Welcome to Michigan!

Posted on March 19, 2012 by

A blog post by Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Welcome to Michigan!

This year I was lucky enough to be able to attend the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) 2012 Annual Conference inDetroitMichigan. The Jewish Museum of Maryland is very generous and encouraging when it comes to professional development for its staff and several JMM staff members attended the CAJM conference with me.  I was able to travel toDetroitthis year partially because I co-chaired a panel with Elena Rosemond-Hoerr on museum-school partnerships and also because I was a CAJM fellow.

The outside of the Downtown Synagogue in Detroit.

To be honest, when thinking about traveling toDetroitfor this conference I was not overly enthused.Detroitis going through some difficult times economically and the idea of traveling there in the middle of winter sounded slightly miserable. However after my trip there, my opinion of the city has changed. To begin, the weather was great. Although it was a bit cold at times, it was sunny and bright the entire trip. Also, because of the way that the conference was structured the conference attendees got to visit an array of museums and cultural institutions throughout the city and its surrounding suburbs. It became on my trip that there is a wealth of arts and culture in the city that is fueled a cadre of energetic residents. Deborah Cardin, our own Assistant Director here at the JMM, co-chaired the conference and really did a wonderful job. The amount of planning and logistics that went into this conference is unbelievable.

The Oscar Mayer Weinermobile at the Henry Ford Museum

Dr. Guy Stern giving a tour of the Ritchie Boy exhibit at the Detroit Holocaust Memorial Center.

Some of my personal highlights from the trip were:

- Visiting the Downtown Synagogue (http:///downtownsynagogue.org/) in downtown Detroit. This synagogue was on the brink of being destroyed before it actively revitalized by a group of Jewish young adults living in the downtown area of the city. The synagogue has beautiful colored glass tiles and a vibrant array of programs.

- Co-chairing an education panel with Elena. Our panel “Building Bridges: Museums and Schools as Partners” focused on how museums, from big to small, can learn how to successfully partner with schools or other community organizations for long term projects. For our portion of the panel we invited one the 8th grade teachers we have been working with to help us talk about our museum-school partnership with Commodore John Rodgers Middle School. The audience found it really helpful to have Ms. Smith on the panel. From her they learned what these partnerships are like from a teacher’s perspective.

- On our last day of the conference we went the Detroit Institute of Art where we ate lunch in the Rivera Court where we were surrounded by Diego Rivera’s Detroit Industry fresco. Graham Beal, the director and president of the museum, gave an engaging talk about the exhibits. I loved it!

- At the Holocaust Center in Detroit there was an exhibit on the Ritchie Boys, a group of men who fled Nazi Germany and then joined the US Army and went back toEuropeas soldiers with an expertise in intelligence and psychological warfare. Dr. Guy Stern, who was a Ritchie Boy and helped to create the exhibit, gave some of the conference attendees a tour. It was great learning about the exhibit from his perspective.

The Diego Rivera fresco, Detroit Industry, at the Detroit Institute of Art.

My only complaint about the conference was that I didn’t have enough time to see so many great cultural institutions. In addition to the sites I listed above we also visited theMotownMuseum, theArabAmericanMuseum, theHenryFordMuseumand more. I’m already looking forward to the CAJM conference next year.

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