An introduction

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A portrait of me, courtesy of a 6th grader at
Francis Scott Key Elementary School in Philadelphia.

My name is Mr. Charlie Charlie Hersh, and I am a first-year Master’s student of Public History. I received my BA from Temple in 2015 in Religion. While I did not have a formal concentration, I wrote my thesis on an imagined Orthodox Jewish reconciliation of asexuality, drawing from Talmudic passages about relationships and procreation. I also earned a Certificate in Spanish, and I hope to continue my love of learning new languages.

Honestly, I feel like I’m approaching this field from the opposite direction as everyone else. My training as a historian is minimal, having worked significantly more with secondary than primary sources throughout my schooling. That said, I have been working as a museum educator for about two years, first at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in NYC through their Lipper internship, and later as the Education Assistant at the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH), here in Philadelphia. What started as a near-impulsive and convenient internship has turned into a passionate love of the field – for figuring out how to interpret complicated subjects for younger audiences, for often being students’ first gateway into museums, for encouraging children’s curiosity and critical thinking.

So, what exactly do I do at NMAJH?

suitcase image

This is the Traveling Suitcase, an element of our signature program titled Becoming American: History of Immigration 1880s-1920s, which I coordinate and often facilitate. Inside are replicas from a real immigrant named Eva Baen, who came to Philadelphia in 1913. Students learn about the time period and about immigrant life while also learning how to analyze and extract information from primary source objects. They also come to the Museum, take a guided tour about post-arrival immigrant life (e.g. how did Jewish immigrants choose between maintaining traditions and Americanizing?) and even “meet” Eva Baen in person. (The set, which represents her 1921 kitchen room, is my header image.)

This program kind of got dumped on me when I first started, and I still haven’t managed to climb out from under it. Not that I want to – I love this program, I love introducing students to the idea of learning from objects, and I love the potential for meaningful connections to contemporary immigrant stories  – which, in many cases, includes the students’ own stories. I hope to use my thesis to further develop this program in some way.

I also help research and develop lesson plans, do professional development workshops with teachers, lead tours when we realize last-minute that we’re short on docents (a frequent occurrence), and act as the Museum’s Official Character Wrangler.

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The pilgrims on their way to see Pope Francis speak at Independence Hall in
September 2015 had a great time with Lyle the Crocodile. Of course, none
of them came to see our exhibit on Bernard Waber!

What else is there to know about me? (Besides the fact that I’m terrible at writing about myself!) I currently live with my partner, our cat (who’s currently climbing on me as I write this), and our two rabbits, who destroy everything we love. I enjoy knitting and conlanging, although mine has been neglected for quite some time. And, honestly, it’s really hard for me to not find a way to be interested in anything.

I look forward to starting this program and filling this blog with my thoughts about my readings, and especially looking at how they can be useful in a museum education setting!

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