It’s that evolution that is at the center of an upcoming Jewish Museum of Maryland exhibit — and its curator wants the help of the community.
Along with the exhibit, “Just Married! Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland,” the museum has an initiative called “Marrying Maryland,” which seeks photos, invites or other memorabilia of those in the Maryland Jewish community.
Joanna Church, the curator for this exhibit, said they’ve had a good response so far from people sending in artifacts from their weddings or those of their parents, grandparents, relatives or friends. This memorabilia will be featured on the museum blog as new submissions come in.
They’re taking pieces from all kinds of weddings, Church said, as long as it has a Maryland connection — all levels of religious observance, interfaith, same-sex, in a synagogue or at the courthouse.
“It has been a topic and area that has been of concern to the Jewish community for a long time,” Church said.
The exhibit will open on June 18. Both Church and exhibit project manager Tracie Guy-Decker, the associate director for projects, planning and finance at the museum, talked of the layers within it.
Along with being an exhibit with beautiful dresses and wedding artifacts to interest any casual viewer, both Church and Guy-Decker see it as a rumination on the competing forces Jews face when planning their weddings.
“For me, much bigger and deeper than just ‘Oh, pretty dresses!’ is the idea of how American Jews are Jewish — and American,” Guy-Decker said.
From the turn of the 20th century to now, American Jews have had to balance these forces. What traditions do they include? Do they want to be married by a rabbi? Which parts of their identity do they represent?
“It’s complicated to have multiple identities,” Guy-Decker said, “which we all do, and there are moments in our lives when we have to decide which elements of our identities to highlight, and the wedding is one of them.”
That’s not to say the dresses aren’t fantastic — they definitely are, Church said.
“I must admit, I am a big fan of dresses, and we have them all throughout the exhibit, so that’s great for me,” she said.
The exhibit is near complete (though Church says they’re always willing to take in more dresses and artifacts if people have them to donate), but the “Marrying Maryland” initiative will be underway through the opening of the exhibit.
Ideally, Church wants this exhibit and accompanying initiative to have a positive, fun vibe for all who attend, donate or view it.
“I’m hoping it’s going to be a really cheerful, optimistic exhibit,” she said.
Any in the Jewish community who wish to share some of their wedding memorabilia can scan it and fax or email it to the museum or send the items in the mail. There is also a short form to fill out.
For more information or to start the submission process, visit jewishmuseummd.org/exhibits/marrying-maryland.