Postcards for Paige: Fall 2018

Posted on September 21st, 2018 by

Welcome to the third edition of our quarterly feature, “Postcards for Paige,” giving us a chance to answer commonly asked questions about how to make the most out of your visit to the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

(All the answers are real, the postcards are dubious… but these days, who knows?)


Calling all shutterbugs!

Heya Paige,

My relatives are coming to visit from California and I have been researching things to do around Baltimore with them. I saw an advertisement for Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini in a magazine and think it’s a perfect fit for the whole family. My nieces are always on their phones and taking photos to share with their friends. So, my big question is … can we take photos in the exhibit?

~Hopeful Host

Hi Hopeful,

I encourage you and your family to take photos while you explore Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini! Just one small rule, please make sure your camera/phone has the flash turned off. However, like most rules, this rule comes with one exception. Nearing the end of the exhibit, in Houdini’s Final Act, you have the opportunity to take a Spirit Photo. Before you stand on the feet and get in selfie-taking position, you will need to make sure your flash is on. Remember once you have seen the spirit appear, turn the flash off again to keep snapping those photos.

Don’t forget to share photos with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using #MagicAtJMM or #Inescapable. I can’t wait to see what you discover in the exhibit. Make sure to visit before the exhibit disappears on January 21, 2019.  

~Paige


Listen to your mother: put on a sweater!

Paige,

I consider myself to be a museum frequent-flyer. I love my Lombard Street Club membership at the JMM because it provides reciprocal entry to several other Jewish and local Baltimore museums. I dropped by the JMM recently and was glad that I wore my cardigan because it was cool inside the exhibits. I’ve noticed this at other museums as well.  Can you help me solve the mystery of why museums are often so frigid?

~Frosty Fayvel 

Hi Fayvel,

I am happy to shed some light on this mystery for you. The collections at the JMM are incredibly diverse. These objects are composed of many different materials, including: leather, metal, wood, stone, and paper. In fact, most objects are composed of multiple materials. These materials age and deteriorate at different rates. The JMM works to prevent the deterioration of the objects in our care. One way of doing this is through the control of the environment in which our objects are stored and exhibited. There are a variety of environmental factors that play a role in causing deterioration, such as light, temperature, pollutants, pests, and humidity. Fluctuations in temperature (and its partner-in-crime humidity) can have damaging effects on materials and speed up their deterioration. While high temperatures promote chemical and physical reactions causing deterioration, cooler temperatures allow materials to stay in a stable state and decreases deterioration.

Therefore, we purposefully keep any spaces with objects at a consistent, cooler temperature to best care for our collection for generations to come.

As far as clothing choices go, layers are your best friend at museums.

~Paige


You Already Belong – Make it Official!

Hi Paige,

I’ve been to a few of the Museum’s programs and I think that I am hooked. I have been repeatedly impressed with how informative and entertaining the speakers on Sundays are. Is it true if I decide to become a member after the program finishes, that I can apply my previously purchased tickets towards the cost of a new membership?

~Hooked

Dear Hooked,

It sounds to me that you already belong to the Jewish Museum of Maryland community, so let’s make it official! By choosing to join, you help make all we do possible – from our changing exhibits to our fascinating programming.

It is true! If you have purchased tickets for a program, you are able to apply the cost of those tickets to your membership if your membership is purchased on the same day. Following the program, just drop by the Front Desk or Esther’s Place and a team member would be happy to help. Then, you can immediately begin to take advantage of your membership benefits! Like receiving a 10% discount on the book that you just heard the author talk about.

So why don’t you join us?

~Paige


Have your own question for Paige? Send her a message at pwoodhouse@jewishmuseummd.org.

To read more posts from Paige, click here!

 

 

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Mise en place: Preparedness in the Classroom

Posted on September 20th, 2018 by

A blog post by Museum Educator (and former JMM intern) Marisa Shultz! To read more posts from Marisa, click here.

Cara Bennet’s pop-up exhibit Just Desserts: Baking and Jewish Identity (which is on display here at the Museum until September 27th), inspired me to think about the relationship between cooking and teaching!

Whether it’s kneading challah, baking kugel, or folding hamantaschen, I really love to cook; it’s an activity I take part in almost every day, save for when I have leftovers from the night before. To me, cooking creates a sense of togetherness and connection, both with those whom you are cooking for, and with the author of the recipe. Plus, little is better than enjoying the fruit of one’s labors in the form of a homemade meal (and yes, that pun was intended!).

These are hamantaschen that my friends and I made while we were living in Prague, Czechia a few years ago. It was a wonderful shared experience, and I got to learn about how different Jewish communities celebrate Purim.

Have you ever heard of the term mise en place? It’s a fancy French term they teach aspiring chefs in culinary school that roughly means “everything in its place.” For the chef, this means not only having already chopped, measured, and prepared all of the necessary ingredients before even beginning a recipe, but also having all of the necessary equipment (even the humble tea towel), in their designated spaces. Plus, this means that the chef has read the recipe at least once or twice, understands what needs to happen, and has already essentially choreographed his/her movements to ensure that everything goes smoothly while cooking.

Now, I’ll admit, I don’t always cook or bake with the idea of mise en place in mind; in fact I’m pretty bad at it. There I am panicking in the kitchen, simultaneously counting the seven cups of flour that goes into my challah recipe while trying to remember what ingredient goes into the mixer next! Luckily for me, this organized chaos approach, has worked well for me most of my life, and I’ve only ever had to throw out one batch of challah dough.

This is challah dough that I braided into a round shape for my family’s Rosh Hashanah celebration. I started making challah from scratch about a year ago, and I am so glad I took the plunge! Luckily for me, this one came out perfectly, despite my organized chaos in the kitchen.

But, when it comes to teaching a class or leading and educational program, I don’t like taking those kinds of risks. I don’t want students’ experiences to be marred by a lesson or program that I stumble over because I wasn’t prepared when they walked through the door. When it comes to teaching, I adopt this concept of mise en place. This doesn’t mean that there won’t be things that have to be adjusted or even changed on the spot. Flexibility is still an important and necessary piece of the education puzzle; however, this approach does mean that I can prepare a great deal ahead of time to help the program run smoothly. To do so means not having to worry about those things while actively teaching. This means that before the students have walked through the door, I have double checked that we have enough materials for the expected number of students, and that all of my materials are in their places for swift and easy access. This means that I have reviewed the steps to the program and my own choreography.

What is so great, I have found, is that when I approach teaching with the concept of mise en place, those worries of how much time should I give them in the exhibit, or did I remember to bring my answer key to the orientation space, all melt away. What I am left with is the ability to focus on the students’ learning and to enjoy the experience.

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Measuring Memories, Nurturing Upstanders

Posted on September 14th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Tracie, click here.


From the Collections: Cloth tape measure used at Pell’s Tailoring Shop, Baltimore, MD. JMM 1995.83.12

Back in December of 2017, this newsletter talked about how we measure the Museum. In that edition of Performance Counts, I let you know that we had begun a memorability study of the Museum. To refresh your memory, one of the measures of quality of a museum is its memorability.

To help explain what we mean by memorability, I will reiterate an anecdote that Marvin often tells. Museum guru John Falk was once challenged at a lecture by a teacher who argued field trips were too expensive and simply didn’t provide enough return on investment. John invited this educator to remember a museum field trip that he had taken as a child. The teacher provided a detailed description of a grade school trip to the Museum of Science and Industry (one of Marvin’s alma maters), and his journey into the Coal Mine exhibit there. John then asked what the man had learned in school the day after the field trip, or the next week? or that month? As you might imagine, the story of classroom learning was not nearly as forthcoming.

Our ongoing efforts to *measure* our memorability involve us collecting visitor information while they’re here and then calling them three months after their visit. Our post-visit phone call is a combination survey and conversation. Our colleagues at the Associated have been making these calls on our behalf. The first wave of calls happened in December of 2017 to visitors who had been onsite in September.

For this first wave, forty-one visitors shared their info for future follow up. Of those, fifteen were reached through thirteen telephone interviews. The Key findings indicate:

14 out of 15 visitors are extremely satisfied with their overall museum experience.

Comments to explain the high ratings include the following:
• Nice tour guide
• Interesting experience
• Met people there and we showed them around

And 14 out of 15 respondents are very likely to recommend.

Comments include:
• “I already recommended; I loved the exhibit”
• “History brought back a lot of memories”
• “It’s your culture, you want to learn more”

Visitors remember many details, and like the connections to history and their lives.

Perhaps even more important than the memorability of the Museum, is its capacity to inspire action. I’ve written before about how the Museum experience has the power to make visitors into better human beings—to make them upstanders instead of bystanders.

In the three months between their visit and their telephone interviews, our visitors remember engaging in follow up activities from conversation to creation, and of course, one of our favorites, planning a repeat visit!

I know that most visitors to JMM are not becoming community activists as a result of their time with us. It’s also clear from the study we’re undertaking that the after-effects of a positive museum experience spur new thinking, new conversations, new learning, and sometimes even the creation of all new things like art, literature, and curricula. And if one in a hundred or even one in a thousand of our visitors converts their experience here into new ways to improve their corner of the world, I’d say we’re doing something right.

We’re currently collecting visitor information, and intend to do wave 2 of interviews about three months from now. I look forward to sharing the results with you as they come in.

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