Performance Counts March 2014: Declaring Victory
The gallery has cleared. The artifacts are on their way home. Now we can assess the impact of Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War. How shall we measure the value of these last eighteen weeks?
One is always tempted to start with attendance. More than 4700 visitors came to the exhibition. This is a pace consistent with the museum’s strongest previous exhibition, despite the fact that nearly half the run of the exhibit took place in January and February (we suspect you will recall that the weather made outings more challenging in those months). The category showing the biggest year-over-year increase was “walk-in” visitors, people coming just to see the exhibit numbered more than 1000 during the period. Right behind, at 967, were visitors coming to our Sunday and evening programs.
Of course, attendance numbers aren’t the whole measure. We received both formal and anecdotal feedback to the exhibit and associated education programs. We had some very positive responses, ranging from one of the exhibit’s creators in New York praising our additions to the project, to reenactors appreciating our offering of an unusual chapter of Civil War history, to a young visitor whose mother told me he couldn’t stop talking about the 1861 tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.
As a manager, I feel obliged to mention that the exhibit was delivered on time and on budget. We have many people to thank for that but special kudos go to curator Karen Falk and researcher Todd Neeson who burned the midnight oil to prepare a quality product. I also think its remarkable that we reached our fundraising goal in spite of a late start, raising over $108,000 in just six months. Former Board president Barbara Katz and our development team (Clair Segal, Susan Press, Rachel Kassman and Deborah Cardin) deserve a lot of credit here.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t single out programs as a special area of achievement. Newcomer Trillion Attwood presented 22 programs between October and February, 15 of these on the Civil War itself. These demonstrated an enormous range of subjects – from photography to woman’s history, and wide variety of formats – living history, family days, author lectures and even dance! The strength of these offerings showed how many dimensions of discourse we could find in one exhibit’s content.
So on the whole, I would say we won the battle… but the war to take JMM to the next level continues and with many fields of combat ahead (Mah Jongg tables, pickle barrels and puzzle mazes among them) we will continue the fight. With your help, victory will be ours.