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The Value of Our Visitors’ Voices

Posted on December 13th, 2019 by

In this month’s Performance Counts, Paige Woodhouse gives a behind-the-scenes look at one of the most important ways we evaluate our work. To read more posts from Paige, click here!

Performance Counts: December 2019

Often in Performance Counts we look at the data – the numbers. Tracie Guy-Decker shared in Quantitively and Qualitatively Measuring the Museum and Measuring Memory, Nurturing Upstanders about how data is an important tool for evaluating how we, as a museum, are doing. For this Performance Counts, let’s take a behind-the-scenes look at how we the develop tools to collect data and measure the Museum from the visitor’s point of view.

After an exhibit, our team gets together to discuss the project. We look back at our goals for the exhibit and measure how we did. What were our successes? Where are opportunities for us to improve? Were there any unexpected outcomes? There are lots of perspectives from different departments represented in these meetings – programs, education, curatorial, to name a few. But there is one voice, which is the most valuable, that can’t be left out. That’s your voice. The visitor’s voice.

For Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling, we want to hear from you about your experience of our new original exhibit. We created a survey as a tool to collect this data. Planning began months ago when Fashion Statement was still on display. There were five steps to this project:

(1) Establish Goals. What did we want to achieve with the survey? Originally, we want to see if visitors were taking away what we consider to be the main themes of the exhibit. We also want to learn about people’s overall experience of the exhibit. Following piloting our questions, we added one more goal – to learn what motivated people to see the exhibit.

(2) Develop Questions. There are many ways to ask a question. There are some best practices to question writing too. We learned that it is better to keep our questions simple and to avoid museum jargon/terminology (When talking about the things you can do in the exhibit, “Hands-on Activity” is better than “Interactive”).

Intern Hannah with our pilot survey for Fashion Statement this summer.

(3) Pilot Questions. We piloted our survey during the Fashion Statement exhibit. Our great team of summer interns took turns asking visitors to complete a survey for a complimentary gift. We collected 36 surveys. This wasn’t enough data to foster meaningful insight about the Fashion Statement exhibit, but it was enough to see which questions were working and which were falling flat.

(4) Re-Evaluate Questions. After analyzing the data collected during our pilot, we made a few changes to our questions. For example, we asked visitors “How much do you feel you know about fashion history in Maryland” and provided them a scale from one to ten. When looking at the data, the responses were vague (what does a 4 mean?). We changed the question to be “How much do you feel you know about the scrap industry before visiting the exhibit?” We ask visitors to circle one of the following options: nothing, a little, average, more than average, a lot. These responses are more clearly defined.

Have you taken the survey yet? (Did you know you get a cool Scrap Yard magnet when you do?)

(5) Implement Survey. This brings us to the present. Since the opening of Scrap Yard on October 27th, our team has been asking visitors to complete a survey at the end of their visit. To date, we have collected 105 surveys. These surveys provide you, our visitor, with a voice. They give you a chance to tell us about yourself and why you chose to visit. You can tell us what you liked, what you weren’t so keen on, and what you learned.

This process doesn’t end at step five. After the exhibit ends, we will analyze the data, interpret it, and apply what we have learned. After all, evaluation is about learning. These surveys are another tool for us to collect data and measure we are doing, celebrate successes, and make improvements. It also reinforces the person behind the number. The stories shared, the connections made, and the actions taken.

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Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Surprising Connections

Posted on December 12th, 2019 by

A blog post by Director of Collections and Exhibits Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

Sometimes the best way to come up with a potential blog topic is to look up the date your post is due, and let Wikipedia data lead you astray.  For example, here are birthdays for December 12. A quick glance down the list showed me a few familiar names, reminding me that I actually already knew that 12/12 is Frank Sinatra’s birthday, and adding the fun fact that he shares it with his friend Sammy Davis, Jr.  Speaking of old Hollywood, December 12 is also Edward G. Robinson’s birthday, and I remembered that oddly enough we have a few photos of the actor in our collections.  (I noticed them some years ago because he’d been misidentified by a young intern who, bless their heart, did not spend all of high school watching Turner Classic Movies, like me.)

Harry Diamond, left, and Edward G. Robinson, right. From the Harry Diamond collection, anonymous donor. JMM 1989.80.41

In this undated photo by Baltimore photographer Nat Lipsitz, Harry Diamond and Edward G. Robinson examine a piece of paper; both are wearing large “Israel Bonds” tags on their lapels.  Robinson (1913-1972), a Jewish actor (born Emanuel Goldenberg in Romania) known for his ‘tough guy’ persona on screen, was a major supporter of Israel Bonds. In the 1950s and ‘60s he was a regular performer at the Chanukah Festival for Israel, held at Madison Square Gardens, culminating in the celebration of his 75th birthday, December 12, 1968, on stage at the event (held four days later, on December 16th); tributes from President Lyndon B. Johnson and Premier Levi Eshkol of Israel, congratulating him on his years of service to Israel Bonds, were read aloud that evening. This work was an extension of his efforts during and after WWII, when he used his movie stardom to publicize the plight of refugees – such as in this 1948 short, “Where Do You Get Off?”

All that being said, though it’s not surprising to see Robinson in an Israel Bonds-themed image, the specific Baltimore information is not yet known. Robinson was in town for film premieres and stage plays – and art auctions (he was a prolific collector) – many times over the years, and thus he could have taken the time to help with local Israel Bonds efforts more than once; we’ll need to do a little more research to pin down this particular event.

And since I started with Frank Sinatra, I’ll note that while we don’t have any photos of him (or of member of the tribe Sammy Davis, Jr., for that matter) in our collections, he doesn’t go entirely unrepresented. Our Baltimore Jewish Council collection contains a small file of materials related to the production and release of “The House I Live In,” a 1945 short film in which Sinatra catches a group of kids chasing a Jewish boy, and proceeds to teach them about religious tolerance and American values. You can watch it here, thanks to the Library of Congress; it’s only 10 minutes and worth a viewing, though I should note that in addition to the enjoyable sight of Hollywood’s fanciful version of the ideal young whippersnapper (and, of course, your man doing some signature crooning), there is also some use of war footage.  More to my point today, our BJC file on the film includes reviews of and reactions to the film from the Baltimore papers, and this form postcard sent out by BJC Executive Director Leon Sachs, noting that the film will be shown at the Hippodrome and urging “friends of every faith” to watch what he calls a “truly American job [that] should get a genuine American response.”

Postcard from the Baltimore Jewish Council encouraging support of “The House I Live In,” October 30, 1945. Gift of the Baltimore Jewish Council, JMM MS 107.

 And there are your unexpected connections for December 12!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Once Upon a Time…02.15.2019

Posted on December 11th, 2019 by

The Baltimore Jewish Times publishes unidentified photographs from the collection of Jewish Museum of Maryland each week. If you can identify anyone in these photos and more information about them, contact Joanna Church by email at

JMM 2005.9.715

Date run in Baltimore Jewish Times: February 15, 2019

PastPerfect Accession #: 2005.009.715

Status: Unidentified – do you recognize this photo of a member of the Klawan family, taken in 1937?

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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