At Jewish Museum of Maryland Annual Meeting, a Sneak Peek of What’s to Come

From left: Acadia Roher, Savannah Wood and Lisa Aslan at the meeting’s panel discussion (Sid Keiser)

While the Jewish Museum of Maryland closed last year for renovations, the future looks bright for prospective museumgoers and the people who help curate and shape the museum.

On Wednesday, May 22, the JMM held its first annual meeting since its closure, detailing plans for the museum’s future and speaking about the importance of l’dor v’dor, passing down knowledge through generations.

Due to the current construction on the JMM building, the meeting was held at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture. The two museums have had a strong relationship over the past few years. Terri Lee Freeman, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum’s president, spoke at the meeting about how JMM Executive Director Sol Davis welcomed her when she started work as the museum’s executive director in early 2021.

One of the most anticipated portions of the meeting was getting a closer look at the JMM’s renovation plans. When the museum closed in June 2023, Davis and others at the JMM spoke about how they wanted to bring the museum into the future by implementing more technology and interactive elements. As these renovations are underway, more details have emerged about the museum’s new space.

“Last week, both the Council of American Jewish Museums and the American Alliance of Museums held their annual conferences in Baltimore,” Davis said at the meeting. “I presented a hard hat tour of the JMM’s construction site to 30 museum professionals from across the country. Their reaction was pretty ecstatic for a hard hat tour. These museum pros from across the country are clearly moved by the innovative design of our project.”

“Bringing the museum into the 21st century” has proven to be a major focus of the JMM’s renovation project. Another speaker at the meeting, Quinn Evans architect Ethan Marchant, discussed the specifics of creating a museum space. The architecture firm has ample experience working with museums, including the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.

A core concept being utilized for the JMM’s new design is the idea of a history museum as a portal connecting the past, present and future. To that end, the imagery of portals is being incorporated into the final design, allowing views into digital recording studios and exhibits as well as digital landscapes and videos.

“Think of it as a black box theater for art and artists,” Marchant added. “How can we engage this portal, physically a portal, but also in a philosophical way? It’s this point of reference that can drive you from the past to the present to the future.”

Concept art depicting plans for the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s new lobby (Quinn Evans)

To reflect this new theme for the museum, its branding is also undergoing a significant change.

“The museum is a window into Jewish life,” explained Roy Rub, co-founder of the graphic design firm Topos Graphics, who has been working with the JMM on its visual rebranding. “We’re going to open this window and invite people in.”

The meeting was not entirely focused on the museum’s renovations, though. Its main theme was the Jewish value of l’dor v’dor, which is especially important for museums, whose main purpose is to disseminate knowledge and art.

This idea was the focus of a panel that took up the latter half of the meeting, moderated by historian and JMM archivist Acadia Roher and featuring panelists Savannah Wood, executive director of Afro Charities, and Lisa Aslan, senior director of training and capacity building at Health Resources in Action and a member of the Mizrahi Collective. The three of them discussed the importance of preserving history and culture that can be all too easily lost.

“I would say [the younger generation] is carrying the torch in their own way,” Aslan said during the panel discussion. “I’m reconciling with the fact that I’m going to push the boulder up the hill as far as I can to embed our stories and our history in Jewish institutions, but it might not all happen. And hopefully my kids will pick up the slack.”

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