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Just a Stove

Mrs. KaplanThese days, the exhibitions staff is hard at work on the next You Are There project, recreating a photograph of Fannie Kaplan cooking in her kitchen on the south side of Indianapolis. This photograph, part of the Jewish Welfare Federation Collection in the Indiana Historical Society library, shows Mrs. Kaplan, whose family has just moved to their new home in Indianapolis after surviving the Holocaust and spending time in a displaced persons camp in Germany. Although she brings with her an amazingly complex story of survival, family and the challenges of establishing a new life in a new place, what the image actually shows is nothing more than Mrs. Kaplan dishing up the soup that she is cooking on her stove.

For those familiar with the You Are There projects, our challenge is to literally re-create historical photographs into a three-dimensional space. For what at first glance would be a relatively simple task – this particular photograph contains fewer than 10 items – the task of finding the stove itself has proved an almost insurmountable challenge. Although we have had multiple staff members and a host of outside advisers offering suggestions on what the stove might be, we have yet to determine with certainty the make and model of the stove in the photograph. Every identifiable component (timer, salt-and-pepper shakers, etc.) seems to rule out any possible option for the stove’s identity, which seems to defy categorization into any typical or commercially available model.

After extensive searching, we have found as close a match as possible and are currently in the process of retrieving it out of a basement in a Kentucky home – no easy task itself. Once it is here, we'll have to retrofit the stove with all of those individual pieces that make the item so unique. Just like the story behind the photograph, what on first glance appeared to be a simple image of an ordinary stove, has proven to be a complex research task of finding this incredibly unique object. Visit the History Center to see the fruits of this labor when You Are There 1950: Making a Jewish Home opens to the public on Oct. 11.

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