Thursday, September 30, 2010

After the Interns

A blog post by archivist and curatorial assistant Jennifer Vess.

This summer we had, I think, the most archives interns we’ve ever had at one time. Three (Kristin, Brittney, and Melina) and all of them dedicated to processing the Baltimore Hebrew University archives. They’re all gone now, back to their normal lives, but the work her at the JMM does not stop.

Processing the Baltimore Hebrew University Archives is a long-term project. It is the largest single collection in the JMM archives. But we have made a lot of progress.

About fourteen months ago the collections staff and interns were arranging boxes and weeding materials at campus of Baltimore Hebrew University.

Jobi and Kim weeding on-site at BHU.

Rachel and Jobi in the moving van.

Since then, with the help of volunteers and our three BHU interns we have completed over a third of the BHU archives processing. 68 boxes of materials have been rehoused, organized, and added to a growing finding aid.

Kristen’s tidy workspace

Melina hard at work on the “Office Files”

After the summer interns left it seemed like a good time to take stock of the collection and make an tweaks necessary to the processing plan. The first step was the Great Box Shift. A year pulling boxes and organizing files left holes in our shelves.

Before the Great Box Shift

So Melina (the last remaining intern) and I closed all of the gaps and consolidated all of the yet to be processed boxes, and all of the all ready processed boxes.

This is what happens when you’re the last intern – you have to move boxes. Thanks Melina!

After the Great Box Shift

After that I concentrated on the 68 boxes of processed materials. Each of the intern focused on their own small portion of the larger BHU collection. They learned a lot about their own project, about the information and people involved in those thousands of pieces of paper. But I need to connect those individual projects together into a single manuscript collection. Which led to more box shifting as I physically and intellectually began piecing together the whole.

Neatly processed and organized BHU archives.

I also made some new connections with the unprocessed materials. As Melina, Brittney, and Kristin learned more about their own collections we were able to see connections that we hadn’t before. Each of them encountered boxes in the financial, office, and people files related specifically to the Freedman files. This meant moving and re-labeling.

Re-labeled box.

With a better sense of what has been done and what needs to be done, we can keep moving forward.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


A blog post by Senior Collections Manager Jobi Zink.

In late July I received a phone call from a man named Jay Schloven who was interested in donating the steamer trunk that his mother brought over from Germany in 1937. I explained to him that we already had several trunks in our collection, but we would certainly be interested in collecting the contents of the trunk, photographs, documents and/or stories about his mother’s experience as a refugee. Jay said his sister had the types of materials I was looking for.

Trunks and suitcases from our collections are frequently used in our exhibitions.
Lives Lost, Lives Found (top), We Call This Place Home

A month later Jay’s sister Karen Manzone came in to donate the leather purse that her mother, Lieselotte (Lisa) Sommer, carried to America from Germany in April 1937, along with photographs, official documents, and letters.

Purse carried by Lieselotte Sommer from Germany to America in 1937.

While Karen was presenting the materials to me, I skimmed the interviews of Lisa Sommer written by her granddaughter, Melissa Manzone and great-neice, Lauren Cissell in 2001.

Lauren’s paper begins, “The name of the person I interviewed is Lisa Ielotte Sommer. Lisa is my grandmother’s first cousin by marriage…. She had five brothers and sisters. Their names were Lola, Arthur, Berthold, Werner and Hilda.”

Family photo

Further into her paper Lauren describes, Lisa became a seamstress. While in Germany, the nuns taught her how to sew. Once in America, she began work in the alterations room of a fancy dress shop on Charles Street called “Maison Annette.”

Maison Annette hatbox, 1987.126.22

Her sister Hilda became a beautician. Her brother Werner became a pharmacist. Her brother, Bert, worked for a company called “Triangle Sign” for his entire life.

“Oh, that’s interesting,” I told Karen. “Your grandmother’s brother worked for Triangle Sign.” And then I flipped back to the front of the document and the name Lisa Sommer sunk in.

Sign created by the Triangle Sign Company, 1998.16.70

“Wait! Your great-uncle is Bert Sommer?!” I asked.
“Yes,” Karen confirmed.
“Bert & Ruthie Sommer?” I double checked my facts.
"How do you know Bert and Ruthie? "

So, I explained how
A few years ago a woman named Ruthie Sommer made arrangements to donate Miriam Lodge materials to the museum. At the end of the conversation she asked if I was related to Irv and Becky Zink. Slightly surprised by the connection I said that they were my husband’s grandparents (or more likely I called them my grandparents-in-law). Ruthie said that her husband Bert used to work at Triangle Sign with Irv and they had been good friends.

Sign created by the Triangle Sign Company, 1998.16.82

Triangle Signs made many signs for the shopping centers and businesses in Baltimore.

I remember stopping in to visit Grandpop at the nursing home and telling him that I had regards for him from some old friends. When I said Ruth & Bert Sommer his face lit up and he regaled me with stories of his days at Triangle Sign where he made signs, Bert was one of the managers, and Mr. Hecht was the owner. There was a lot of pride in the company and the work that they did.

Design sketch (above) & letter (below) of approval
for work to be completed by the Triangle Sign Co.

Ruthie and Irv remember that the Sommers, who were Jewish, were invited to spend Christmas with the Zinks for many years.

Triangle Sign always took out an advertisement in the newspaper to thank their clients. Perhaps the Sommers and Zinks saw these ads as they enjoyed Christmas dinner together.

Thank yous published by the Triangle Sign Company, 1998.16.97

Karen and I were amazed at the connection (albeit distant) between our families. They don’t call it SMALLtimore for nothing!

At their next meeting the Collections Committee will determine if the Lisa Sommer collection will be accepted. More photographs of signs by the Triangle Sign Co. can be found in our database using the keywords “Triangle Sign.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Once Upon a Time...

Once Upon a Time 7.2.10

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: 7/2/10

PastPerfect Accession #: 2007.055.010.006
(this photo was mistakenly run under the number 2007.055.006)

Status: Unidentified. Brandeis University National Women's Committee. Date unknown. Written on back: "Officers Balto. Chapter, Brandeis Women." Front center is Harriet (Levin) Terrill.

Special thanks to: Besty Wright

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ooh, what do YOU have today?

Eating Lunch at the JMM

A blog post by Anita Kassof, associate director

If you’ve tooled around our website lately or read our blog, you probably know that we’re gearing up for a major exhibition called Chosen Food, opening in September 2011. Among other things, the exhibition will use the rich material culture of foodways to demonstrate how American Jews use food as an essential mode of cultural communication.

Wait, what?

For those of you not familiar with museum-speak, that last sentence is a fancy way of saying, “You are what you eat.” What we eat—and the way we eat it and with whom—reveals a lot about us. With that in mind, I thought I’d engage in a little clandestine observation of my JMM colleagues at the lunch table. I figured the lunchroom would be fertile ground for discovering whether what we eat and how we talk about food really does say something about us as individuals and as a staff.

Where the magic happens...and by magic, I mean: lunch.

The work fridge.

So what do we pack in our lunch bags? Rachel usually has something fabulous that she’s cooked up with an odd assortment of kale and mushrooms and Swiss chard from her CSA. Jobi often brings leftovers from some funky eatery in Butcher’s Hill. And then there’s Elena, Queen of Pie. It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that we hired Elena because pie—in all its luscious varieties—was the main topic of conversation at her interview. Karen’s a mixed bag. Either she’ll pull out a container of some homemade kosher delicacy that often involves a soy-based ersatz-meat product, or she’ll microwave up a paper container of noodle soup. As the curator of Chosen Food, Karen should probably know better than to eat reconstituted freeze-dried noodle products but, given her commute, who can blame her?

Rachel takes full advantage of tomato season - BLT and fried green tomatoes!

Jobi munches on some excellent chicken and black bean soft tacos.

Elena rocks her pasta-and-veg.

Karen and her kosher fare - looking pretty tasty!

How we pack our lunches and how we eat them also makes for some amusing observations. Take Barry, for example. He eats a wide variety of heart-healthy food, most of it lovingly packed by his wife, Sandee, into . . . plastic baggies? Okay, I’m not above sticking some baby carrots into a Ziploc, but stew in a bag? No lunch with Barry is complete if I haven’t ribbed him about his next birthday present: an economy size set of Tupperware.

Barry and his unconventional lunch that...pasta salad?

Esther doesn’t sit down at the table. Standing at the counter, she’s apt to be picking at a salad or cottage cheese (no calories when you’re standing up, after all), and moaning about how she can barely zip her slacks anymore. I think this must be a Jewish Mother thing, because Esther is slim and beautiful and looks about twenty years younger than she should. Maybe it’s just that she’s more comfortable feeding others than feeding herself, and if you’ve ever been the beneficiary of her homemade chocolate cake, you can thank your lucky stars for that.

Sue packs lunch for herself and her mother, who comes to work with her every day, and then they sit down together and eat off of real plates with real cutlery. It’s usually something hot, and often includes cookies or something sweet for dessert. We enjoy Mrs. Miller’s company, I think she enjoys ours, and her presence at the staff lunch table reminds us that, among other things, food is about family.

Then there’s Avi, the man who doesn’t plan ahead. On those occasions when he does stop into the lunchroom to talk—and talk—he’s invariably foodless and looks longingly at others’ plates until they share, or he gives up and makes himself a meal out of whatever leftovers he can scrounge in the refrigerator (usually there are lots of those, happy by-product of meetings and public programs).

Avi's in luck today - plenty of sweet goodies to sink his teeth into!

What do we talk about at the table (besides food, that is)? Anything from current movies to kids is fair game. The only topic that we try to stay away from is the conflict in the Middle East, because too many strong opinions can cause indigestion. But everything else goes. Today over lunch, Deb (leftover salad, berry-flavored applesauce), told me that she’d recently seen Food, Inc., the movie about agribusiness and all the horrible things it’s doing to the ecosystem, the small farmer, and our bodies, thereby serving me up a good dose of Jewish guilt with my turkey avocado wrap.
Deb, "lecturing" Anita about agribusiness.

Both the tenor of our conversation and the contents of our lunch sacks vary depending on the day and the season. When our volunteers (mostly retirees) join us at the lunch table, you see a lot more wax paper wrapped sandwiches and cans of V-8, and the conversation tends toward the nostalgic. In the summer, when the building is bursting at the seams with interns (the millennial generation), lunchtime conversation can be raucous. And the quantity of odd ethnic eats rises in direct proportion to the number of interns on the staff. I don’t think most 20-somethings would know what to make of baloney on white.

So, what can we conclude from all this?

For starters, this isn’t a Fortune 500 company. We bring our lunches because, frankly, on a museum salary, who can afford to go out for lunch? Our kitchen isn’t kosher. We’re a diverse group, and even those Jews among us vary widely in our food habits, from no-pork-but-anything-else-goes, to kosher-at-home-but-bring-on-that-bacon-cheeseburger-in-a-restaurant, to vegetarian, to glat kosher. Also, there are a lot of mighty good and inventive cooks among us. I repeat: Esther’s Chocolate Cake.

The lunch aftermath - but look at all those reusable containers!

Most important, though, we eat together. Breaking bread together punctuates our day and sustains us through our battles with uncooperative spreadsheets, building maintenance emergencies, and looming deadlines. Over lunch, we learn something about one another’s non-work selves by talking about our families, recounting our weekend adventures, or swapping recipes. We seem to talk an awful lot about what we eat and don’t eat (don’t even get Jobi started on mayonnaise). Over our noontime meal, we schmooze, we kibbitz, we debate. We nourish ourselves as individuals and as a group. After all, isn’t that what food is all about?

You know, I bet we could do an exhibition about this . . . .

The author, with the remains of her own lunch.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

MS 2 The Jacob H. Hollander Papers

After having seen an excerpt from one of our most recent manuscript collections I thought is was appropriate to look back at one of our earliest manuscript collections – MS 2: The Jacob H. Holland (1871-1940) Papers.

Aside from the manuscript collection the JMM also has this book written by Jacob Hollander -- a Baltimore City Guide Book complete with Map. 1994.150.007

Jacob H. Hollander (1871-1940)
Papers, n.d., 1900-1935

MS 2


The Jacob H. Hollander Papers were donated by Rosamund Hutzler (Mrs. Siegfried Weisberger), Bertha Hollander, and David Hollander in May 1966 as accession 1966.6. Anne Turkos processed this collection in September 1982. Erin Titter updated and edited the finding aid and revised the box list in July 2004.

Access to the collection is unrestricted and is available to researchers at the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Researchers must obtain the written permission of the Jewish Museum of Maryland before publishing quotations from materials in the collection. Papers may be copied in accordance with the library's usual procedures.


Jacob Harry Hollander was born in Baltimore on July 23, 1871 to Meyer and Rosa (Meyer) Hollander. He attended local public and private schools, except for one year spent at the Pennsylvania Military Academy. He received an A.B. from Johns Hopkins University in 1891 and a Ph.D. in 1894. In 1904 he became a full professor of political economy at Johns Hopkins and assumed the Abram G. Hutzler Chair in 1925. On January 22, 1906 he married Theresa Gutman Hutzler of Baltimore and they had three children, Rosamund (Mrs. Siegfried Weisberger), David, and Bertha Hutzler Hollander.

In addition to his academic pursuits, Hollander was also active in government service beginning with an 1897 appointment by President McKinley as the secretary of the American Bimetallic Commission. In 1900 he was the chairman of Baltimore’s Municipal Lighting Commission. The same year he served as financial advisor to Puerto Rico and was appointed treasurer of Puerto Rico in 1901 where he revised the tax laws and implemented a new revenue system referred to as “Hollander’s Law.” In 1904 he became a special agent of the Department of the Interior in Indian Territory, where he aided fiscal transition and investigated special needs. From 1905-1910 he was dispatched by President Theodore Roosevelt to the Dominican Republic to serve as an advisor to their financial reorganization and to investigate the public debt of San Domingo. During this same five-year period, he also chaired the Mayor’s Committee on Taxation and Revenue in Baltimore. Hollander also served as umpire for the Maryland and Upper Potomac coalfields for the Federal Fuel Administration from, 1918-1920, and he served as chairman of the Maryland State Tax Survey Commission, 1931-1932.

Jacob Hollander was active in several local and national organizations including the American Economic Association, the American Liberty League, the Baltimore Reform League, the Executive Committee of the Charity Organization Society of Baltimore, the Jewish Publication Society of America, the American Jewish Historical Society, and the United Hebrew Charities. He enjoyed writing about various government, economic, and religious topics.

Jacob Harry Hollander died on July 9, 1940 in Baltimore. He is buried in Har Sinai Cemetery.


The Jacob H. Hollander (1871-1940) Papers, n.d., 1900-1935, consist primarily of personal and professional correspondence, telegrams, invitations, speeches, and newspaper clippings. The correspondence, which comprises the bulk of this collection, includes both incoming letters and carbon copies of outgoing letters. The papers in this collection pertain to Hollander's work with Jewish philanthropic and literary agencies including the Federated Jewish Charities, the Baron de Hirsch Fund, the City-Wide Congress, the Joseph Fels Fund, the National Farm School, and the National Conference of Jewish Social Services. Correspondents include Cyrus Adler, Harry Friedenwald, Herbert Friedenwald, Max J. Kohler, Morris S. Lazaron, Julius Levy, Isidore Rayner, Samuel Oppenheimer, David Philipson, Jacob H. Schiff, and Paul M. Warburg.

Related Collections:

MS 59 Hollander (Jacob Harry) 1871-1940 Papers (1895-1940) at The Milton S. Eisenhower Library, Special Collections, Johns Hopkins University

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Volunteerings at the JMM!

Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Sun.

A blog post by Ilene Cohen, volunteer coordinator.

As the volunteer coordinator at the Jewish Museum of Maryland I am constantly recruiting. The classic stereotype of a volunteer is someone who has lots of time to spare and is looking for something to do. While this describes good portion of our volunteers, we take pride in providing an environment in which people of all ages and stations in life can make friends, meet others who share their interests, learn new skills, and share their skills with others.

Our current volunteer opportunities include:

Front Desk Reception
The front desk reception volunteers provide an invaluable service to the Museum by maintaining a warm and welcome atmosphere for Museum guests. They serve as the Museum’s customer service representatives while orienting visitors to the Museum complex. They provide information about all services that the Museum offers. Some tasks include processing admission fees for groups and individuals, answering the telephone, and maintaining an accurate daily count of visitors.

Museum Docents
Museum docents possess an interest in history and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others. They perform an essential duty by leading tours and by interpreting the history of the Museum’s two historic synagogues and exhibitions for adults, families, and school groups of all ages. A series of training sessions is offered to those interested in joining our docent corps.

Museum Gift Shop

Gift shop volunteers assist guests with purchases, process cash and credit card payments, arrange merchandise on shelves and in windows, and assist the shop manager with ordering merchandise and conducting store inventory.

Special Events
Throughout the year, the Museum holds many programs and special events including exhibition openings, family holiday programs, lectures, film series, and theatrical and musical performances. Special event volunteers provide much needed assistance with these events by greeting visitors, processing admission fees, maintaining an accurate count of visitors, helping with refreshments, selling memberships, and facilitating art projects.

Volunteering in the Library and Archives offers a variety of learning experiences. The majority of the work takes place in a library setting, but a few projects may be completed at home. Positions range from office-type work, to collections processing, to digital imaging. Typing and computer skills are preferred, but not always required. A number of the projects may be conducive to working with a partner. This volunteer opportunity provides a chance to learn more about Maryland’s Jewish history. All new volunteers will be given an orientation to the care and handling of archival objects.

Volunteers in the collections department work on a variety of projects. These include creating artifact inventories for special projects, organizing collection records, sorting incoming artifacts, helping to store and pack artifacts, and preparing objects in the collection for exhibition. Temporary assignments are available. Experience in the handling of fragile items is desired.

Photo Collections
Working with the museum photographic collections can include numbering and re-housing photographs as well as typing photo descriptions and scanning photographs. Volunteers will be trained on the proper handling of photographs as well as the correct procedures for updating catalogue records and digitizing images for preservation. Projects tend to be ongoing and can support a variety of time commitments – a few hours every week to sporadic all-day visits, working with the photograph collection is a very flexible volunteer position. Willingness to use a computer and learn basic digital imaging skills is a must.

Our volunteers are given the opportunity to help the community, increase their self-esteem, make new friends, try out a job, polish their resumes, develop new skills and enjoy something they love. Please contact us ( if you would like to join in!

Rosh Hashanah at the Okin House!

Rosh Hashana at my house is always a family affair; everyone has their specific tasks and knows just how to do it. (Even our guests have specific assignments: Audrey makes the kugel, Jimmy carves the turkey, Leslie makes sure that there is challah with and without raisins) My mom started the soup, brisket and desserts in advance, but it’s always a race against the clock to see if we will be done on time for the guests!

Hop over to our "Chosen Food" blog to read the rest of the run-down for the Jewish New Year celebration of our Senior Collections Manager Jobi (Okin) Zink!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Once Upon a Time...

Once Upon a Time 6.18.10

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. Click here to see the most recent photo on their website. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Jobi Zink, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar at 410.732.6400 x226 or

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: 6/18/10

PastPerfect Accession #: 2007.53.10

Status: Partial identified . Group of teenagers on a boat to Tolchester, 1914-1915. Seated front L-R: Anna Stein Simon, unidentified, possibly Marshall Plaut, possibly Judy Kohn, possibly Frannie Friedman. All others unidentified.

Special thanks to: Allan Bernstein

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Trip Down Memory Lane

A blog post by Deborah Cardin, our Education Director.

Planning for our upcoming 50th Anniversary Birthday Bash (Sunday, Sept. 19, 12:00-4:00 pm) has brought with it a flood of memories. While I’m sure that when asked to recall favorite JMM memories, many of my co-workers will share recollections of crowd pleasing exhibitions, public programs, exhibition openings, or publications – what reverberates strongest for me are the wild and wacky art projects concocted by the JMM education and program department to tie in with holiday programs, exhibitions, and field trips.

When seeking ideas for art activities to have at our birthday party, we decided to revive some of our past greatest hits (all from the past decade). The education and program department office (known fondly as the west wing because of its locale) is overstuffed with random art supplies and props (visitors have been known to trip over hoola hoops

and express bewilderment at the vast array of wigs and headgear) and this seemed like a wonderful way of both celebrating our Museum’s past achievements and clearing out some of the less useful supplies (oversized coffee filters, anyone!)

But which art activities to include in our birthday bash?! We started our search by reviewing a list of past exhibitions (thanks to Jobi for keeping such great records) and then hunting through our office to see what supplies we had on hand. The first item to surface was a stack of Tchotchke bingo cards from an original JMM exhibition (March 2000-April 2010)

Next up, spools of gimp from Cabin Fever! Jewish Camping and Jewish Commitment (March 2006-August 2007), perfect for making everyone’s favorite camp project lanyards

Digging through art supply cabinets revealed paper doll templates that were decorated with original fashions designed by children in conjunction with Enterprising Emporiums: The Jewish Department Stores of Downtown Baltimore (October 2001-February 2003).

A trip downstairs to our storage hallway unearthed more treasures. While I decided to ignore the box of blank nesting dolls (put to use at a 2002 Christmas Day program celebrating the Baltimore Jewish Community’s partnership with Odessa, Ukraine) [insert nesting doll photo], I had a eureka moment when I found a box containing cardboard templates meticulously cut out to mirror shoe footprints that were later transformed by visitors – with the help of pipe cleaners and felt – into slippers and thongs. This was one of my all time favorite projects that was part of our “shuk” [] that we installed in the JMM lobby to recreate the ambiance of the ancient Near East as we opened the exhibition From Tent to Temple: Life in the Ancient Near East.

And now back to the giant coffee filters, just the thing to make fashionable floppy hats in conjunction with Hello Gorgeous! Fashion, Beauty, and the Jewish American Ideal (September 2005-May 2006).

While we made more dignified hats using cardboard, tissue paper, and pipe cleaners for Enterprising Emporiums, the tie-dyed wide brim hats were a huge crowd pleaser (although they did leave quite a mess on the floor of our lobby!) While kids could opt to make a more restrained top hat

the floppy hats were by far more popular.

In case you might have missed one of these noteworthy art projects, here’s your chance to make a complete set of JMM inspired knickknacks. Join us at our Birthday Bash on Sunday. I will be sure we have enough coffee filters for all!