Exploring Open Source in San Francisco

Posted on March 16th, 2015 by

I was delighted to have the opportunity to take part in this year’s Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) conference taking place March 8-10 in San Francisco. Attended by more than 100 Jewish museum professionals from all over the US, Canada and Europe, this year’s conference theme, Open Source: Jewish Museums and Collaborative Culture was particularly appropriate for its setting in the Bay Area.

CAJM Conference 2015

CAJM Conference 2015

What a pleasure it was to leave gray, bleak and snowy Baltimore and to emerge from the BART station on Mission Street in San Francisco to a beautiful sunny day. Things only got better from there. Our first day was spent at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, one of our conference hosts.

exterior, The Contemporary Jewish Museum

exterior, The Contemporary Jewish Museum

Designed by Daniel Libeskind, the Museum’s design incorporates Jewish symbols and is a striking presence in the heart of a bustling commercial and cultural district. (Visit www.thecjm.org/about/building to learn more about the building)

The CJM provides many wonderful opportunities for community engagement. I was drawn to its warm and welcoming education center featuring an abundance of creative hands-on activity stations that encourage exploration.

The CJM provides many wonderful opportunities for community engagement. I was drawn to its warm and welcoming education center featuring an abundance of creative hands-on activity stations that encourage exploration.

The conference kicked off with a lively keynote address by Nina Simon, executive director of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History. Simon is known for her audience-centered approach to museum design and programming and she challenged CAJM participants to remove barriers of access that often prevent people from visiting their institutions. Her talk was one of the highlights of the conference as she presented a model for museums as participatory and experimental sites that engage in social bridging by bringing together people of different backgrounds. (You can read more about Simon’s groundbreaking views about the role of museums in her Museum 2.0 blog.)

One of my favorite aspects of CAJM conferences is the opportunity to visit other museums and San Francisco did not disappoint. Kudos to conference organizers for casting off the tradition of using buses as the primary mode of transportation and instead relying on public transportation. It was quite a feat that they managed to successfully herd dozens of conferees up and down subway platforms and onto the appropriate trains!

Sites visited included the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life where we had the chance to view Gourmet Ghettos: Modern Food Rituals, the California Historical Society and the Oakland Museum of California. Visiting the recently restored core exhibition galleries of art and history at the Oakland Museum provided inspiration for thinking about the concept of core exhibits as did a related session held that afternoon, “Getting to the Core: Options and Models”. The Museum’s executive director, Lori Fogarty, talked about the history of the project as well as its development process that actively included feedback from a wide range of community members.

A display exploring the gold rush from the new core exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California

A display exploring the gold rush from the new core exhibit at the Oakland Museum of California

One of my favorite labels ever marked the entrance to the art gallery explaining to visitors the symbols on works of art and asking that they refrain from licking the paintings!

One of my favorite labels ever marked the entrance to the art gallery explaining to visitors the symbols on works of art and asking that they refrain from licking the paintings!

By the end of the conference on Tuesday afternoon, I was simultaneously exhausted and energized and looking forward to sharing what I learned with my JMM colleagues.

Learn more about the conference HERE.

deborahA blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Performance Counts: March 2015

Posted on March 13th, 2015 by

Have you been keeping up with the Museum’s blog? If not, hopefully this month’s Performance Counts will convince you it’s a must read. I’ve asked Rachel Kassman, the Museum’s marketing manager and self-appointed “social media maven”  to share with you what makes our blog special and to give you some behind the scenes data.

~Marvin

A (Very) Little History
The JMM blog was born in the summer of 2008 as a way to follow along with the restoration of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. However it didn’t take us long to realize the blog could be so much more – a way to share all kinds of stories about the Museum, its projects, and its people. It’s also been a great way to make information easily accessible for a wide audience- for instance, did you know that each issue of Museum Matters, Performance Counts and JMM Insights is posted on the blog?

Since its birth in 2008 we’ve posted 1,300 blog posts, which averages to a post every other day.  Our longest running regular feature is the weekly “Once Upon a Time” series, which illustrates our partnership with the Baltimore Jewish Times in an effort to identify people in photographs that are part of our collection (there are 282 posts in this series – and we’re about 8 months behind the in-print version). Another regular feature is the monthly “Volunteer Spotlight” series, written by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen and usually posted on the first Monday of each month – we’re up to 15 so far and hope to eventually highlight all of our wonderful volunteers in this manner. A newer feature is the post-programs wrap up – while the posting dates for this feature are irregular we try to get them up within a few days of a public program, to give readers a feel for what they missed if they couldn’t make the program. We’ve even started recording select programs for later listening! (You can check out our very first program recording here.) These posts are also shared on the Museum’s social media platforms and selected posts are highlighted on the homepage of the JMM website to increase the potential audience.

Who’s Writing This Stuff?
Our prime blog contributors are museum staff – every month I send out a call, asking folks to sign up for an open date. Opening up blog authorship to the entire staff keeps the blog’s “voice” diverse and helps make sure we highlight and share stories and information from all areas of the Museum. I’m incredibly proud of the interesting, well-thought out content my colleagues provide every month. We also ask our interns and volunteers to join us in our blogging efforts, providing another set of perspectives on what goes on here at the JMM. Summer is an especially active time for our blog because we host anywhere from five to a dozen interns for ten full weeks, which provides plenty of opportunities for blog fodder (including intern field trips, workshops, and project updates).

Navigating The Blog
Let’s talk about tags – those are the lists of words at the bottom of every blog post:

Tags are a way to organize the content on a blog. In our case we use the tags to help identify the author and some of the main subjects included in the post. For instance, let’s say you were reading a really great post, like “Mazel Cufflinks” by Collections Manager Joanna Church. If you get to the end of the post and think, hey, this Joanna character is a really fun writer, I wonder what else she’s done…all you have to do is click on her name in the tags and you’ll find all the posts she’s written for the blog! Or maybe you caught Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon’s latest post “A Little Kindness…” which documents a surprise visit by 84 high school students and you wanted to know more about all the exciting things the education staff gets up to. Just click on “education” in the tags and you’ll get a plethora of related posts. If you’ve got a hankering for intriguing history, you should definitely explore Marvin’s tag – start with his recent President’s Day post and work your way back!

Highlights and Favorites
To round out this month’s Performance Counts I informally polled the staff for their favorite posts from the blog – and got some interesting results!

Both Assistant Director Deborah Cardin and Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon cited the Volunteer Spotlight series as their favorite feature. Deborah loves “learning interesting tidbits about our volunteers. They are an impressive bunch!” and Ilene thinks its great to see another side of them.

Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik picked “Buried Alive: Eighteenth Century Terror and a “Superstar” Jewish Doctor”, a particularly ghoulish post from Curator Karen Falk, inspired by her research for our upcoming Jews and Medicine exhibit. Programs Associate Carolyn Bevans’ pick also took a slightly macabre turn with “An Engagement Ring of a Different Color,” Collections Manager Joanna Church’s Halloween-inspired collection blog.

Joanna herself went a very different direction with her favorite. She says “Before my interview I read Deborah’s awesome post about Flat Mendes on her family vacation, and I thought, Yes, I can work there.”

Curator Karen Falk, funnily enough, found her favorite blog post through a different website entirely: Wikipedia! That’s right, in the course of doing research on Read’s Pharmacy she found a reference to Dr. Deb Weiner’s post “Read’s Drug Store: The Jewish Connection” on the Read’s Wikipedia page and followed it right back to our blog.

When I asked Marvin for his “best picks” he went above and beyond with a full Oscar-style slate! Here are his award-winning posts (from the last 6 months!):

Best comedy:  Yet More Responses from the Mendes Questions Box by Abby Krolik
Best history story: Buried Alive: Eighteenth Century Terror and a “Superstar” Jewish Doctor by Karen Falk
Best event report: Sephardic lecture by Carolyn Bevans
Best photo documentary: The Making of an Exhibit: Mendes Arrives by Deborah Cardin
Best reason to visit our website: Appreciate a Dragon Day by Rachel Kassman
Best travelogue: A European Adventure by Abby Krolik
Best biography: Volunteer Spotlight on Marty Buckman by Ilene Cohen
Best blog by an intern:  Maimonides by Barbara Israelson
Best Blog of FY ’15 (so far): It’s a tie between National Umbrella Day and National Handwriting Day, both by Joanna Church

My favorites? How can I pick – as the blog maven I feel like all the posts are special to me in their own way and I wouldn’t want to play favorites among my lovely contributors. But I will tell you my favorite post that I’ve ever written – “Appreciate a Dragon Day!” I had so much fun putting that post together that I still smile every time I look at it. I hope you’ll click on some of the links I’ve shared here and spend a little time exploring the wild and wonderful world of the JMM blog!

~Rachel Kassman, Development and Marketing Manager (aka Social Media Maven)

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




A Little Kindness Goes a Long Way……

Posted on March 11th, 2015 by

Okay, I am the first one to tell you that the winter weather has put a damper on the daily happenings at the JMM.  Over the past few weeks, field trips, outreach programs and professional development workshops for teachers were all cancelled due to school closings, icy conditions and frigid temperatures.  However, there was a “ray of sunshine” that happened last week that will keep us warm until spring comes in a few weeks.

A little ray of sunshine...

A little ray of sunshine…

Last Tuesday morning at 9:30a.m., I received a phone call from the President of Mercy High School, a Catholic school located in Baltimore City.  The faculty and 11th graders were planning a field trip that morning to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC but decided against it due to the weather forecast. They were wondering if they could bring 84 students along with the teachers and chaperones to the Jewish Museum of Maryland instead.

Museum Educator Carolyn Bevans works with students.

Museum Educator Carolyn Bevans works with students.

My first reaction-OMG!  My second reaction – I went into command mode.  I asked the teachers what the students were learning about with regard to Holocaust studies.  I spoke to the JMM’s education staff and volunteers about the possibility of hosting such a large group and the logistics behind hosting the group.  We were all in agreement to “go for it” and within the hour we welcomed Mercy  High School to the JMM!

Lives Lost: Lives Found- Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1939-1945 photo activity.

Lives Lost: Lives Found- Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1939-1945 photo activity.

We divided the group into two sections. One group visited the Lloyd Street Synagogue and learned about the history of the building and the different immigrant groups that used the building, which was used as a Catholic Church at the beginning of the 20th century.  The students also learned about Jewish rituals and customs that take place inside the synagogue.  The other group stayed inside the Museum and watched a short movie about the JMM’s exhibition, Lives Lost: Lives Found- Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1939-1945. Following the movie, the students looked at images that were depicted in the exhibition and used critical thinking skills to find meaning in the posters.  After an hour, the groups flip-flopped so that everyone had an opportunity to participate in both activities.

Visiting the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Visiting the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

The education staff was pleased with the decision to host the group, especially in this instance when the bad weather was to our advantage.  With all school groups, we give the teacher an evaluation form to fill out about the education experience.   I received the evaluation form back from the teachers but I also received this lovely email… along with lovely posies……  A little kindness  really does go a long way….

IMG_20150307_120933901Dear Ilene,

Many thanks for the warm welcome you extended to our 84 Mercy High School juniors, faculty and parents today!  I am deeply grateful to you and your staff and volunteers for offering a wonderfully enriching experience to our students with less than an hour’s notice!  I learned today that most, if not all, of the students visiting the museum had never been inside a synagogue.  What a gift you gave to them!

I hope that this is the beginning of a new partnership for Mercy High School with the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  In the meantime, if we can be of service to you, please do not hesitate to call upon us.

Best regards,

Mary Beth Lemmon ‘85

President, Mercy High School

 

ileneA blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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