite pieces of the collection, including an ambrotype of a black woman taken around the time of the Civil War (which is blogged about further here).

It wasn't until our guide, Shannon, brought this up, however she mentioned that while snap-shots give good representation of life to a degree, one generally does not bring a camera into all aspects of life, such as funerals, or during times of illness. She then showed us a woman dressed in street clothes, but admitted into an infirmary. This could become an interesting bit of material culture that has yet to be explored in detail.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Light & Shadows: Excerpt VI

Chapter 6: When the United States enters the Second World War, Arnold volunteers for induction. After Basic Training, he is sent to Europe. He finds himself in the Ardennes Forest during the Battle of Bulge, one of the most notorious military encounters of the Second World War.

Arnold in Basic Training at Fort McClellan, Alabama.

By the time I finished Basic Training it was the end of November 1944. The American Army had already fought a lot of bloody battles and had suffered many casualties. Since replacement troops were desperately needed, the Army shipped us out as quickly as they could.

I was in Camp Blanding near Boston Harbor for only a day or two before boarding a Liberty Ship, one of the relatively inexpensive and quickly produced ships that the U.S. built to supplement its fleet during the Second World War. It felt as if there were thousands of men on our transport, and we were packed in like sardines. The troops slept near the bottom of the ship, in cots stacked five high and lined up row after row.

We sailed in convoy, and I know that one of the other ships, a destroyer, was hit by a German submarine. When we looked across the water we could see that it was smoking, and then it was no longer able to keep up. I do not know whether it sank or whether any men were lost; we never heard an announcement about what had happened. But we had seen enough to be frightened for our own safety.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Secret Lives of Interns: Field Trip to Center Stage, Housewerks and Second Chance

A blog post by Sara Patenaude-Schuster

Sometimes at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, people might mistake us for grade schoolers based on the amount of laughing, crafts, and occasional party hats. They wouldn’t be entirely wrong—the sheer number of field trips we’ve taken so far this summer have far exceeded those I took my entire time in middle school. Last Friday, we had a multi-part trip that taught us about exhibition creation. For the first part, we visited Center Stage Theater to learn how creating an exhibition is not unlike crafting a set for a play. For the second part, we visited two of Baltimore’s largest salvage stores to see how we can use their resources to find less expensive pieces for an exhibit.

At Center Stage, we were given a tour by the very nice docent named John. He showed us not only the theater and café spaces where everybody can go when they see plays, but also the behind-the-scenes spaces that usually only actors and theater staff members see.

Behind the stage at the Pearlstone Theater

In the trap room of the Head Theater- the space underneath the stage

Because there are no plays currently showing at Center Stage, we were able to go into the set workshop, where all of the sets for the plays are built. It was a huge room, but it was easy to imagine how quickly it could fill up with set pieces when the theater season is in full swing.

Admiring the set workshop, where all the set pieces are made

The favorite parts of the tour for most of the interns, though, were the prop and costume rooms. Just as in an exhibition, the museum staff have to come up with every piece of the display including the display stands themselves, Center Stage has to have every prop and piece of clothing its actors need for the plays. That means not only having tables and chairs, but also fake food for the actors to “eat” on stage.

The food table in the prop room

The prop pieces look so real, it’s hard to resist trying a bite!

We also happened to notice while in the costume room some of the hatboxes that Center Stage has as period props. Several of them are also hatboxes that are in the JMM collection from Hochschild & Kohn’s and Hutzler’s. It was a neat piece of Baltimore history that is still in use in an unconventional way.

The hat boxes that Jobi recognized from the JMM collection

Just a few of the amazing outfits in one of the costume rooms

Our tour of Center Stage made it clear to the interns that we need to think outside the box when it comes to exhibition design. Much in the way that the set helps to bring a play to life, good design and set-up of an exhibition enhances the story that is being told. Exhibitions aren’t just about showing interesting objects from the museum collection, but bringing the visitors in to the story, just like when they see a play. It was also a lot of fun just to see all the neat things Center Stage has to offer.

The JMM Interns and John pose with the lucky beetle

After lunch, the interns moved on to the second part of our field trip. We had been given an assignment- think of an exhibit that you might be creating, and pick out one piece that you need to complete your exhibit. Then try to find that piece at the stores. Each intern thought of her own item, and they ranged from cabinets for a kitchen display, a couch for a 1970s living room, and a crystal doorknob for a fake door.

The first place we went, Second Chance, is a series of several warehouses that contain everything from lumber to lamps. We had a lot of fun looking around at all the different items for sale. I think all of us found at least one thing we wanted to buy for real, in addition to the item for our pretend exhibition.

Stained glass for Rachael’s windows

Kristin modeling the ultra-modern electric kitchen-
it has the stove, oven, and refrigerator all in one!

After crawling all over Second Chance’s warehouses, we went down the street to a similar business, Housewerks. ( Though Housewerks focuses on architectural salvage, we were excited to find all sorts of interesting pieces throughout the building. Even though our assignment was to find a specific piece to fit an exhibit, I couldn’t help but think of all the exhibit possibilities stemming from some of their items. As soon as I convince the JMM to have a carnival exhibit, they’ll know where to go for items!

Exploring inside Housewerks

Just one of the many carnival- and
circus-related items I loved at Housewerks

This fieldtrip made for a very full, but very exciting day. I think we all came away with new ideas of how to think about and create museum exhibits, and new places to look for the necessary materials to build those exhibits.