Summer Reading

Posted on July 20th, 2018 by

JMM Insights: July 2018

In my youth this was the time of year you went out to the beach and curled up with a book under an umbrella. But these days, both vacations and attention spans seem shorter so maybe sitting in your backyard with a tablet will have to suffice.  If you do I encourage you to spend some time with the JMM blog posts – short stories, (mostly) non-fiction that explore topics related to our collections, our exhibits and American Jewish history. 

If you haven’t visited our blog posts before, summer is a great time to start.  Our regular crew of staff and volunteer bloggers has an infusion of talent from our summer interns – great writers in training.  I recently re-read Ellie Smith’s post on her internship experience (and it reminded me of the excitement I felt when I first started in museums thirty years ago.  I have asked Rachel to share some other highlights of what you’ll find on our site.


Did you know there are over 2,000 posts on the JMM blog?!? That’s a bit overwhelming for anyone’s to-read pile, even a digital one. So below are some great starting points for exploring all of the great content we’ve been creating – I’ve shared 5 of my favorites below along with some suggestions from two of my newest colleagues at the Museum!

As the blog manager I’m always excited when Marvin signs up for a post, because I know I’m going to learn something new and often unexpected! His most recent post on a meeting with Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith is a fun look at how many of the best stories and pieces of history our discovered – through coincidence.

But I think my favorite post from Marvin might be this one from a year ago – “Originalism” Run Amuck, which connects objects from our collection to American history and current events still relevant now.

I also strongly recommend reading Joanna’s recent post A Single Suitcase. As our director of collections and exhibits, Joanna Church has a wonderful talent for telling the stories of objects in our collections – in this post she uses a suitcase to help illustrate the story of one family’s trials to rescue their parents and create a new life in America.

This spring, director of learning and visitor engagement Ilene Dackman-Alon wrote a post that touches on the core of how we think about museums here at JMM – as places to connect. She shared her experience at this year’s Council of American Jewish Museums conference and following along with her adventure made it a learning experience even for those unable to attend the conference.

And you definitely don’t want to miss the post that kicked off our #MugShotMonday campaign: But First, Coffee! from deputy director Tracie Guy-Decker. This post has it all – a personal story, a book recommendation, a tie to our collections, and a boost for our social media channels; there’s something for everyone!

Paige Woodhouse, our visitor services coordinator, picked one of my favorite blog post series – intern posts! From Paige:

“JMM’s Interns bring a new voice and a fresh perspective to the daily “behind the scenes” of the Museum. My favorite blog posts of late (I have two) both come from interns providing a “behind the scenes” look at the work done at the JMM. Marisa brilliantly described the way our education team works to develop educational programming in Zen and the Art of Education Programming. Ash provided some thoughtful insight into her work with our scrapbook collection in Unfolding Narratives – Scrapbooks and Their Interactive Stories. Interested in reading more from our interns? Take a look here.”

And I love this selection from director of development Tracey Dorfmann, which really shows the power of digital and also includes a book recommendation:

“I just celebrated my year anniversary of living in Baltimore.  As a resident “tourist” I love to research the city’s history. While pursuing information about Druid Hill Park I encountered a photo of sheep grazing in the park in the early 1900s. (Sheep grazed there until 1945.) A Google search lead me to source of the image ––I was thrilled to discover that it came from the JMM database (!) and was part of a JMM blog post by our Director of Collections, Joanna Church. In her blog post she discussed a young adult novel entitled The Hired Girl. Her post inspired me to read this short historical fiction piece with an eye out for Baltimore landmarks and as a possible gift for the young adult readers in my family. Joanna did a terrific job illustrating that time period in Baltimore’s Jewish history by aligning JMM database images with scenes that take place in the story. Enjoy!”

Just in case you’ve missed a few e-newsletters here and there, you can also read past issues of both JMM Insights and Performance Counts! over on the blog. Don’t delay – catch up on your summer reading and explore our treasure trove.

Happy Reading!


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Intern Weekly Response: Social Media

Posted on July 19th, 2018 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them explore the world of social media. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


~Intern Cara

While I was a little late to the Instagram game (I joined in 2014) it has quickly become my favorite social media platform. I’m a very visual person and I love scrolling through my newsfeed (which to be honest mostly consists of food blogs) of carefully staged, edited, and filtered photos. My favorite posts are a combo of artistic photos, clever captions, and the perfect selection of emojis and hashtags. I think JMM’s social media manager, Rachel Kassman has done an awesome job with our Instagram account. Her voice and sense of humor shines through without overpowering the voice of the museum. My favorite series of posts are #MugShotMonday. I love the hashtag and think it’s a really clever way to show off the many coffee mugs JMM has for sale in its gift shop. I also love the variety of posts. The account features everything from objects and documents in our collections to the various projects staff and interns are working on.

One of many fun #MugShotMonday posts.

Currently the JMM’s Instagram account has a relatively small following (last I checked we were at 564 followers). I think a great way for the JMM to increase in engagement and its fanbase would be to follow other like-minded institutions on Instagram and its other social media platforms.  The National Museum of Jewish American History in Philadelphia (@americanjewishmuseum) and The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco (@jewseum) are both great accounts for the JMM to follow.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s Instagram feed.

#TweetMe @jewishmuseummd

~Intern Alexia

Interaction with the public is extremely important for museums. Now days museums can engage with their visitors through social media. Social media allows museums to have a personality and intermingle with its audience in a more relaxed way. This also allows museums to know its main audience and expand it. But social media accounts do not only help museums make connections with their visitors, it also allows museums to form relationships with other institutions. Through social media museums can also participate in conversations of current events. One of the ways the Jewish Museum of Maryland interacts with their audience is through their twitter account (@jewishmuseummd).

Jewish Museum of Maryland twitter page.

One the things I like the most of the JMM’s twitter account is how it keeps the audience updated on the exhibits and current events. The museum does this by keeping it’s posts short and adding a picture that catches the viewers’ eye. An example of this would be the museum’s promotion of Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini To promote the exhibit the museum interacted with its audience by asking questions and showing snippets of the exhibit.

#TravelTuesday Tweet.

My favorite way in which the JMM’s twitter account interacts with its audience is when it shares parts of the Museum’s collection. One of the way the JMM shares its collection is with #TravelTuesday. Every Tuesday the JMM shares an artifact of their connection that is related to traveling. The tweets often have a small background of the artifact and a picture, which allows the viewer to learn a new fun fact or interesting topic. #TravelTuesday also allows the Museum to make connections with their current exhibitions: Inescapable and Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore.

Jewish Museum of Maryland tweet about Inescapable.

Don’t forget to follow the JMM’s twitter account (@jewishmuseummd) and let us know what your favorite part of our exhibits is!

If you enjoy the JMM’s twitter account be sure to check out the Wellcome Collection’s twitter account @ExploreWellcome and the Victoria & Albert’s twitter account @V_and_A. Both accounts constantly interact with their audiences through their collections on twitter by making them relatable to them. The accounts also engage with their audience and other museums in a relaxed way.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s Use of Tumblr

~Intern Marisa

After spending some time investigating our beautifully laid out and designed Tumblr account, I came to the realization that a large amount of our posts on Tumblr are links to our blog, or the same posts on our Facebook page. I think some would say that this reuse of content is a bad thing, but I based upon my knowledge of Tumblr, I believe that it taps into a completely different audience than our Facebook. While our Facebook connects with anyone who has liked our page (or in some cases a similar page), on Tumblr the tagging system makes it so anyone searching a shared tag may stumble accidentally upon our posts. Additionally, Facebook and Tumblr attract different audiences, and thus, the duplicate posts do serve the museum well.

Image: JMM Tumblr

My favorite post on our Tumblr, currently, is actually something that doesn’t fall into those two categories. Namely, this was a link to a reading list of books about Jewish women in the LGBTQIA+ community. One of my biggest passions is reading, recommending, and championing diverse literature: the books that are forgotten, ignored, and not often taught in academic institutions. I was thrilled to see the museum taking similar steps on our Tumblr and raising awareness of these books.

Overall, I would say that our Tumblr, right now, is a second platform for the posts we write for Facebook, and since Tumblr often attracts a different audience, I think this is a good use of our account. However, Tumblr is also an exciting space in which we can recommend reading, whether books or articles, share different items from our collection, and make connections/collaborations with other local (or even distant) museums.

Marisa’s recommended Museum Tumblrs:

The New York Public Library: 

Image: NYPL

Libraries are just museums that are filled with books, right? I’m just kidding, but seriously,  in addition to being a filming location of the original Ghostbusters and a hub for intellectual curiosity, the NYPL does have rotating exhibitions (most notably right now an exhibit on Shared Sacred Sites). The NYPL Tumblr does a great job of balancing reading lists, library events, and items from their collection.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art:

Image: Philly Museum of Art

The Philadelphia Museum of Art is sharing their exquisite, extensive, and myriad collection on their Tumblr. What I particularly like about their Tumblr are their posts that collect several works of art that are connected by a particular theme. Like this post about waterfalls for instance. Where they can, they also offer multiple, detailed photos that draw the reader’s attention, like this post about a shield painted in 1535. Their Tumblr also provides reminders about upcoming events and serves as an additional outlet to reach new and continuing visitors.

Instagram and Nuggets of History

~Intern Ash

The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s Instagram page is filled with little nuggets of Baltimore and Maryland history. From old black and white photographs to pictures of us current interns, the JMM focuses its Instagram page mostly on happenings around the museum and historic photographs from its collections.

Out of the more recent posts on the JMM’s Instagram page, the ones that I feel are doing the best put a spotlight on some part of Maryland or Baltimore history, and teach me something I didn’t know before. The Hendlers Ice Cream posts, especially this one, taught me a bit about the history and advertising of ice cream in the early to mid-1900s in Baltimore. I didn’t think I would find a description of a “Kewpie,” a cherubic illustrated character, on the JMM’s page, and so this nugget of information surprised me. The small Kewpie illustrations that dot the Hendlers Ice Cream posts are fun and give a joyful energy to the JMM Instagram page.

Image of said “Kewpie,” illustrated and signed by Rose O’Neill, via the JMM Collections (1990.180.003). Gift of Maxine Cohen.

Seeing how much I like the Kewpies, I would like to see more little tidbits of Maryland and Jewish history in the JMM’s Instagram captions. Because the JMM’s Instagram page has a focus on historic photographs and documents (as opposed to other museums that may be illustration or art-heavy), I feel like the descriptions become very important to the viewer’s connection and accessibility to the artifact and its history.

For example, this photo really caught my eye, but the information given about it was that it was of “Shari Cohen and Lisa Vopell at the 1979 Jewish Festival! JMM 1992.108.59.” To outsiders hoping to connect or learn more, I think the names, festival, and number might not be recognizable without further information.

Museums can also take distinct approaches on how to use Instagram as a platform. Two museums that I feel are worth looking at for their Instagram, and take different but fun approaches, are The Contemporary Jewish Museum (@jewseum) and The Wellcome Collection (@wellcomecollection). The Contemporary Jewish Museum posts only once every few days, and makes the most of it, using Instagram mainly as a platform for advertising their events and exhibits through high-quality photos. The Wellcome Collection, on the other hand, uses its page as almost a digital look through their collection, while creating a whacky sort of personality through their descriptions and content. They also do a good job of providing ample information (or just enough, depending on the post) while still dividing it up in a digestible way for viewers. As shown with these different accounts, Instagram can become an additional medium to connect with an audience, whether it’s used to advertise, educate, or start a conversation within a museum community.

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Finding MY Stories at JMM

Posted on July 18th, 2018 by

By collections/exhibits intern Cara Bennet. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

When I first started my internship at the JMM I noticed that a large portion of the museum’s collections and stories focus on the greater Baltimore area. As someone who grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. I kept asking myself how I fit into this museum. I’m a Jew. I grew up in Maryland. Where’s my story? It took a little more digging but in the past few weeks I’ve stumbled across several objects, places, and stories that have made me think “Oh I know this! This is familiar to me! This is relevant to my life and my history.”

One of these illuminating moments happened a few weeks ago as I was updating the exhibition script for Just Married! Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland. I’m currently working on turning the physical exhibit which was on view at the JMM last summer into an online exhibit. As I was reviewing the script, I stumbled across a label about Claire Dratch Bridal Salon, which is located in Bethesda, MD (where I grew up) and happens to be where my mom bought her wedding dress. I had grown up hearing the name Claire Dratch and had vague memories of passing the salon in downtown Bethesda but had never realized its cultural and historical significance. I had no idea that Clare Bacharach Dratch was Jewish, had escaped Nazi Germany, and went on to start a successful business, outfitting generations of local brides (including my mom).

My parents on their wedding day.

Another enlightening moment happened the other day as I was browsing a list of Maryland synagogues in PastPerfect. Most of the synagogues were unfamiliar to me because I grew up just outside of Washington, D.C. Most of my Jewish friends belonged to synagogues in D.C. and my family continued to attend Temple Sinai (also in DC) even after we moved to Maryland. Since my dad also grew up in Maryland I was curious if he had belonged to any of the synagogues on the list. He told me that while he never belonged to one synagogue (his family jumped around for high holidays and Hebrew school) he and my uncle both had their Bar Mitzvahs at Temple Beth-El in Bethesda. I found another family connection!

My Dad and Uncle’s Bar Mitzvah invitations.

I love that the JMM’s exhibits focus mainly on the stories of individuals not just famous or influential figures. While it is certainly important for museums to highlight significant historic figures whenever possible, it is equally important to shed light on the stories of everyday people and communities. These stories are much more relatable and relevant and allow visitors to see their own stories and family histories within the exhibits. The JMM’s exhibits do a great job of highlighting the voices and stories of Maryland’s Jewish community and making them relatable and accessible to a wide audience.

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