Posted on May 15th, 2015 by Rachel
JMM has always prided itself on its small, dedicated team of outstanding professionals. It’s amazing what a dozen people can do, when you have great talent supported by strong volunteers and lay leadership.
This month has brought two new members to the team to existing/future vacancies. I thought that we’d use this issue of JMM Insights to introduce Tracie Guy-Decker, our new Associate Director for Projects, Planning and Finance, and Graham Humphrey who will replace Abby Krolik as Visitor Services Manager. I am really excited to have Tracie and Graham on board and I know you will join me in welcoming them into our family. I have asked them both to tell a bit of their own stories.
My great great grandmother, Dora Bachrach Fink, was a member of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation when it was in the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Now that I am Associate Director at JMM, every day, I sit at a computer that is but yards from the place my ancestors worshipped more than a century ago. Working for JMM is also a homecoming for me professionally—a return to working with and for the Jewish community. (I served as the Marketing Director for the Jewish Federation and the JCC in Virginia Beach until my husband, a Chief Petty Officer in the US Navy, received orders that moved us to Maryland.)
Tracie and her husband Dave.
This is an exciting time for JMM, and I’m honored and humbled to be able to be a part of it. My colleagues are smart, funny, capable professionals, and under Marvin’s leadership the Museum is on a trajectory to become a center for Jewish and secular history and culture in Baltimore—not tomorrow, but soon. I’m excited to lend my skills, expertise, and experience to that trajectory (and to learn new skills along the way!). I’m also excited to be able to share this amazing resource with my daughter, Ruth (3 years old). The Museum family will watch Ruth and the Museum grow together over the next several years.
Ruth enjoying the rocket seats at Patterson Park
I’m also heartened by the welcome I’ve received from all of the friends of the Museum thus far—professionals, lay leaders, volunteers, members, and visitors have all been amazingly friendly and helpful as I learn my way around (literally and figuratively). I’d love the opportunity to reciprocate that welcome: if you’re in the Museum, please stop by. You can tell me your story of the Museum or the Lloyd Street Synagogue, we could play “Jewish Geography,” or just say ‘hi,’ I’m here Monday through Thursday, and will never turn down a cup of coffee.
Hello! My name is Graham Humphrey and I was recently hired to be the new Visitor Services Coordinator to replace Abby Krolik after she leaves the Museum at the end of the month to continue her studies. I received my MA in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University and my BA from Brandeis University in Art History. For the past seven years, I have been working at museums, aboard sailboats and at National Park sites in visitor services, education, development and collections management. I have gotten to lead experiential education programs while dressed up in period costume at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, teach basic seamanship to students aboard the schooner the Lady Maryland and work with goats at the Carl Sandburg Home in North Carolina. In my free time, I enjoy visiting other museums and historic sites, exploring the great outdoors, attending cultural events and staying involved within the Jewish community.
I am excited about continuing to make the Jewish Museum a welcoming environment and to ensure that visitors have a rewarding experience. I also hope to encourage public discourse about contemporary issues, explore how we can engage new audiences as well as serve as agents for social change in our community.
Marvin’s note: We don’t plan I having Graham work with goats… but a “Jewish pirates sail”, well who knows what is possible.
Posted on May 13th, 2015 by Rachel
A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) conference in Atlanta, Georgia. Along with several thousand other museum curators, educators, administrators, registrars, developers, and – of course – collections managers, I enjoyed four days of camaraderie, discussion, ideas, and food both mediocre (sorry, official conference hotel’s catering) and excellent (thank you, Mary Mac’s Tea Room). Atlanta inaugurated a city-wide Museum Week to coincide with the conference, and many local venues and organizations sent their ‘mascots’ to the Georgia World Congress Center to welcome the attendees.
I’m not personally a fan of costumed mascots, but I couldn’t resist posing with Zhu Zhu from Zoo Atlanta.
There are many museum conferences to attend each year, from local to national to international. Among those options, AAM positions itself as one of the ‘big ones,’ and indeed many of the session topics relate to the concerns of extremely large, influential, and well-known institutions. However, in recent years they’ve made a push to serve museums on the other end of the scale. That gives those of us with smaller staffs and budgets a chance to meet with our cohorts from across the country, discuss topics relevant to our needs, gather info about current trends, and learn useful tips on applying those trends that we can steal borrow from our fellows. There is a certain chip-on-our-shoulders attitude common to small-to-mid-size museum employees at a gathering like this one; in one session, geared toward historical societies and similarly not-exactly-the-Met museums, a presenter unwisely said: “Well, we only have 15 full-time staff.” The audience did not feel her pain. (It was a very useful session, though.)
Conferences are a great chance to catch up with old friends, network with new ones, buy topical books at a discount, and gather as much information, contacts, and swag from the Expo Hall as you can….
The accidental theme of the only photos I took at the conference: Bears. This fine fellow was in the Expo Hall.
…Oh, and attend sessions, right! The actual point of the conference! I went to lots of sessions about artifact and archival collections, of course, with themes ranging from the philosophical to the practical. In keeping with the conference’s theme, “The Social Value of Museums: Inspiring Change,” the keynote speaker, Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole, roused the crowd with her call to action: Broadening the diversity of museums’ content, audiences, boards, and staff. And, on the morning of Tuesday, April 28th – after a Monday evening spent watching the news as events unfolded back in Baltimore – a packed meeting room discussed the lessons learned by the Missouri History Center in the wake of Ferguson, and the ways in which museums in Baltimore and other cities can respond to and reflect on their communities’ needs.
As always, I returned from the conference with a bag full of notes, brochures, books, free pens, and far too many new ideas to implement all at once. The challenge is to maintain that enthusiastic “we can do it!” impetus in the face of the day-to-day realities of museum work. But I’m so glad to be working in a museum like the JMM, an organization that welcomes those ideas, encourages that enthusiasm, and is ready to respond positively and proactively to the Maryland community.
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts from Joanna click HERE.
Posted on May 12th, 2015 by Rachel
A JMM “pop-up” exhibit, “In Every Generation” explores Jewish involvement in the struggle for justice
“On Friday, May 1st, we brought the Jewish community together and marched in solidarity with our neighbors to City Hall, where we rallied in the name of #JusticeForFreddie. ” Donated by Jews United For Justice, Baltimore Chapter. Photo by Marc Shapiro/Baltimore Jewish Times.
Monday, April 27 was my fifth day on the job as the new Associate Director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. It was also the day that the protests over Freddie Gray’s death turned violent.
That Thursday, just three days after the riots in Baltimore, my first staff meeting at the JMM had a very different agenda than originally planned. For my new colleagues and me, regular museum business simply couldn’t compete with what was happening in our city.
Marvin told us he thought the historical community in the region should band together and create some sort of response to what was going on, but that he was having a hard time coordinating with his counterparts.
Ilene Dackman-Alon, the Education Director, asked “Why can’t we just do something on our own?” and “Yes, let’s do something,” immediately echoed around the table. I felt a surge of pride to be the newest member of this team that is not willing to “wait for the dust to settle.” I was grateful, too, that my professional role would give me this concrete way to respond to the unrest in my beloved hometown.
Created by The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, April 2015.
In an email to friends of the Museum later that day, Marvin wrote, the “Jewish Museum of Maryland is committed to being a part of the healing process. As keepers of an important piece of the community’s records, we know that our history has the ability to show us what we have overcome and to strengthen our will to build a better future.”
Within days, JMM Collections Manager, Joanna Church, had put together a short list of photographs and artifacts from the Museum’s collections. From that list the exhibit’s ad hoc committee (of which I was honored and humbled to be a member) selected the most appropriate materials to display. We also reached out to local activist groups, including Jews United for Justice, in an effort to collect and document the current situation.
”Soviet Jews protest their oppression demand their freedom let my people go.” A group of young men working on protest posters at the JCC, January 1973. Photo by Sussman Photography, JMM 2006.13.1553.
In her call for materials for the exhibit, Joanna wrote, “we hope this exhibit will facilitate discussion among our visitors, both of past movements and current events…most importantly, the exhibit includes space for visitors’ thoughts, stories, and contributions.”
The exhibit is now on display in the lobby of the Museum. We’re calling it “In Every Generation,” and we’ve included artifacts and photographs from the 1860s, 1910s, 1930s, 1960s, 1980s and 2015. We’ve set up a guest book (which will become a part of the museum’s permanent collection) for visitors to record their thoughts, reactions and stories. We’ve also left a little room, expecting that we may need to add to the materials on display.
Freedom Seder, c.2000s. JMM 2013.044
To donate materials to “In Every Generation,” contact Joanna Church, Collections Manager, at email@example.com. The Museum will also accept digital submissions through the use of #InEveryGeneration on social media. Digital collections will be shared with the public via the Museum’s Facebook page, fb.com/jewishmuseummd.
A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker.