Baltimore residents took one final look at the Jewish Museum of Maryland’s “Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore” exhibit on Sunday, Oct. 22.
The museum held a farewell celebration for the signature exhibit, which will close after 16 years of operation while the museum undergoes significant renovations.
“It’s an exhibit that really grounds Baltimore’s Jewish community to its roots in this neighborhood, and that grounding is part of the most important work an exhibit at a museum can do,” said Sol Davis, JMM’s executive director, in a speech at the closing celebration. “Within these difficult times, we continue to work to connect people with Jewish experiences, and Baltimore’s Jewish community to its roots.”
Attendees of the closing celebration enjoyed catered Jewish deli food and an outdoor musical performance, with many sharing their memories of the exhibit and of the Lombard Street Jewish community.
“Voices of Lombard Street” was first conceived in 2007 and was designed to portray the daily lives of Lombard Street’s once-prominent Jewish, Black and immigrant communities in the early 1900s. It occupied the Shoshana S. and Jerome Cardin Exhibition Gallery until 2023, serving as a constant exhibit amid the JMM’s ever-shifting galleries.
The exhibit was curated by Anita Kassof, executive director of the Baltimore Museum of Industry, and Deborah R. Weiner, a professional historian specializing in American Jewish studies. Both participated in a discussion at the closing celebration, where they discussed the effort and research that went into creating “Voices of Lombard Street” and the exhibit’s history.
“[In 2007] we felt that collaboration was going to make the neighborhood better, and that the exhibit reflects that sense of optimism,” said Kassof, who noted that the exhibit’s recreation of a tenement apartment was her favorite part. “Voices of Lombard Street” featured recreations of the average Lombard Street resident’s living conditions, underscored by testimonies of the people who once lived there.
The JMM building will be closed until 2024, when it will reopen with a new, modern layout. While the museum will be closed, many of its exhibits will be accessible online through its virtual gallery website, with others being held at offsite locations. Davis said that JMM’s staff are already discussing ideas for a new core exhibit.
“We wanted to present the immigrant Jewish experience, but connect it to what is going on today,” Weiner said on the goal of the “Voices of Lombard Street” exhibit. “[The Jewish immigrant experience] is something a lot of museums deal with, and we wanted to capture that as well as we could.”