The Jewish Museum of Maryland will be temporarily closing its doors on June 12 as the building undergoes renovations.
These changes will help make way for new exhibits and a more updated and modern museum experience when it reopens in June of 2024, said Sol Davis, executive director of the museum.
“Museums are changing dramatically and rapidly, and that can be seen as a challenge, though I believe our team is well attuned to the changes that are occurring,” Davis told the JT. “We have set out to adapt our museum architecture to align with next-era museum practices.”
The closing of the museum, an agency of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, will immediately follow the end of its “Material/Inheritance: Contemporary Work by New Jewish Culture Fellows” exhibit, which showcases pieces from Jewish artists across the country.
The initial announcement for these renovations, written by Davis, promises a commitment to grow from “a 20th century museum into a 21st century museum,” and many of the upcoming changes to the building are meant to provide a more contemporary museum-going experience.
In addition to a redone entrance, lobby and an all-new gallery, the first phase of the museum’s renovations will feature an audio-visual studio for the recording of podcasts and video projects to be displayed there.
Davis described the studio as “a core feature of the next era of the JMM,” as the museum plans to include more technologically advanced content in their exhibits.
He added that the museum has been preparing for new renovations since before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The museum, in partnership with The Associated, already had its capital fundraising gears turning prior to the onset of the pandemic,” Davis said to the JT. “This allowed the museum to implement capital improvements that are responsive to the changes in museum practice that have occurred within the pandemic.”
Established in 1960, the Jewish Museum of Maryland is described as the country’s largest regional Jewish museum by the Greater Baltimore History Alliance. Its campus includes two historic synagogues, the Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel, both of which were established during the 19th century. The former is the oldest synagogue in Maryland and the third-oldest still standing in the U.S.
Museum enthusiasts can rest assured that neither of the synagogues will be affected by the renovations. However, the signature “Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore” exhibit, which tells the stories of residents of the historic Jewish neighborhood and market, will be closed. Davis noted in his letter that the Jewish Museum of Maryland will work on developing a new core exhibit over the next few years and plans to incorporate a participatory process so museumgoers can weigh in on
what kind of exhibits they would like to see.
He added that the next core exhibit will have a “statewide frame as it attempts to represent the full expanse of Maryland’s rich and diverse Jewish histories and experiences,” focusing on the whole of Maryland rather than one area of Baltimore. The JMM has not yet decided on the exhibit’s subject, which will be revealed in the years following the renovations’ completion.
Though the museum’s history is a storied one of over 60 years, the staff wants the museum to continue to be a current and relevant historical and cultural institution.
While the museum’s campus will be closed, its staff will still be hard at work producing educational content for its website and maintaining its archives and collections. Davis mentioned that they will still be holding events in the future, but they will be hosted at their partner organizations or held virtually while the museum is being worked on.
Ultimately, one of the main goals of these renovations is to make museum attendees feel like they are a part of the history around them, rather than passive observers. The upcoming changes to the museum will add a new degree of interactivity.
“We will consider how future visitors will be positioned as partners and interlocutors rather than spectators,” Davis said.