JMM Insights, December 2013
Top JMM News Stories of 2013
In this month’s JMM Insight we look back at 2013. The staff was invited to nominate their favorite stories of the last twelve months. Our countdown for 2013 includes many events you will remember and perhaps a few that will still be “news” to you.
12. Genealogy Society Renews its Links
After disbanding several years ago, the JMM welcomed the news of the reorganization of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland. With a large membership of individuals passionate about family history, the JMM looks forward to partnering with the JGSM in the year ahead as we work together to make even more of our genealogical sources accessible to the public.
11. Wonder Woman Sells Out
Move over Batman. The top selling superhero product in the Museum Store during the run of Zap, Pow, Bam was the Wonder Woman tote bag. Esther had to re-order these twice – eventually selling 120 bags. It was part of a banner year for store revenue, over $6000 in the last six months.
10. AAM Conferees Discover JMM
In May Baltimore became the center of the museum world as our city was inundated with Museum professionals from across the country (and even the globe) who arrived for the annual conference of the American Alliance of Museums. The JMM was thrilled to be among a select group of local institutions invited to serve as an evening reception site for conferees and even more so by the response of our colleagues to the joint event – Heroes: Real and Imagined – that we threw in partnership with the Lewis Museum. Attendees had a wonderful time schmoozing as they toured our exhibits and synagogues (Zap! Pow! Bam! was a huge hit), created superhero masks and sampled hero sandwiches and specialty cocktails.
9. Volunteer Launches Outreach to the Visually Impaired
Docent Robyn Hughes launched several important initiatives this past year to advance JMM’s accessibility. Robyn had the brilliant idea to create a twin vision comic book (a book that incorporates Braille text overlaid on the print) that was displayed in Zap! Pow! Bam! She then invited members of our community with visual impairments to visit and enjoy the JMM through tours that emphasized touch and verbal description. But this was only the beginning for Robyn, who also created another twin vision books out of the JMM’s Synagogue Speaks! children’s book and worked to develop a partnership with the Maryland School for the Blind. Robyn has served as a wonderful ambassador on behalf of the JMM and we appreciate her continuing efforts to promote the JMM to this important constituency.
8. New York Times Finds Nostalgia in Baltimore
In April, Jennifer Moses made the Jewish Museum of Maryland and her historic family ties to B’nai Israel a part of a feature story in the travel section of the New York Times. The article was circulated across Baltimore by New York relatives with notes that said “did you see this?” Ever since April, visitors have mentioned this article, when asked “where did you hear about JMM?” However, “word-of-mouth” continues to top our list of referrals, so keep talking about us!
7. “1861 Tour” Offers New View of Lloyd Street Synagogue
How can a one hundred seventy year old building become a “new” attraction? With the opening of Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War we started to offer our first daily specialty tours at the Lloyd Street Synagogue. The tours immerse visitors in the early struggles of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and they recreate Baltimore rabbis’ debate over slavery. They also encourage a second look at some of the details of the synagogue (e.g. the tzedakah box built into the pillar), that might otherwise go unnoticed.
6. IMLS Lends a Healing Hand
We received a big boost for our big project this September. The Institute for Museum and Library Services awarded a competitive $150,000 grant for our fall 2015 exhibit on Jews and medicine. This was quickly followed by a lead gift from the Herbert Bearman Foundation for The Herbert Bearman Foundation Presents: Jews, Health and Healing. Significant support for the project also came in from LifeBridge Health, Johns Hopkins University and CareFirst. We are still seeking additional partners for this groundbreaking exploration of the intersection between Jewish culture and the healing sciences.
5. Clark Kent Finally Gets a Bar Mitzvah Party
A super boy became a man at our summer celebration of this important milestone in Clark Kent’s life. The festivities included a visit by Superman who danced the hora with guests, enjoyed sampling a hero-sized cake, and because no Bar Mitzvah celebration would be complete without this tradition, participated in a candle lighting ceremony honoring the special people in his life.
4. “You Gave Me Back My Grandmother”
Beloved Baltimore doyenne and caterer extraordinaire, Bessie Bluefeld was brought to life as the newest member of our Leo V. Berger Immigrant’s Trunk roster. Thanks to the combined talents of script writer Jonathon Scott Fuqua, director and producer Harriet Lynn, and actor Terry Nicholetti, we were able to create a performance that explored many of the dramatic moments in Bessie’s life from her arrival in Baltimore as a new bride fresh off the boat from Russia, to her determination to save the family from financial ruin after a bad business deal. At the performance premiere we were delighted to welcome members of the Bluefeld family and received perhaps the highest form of praise from one of her grandsons who thanked us for introducing us to the grandmother he never knew.
3. City Springs Students Get to Know Us
JMM educational programs have a long history of providing high quality enrichment services for students of all backgrounds and from all over the state. So it seemed only natural to reach out to the school that is quite literally in our own backyard, City Springs Elementary and Middle School. After many conversations and meetings with school administrators and teachers, we created a series of tours and programs designed to accommodate each grade and were thrilled to welcome every student from the school this fall. Our goal is to develop a partnership with both students and teachers so that they view the JMM as their museum, a place to return to with family and friends.
2. JMM Walk-In Visits Run Way Ahead
We will end 2013 with at least a 1/3 increase in overall visitors, but the gain in “walk-in” visitors is truly impressive. A “walk-in” visit is our technical designation for what many of us would call a “family visit”. It consists of one or more individuals who come to the museum just to see the museum – not part of a group, or a school or a special tour or program. In the first eight months of the year, “walk-in” visits at JMM were up 140% over the prior year. We attribute this rather dramatic change to: a) expanded hours, b) improved marketing (including some of our first radio and tv ads), and c) compelling exhibits and programs. With four special projects in 2014 – Civil War, Mah Jongg, Electrified Pickle (Tech Fair)and the A-Mazing Mendes Cohen (Maze Exhibit) – we intend to keep up the momentum
1. It’s Official: We’re Accredited AGAIN
We’ve held off making the formal announcement until this newsletter… but we are overjoyed to share the news that the American Alliance of Museums has (re)accredited the Jewish Museum of Maryland for another ten years. There are just three museums in Baltimore to be awarded accreditation by the Alliance (The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Museum and us). In making the award the Accreditation Commission stated in part “…the museum continues to meet National Standards and Best Practices for U.S. Museums and remains a member of the community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence. Through a rigorous process of self-assessment and review by its peers, the museum has shown itself to be a good steward of the resources held in public trust and committed to a philosophy of continual institutional growth.”
Here’s to our “continual institutional growth” in 2014, L’chaim and Happy New Year.