The JMM at AAM!

Posted on June 3rd, 2011 by

The AAM 2011 Annual Meeting Final Program and my AAM Badge.

This year I had the privilege of having the Jewish Museum of Maryland send me to the American Association of Museums Annual Meeting (http:/// From May 22 to May 25 I spent time in Houston where I reunited with colleagues, networked with museum professionals throughout the country, learned about forward thinking projects and ideas in the field, and explored the city of Houston (as best as I could without a car). I consider the trip a big success. I was so impressed by each of the sessions I attended that I came back to the museum enthused and excited to make new connections, update old programs, and start new projects that address the needs of our community. So much took place that I cannot write about everything from my trip, but I will re-cap some of the highlights for you.

Obelisk outside of the Rothko Chapel

After a crazy weekend visiting with family and friends in Washington DC I took a 6:00 AM flight to Houston so that I could enjoy most of the day there. I was lucky enough to meet up with one of my closest friends who works at the Pasadena Museum of California Art (http:/// in Southern California. I tagged along with several other young museum professionals based out of Southern California and visited Houston’s Museum district where we managed to cram a lot of site seeing into one day. First we stopped at The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (http:///, where my favorite exhibit was by Carlos Cruz-Diez and titled “Color in Space and Time.” My academic strength lies in cultural history and I’m often intimidated by art, but I could not help being transfixed by Diez’s creative use of optics and colors. There were several immersive rooms that when you entered you were able to actually experience the art all around you.

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Color Aditivo PacÍfico A, 2010 Image Credit:

My other favorite activities from that day were visiting the Rothko Chapel (http:/// and the Byzantine Fresco Chapel (http:///  Coincidentally I had heard about the Rothko Chapel a few months ago on NPR and was pleasantly surprised to be reminded that it was in Houston. If you want to listen to that article you can listen to it here (http:/// The two chapels were very different from each other, but each offers people an opportunity to pause and reflect while surrounded by beautiful art.

Bright and early Monday morning I officially kicked off the conference by attending a Council of American Jewish Museums (http:/// ) breakfast at AAM. It was really great to meet with Executive Director, Joanne Kauvar, and other Jewish Museum professionals that I have heard so much about. One of the issues we talked about during breakfast was how to connect the older and younger generations of Jewish museum professionals so that they can learn from each other.

The first session I went to on Monday morning was called “Museums as Good Neighbors: Two Approaches to Participating in Placemaking” and was led by staff members from Project Row Houses in Houston and the Queens Museum of Art. I attended this session because one of the JMM’s goals is to be a good neighbor to the community directly around us. Also, recently our Education and Program Coordinator, Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, and I have been working with Commodore Rodgers Middle School on a weekly basis to create an art project inspired by Loring Cornish’s work and the history of the our neighborhood. I wanted to find out other creative ways that institutions were successfully working with their community.

Project Row Houses (PRH) (http:/// was one of the most interesting and inspiring organizations that I learned about at AAM.  It is “a neighborhood-based non-profit art and cultural organization in Houston’s Northern Third Ward, one of the city’s oldest African-American Communities” (PRH Website, “About,” http:/// From what I learned at this session PRH has several focuses and initiatives, all of equal value. They include public art, arts education, and community building. One of their programs is a Young Mother’s Program where young mothers aged 18-26 live in the PRW homes for 1-2 years while learning about art and working with artists and residence. They mothers are taught to be artistic because artists are creative and innovative, skills that are important and applicable to daily life for all people.

T-Rex at the Museum Expo

Another great session I attended was called “Teach with O’Keefe: 1 Traveling Exhibit, 3 Museums, and 4 Schools; A National Collaboration to Promote Arts Integration.” The Georgia O’Keefe Museum, the Phillips Collection, and the Whitney Museum of American Art all collaborated with each other and local public schools to bring a traveling exhibit about Georgia O’Keefe beyond the walls of the museum. The project was a great success and it serves as a great model for collaboration between museums. This project inspired me to think about how different Jewish museums can collaborate on large-scale projects.

Good Company Texas Bar-B-Q

Finally my blog post cannot be complete without talking about all of the amazing food I ate while there. I’m pretty sure I rolled home about 10 pounds heavier. My first meal was Tex-Mex and I felt like I was right back at home in California while eating an enormous burrito. However, for the rest of the trip I focused on Texas BBQ. One of my most memorable meals was at a BBQ place called “Good Company Texas Bar-B-Q.” We had to take a taxi to get there, but it was worth it for the delicious brisket, coleslaw, and pecan pie. Apparently several other people from the AAM meeting agreed because we ran into a lot of AAMers there.

It feels good to be back in Baltimore, but I could not be happier about my experience at AAM this year in Houston. In addition to networking with other museum professionals, I learned about amazing projects taking place throughout the country, and came back inspired to apply some of these ideas and models at the JMM.


A giant armadillo in Texas!


A blog post by Community Outreach Coordinator Rachael Binning.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

AAM Re-Accreditation: Here we come!

Posted on March 28th, 2011 by

Ever wonder about that little logo that appears on our publications and our website? Blow it up a bit, and you’ll see that it says “Accredited by the American Association of Museums.”

Sounds impressive—and it is. But what does accreditation really mean, and how do museums earn it?

Those questions have been much on my mind lately, as I help prepare the Museum for our decennial re-accreditation.

First a couple of answers:

What’s accreditation? In the words of the American Association of Museums, “Accreditation helps to advance the entire museum field. The AAM Accreditation Program is the single best tool for developing national standards and best practices in museum operations. It is an essential mechanism for understanding, refining, implementing and maintaining such standards. Accreditation is a way of demonstrating collectively, as a profession, that we are self-regulating and truly accountable.”

Plus, the JMM is one of only about 750 accredited Museums in the country, and we achieved accreditation in 1992 when we were still a very young institution—quite an honor, and one that’s helped keep us on our toes ever since.

This display? Is just the application instructions.

A selection of the materials we've gathered!

How do we earn accreditation or become re-accredited? Take a look at the box of AAM materials in my office—including several printed handbooks, glossaries, forms, and disks, plus file upon file of materials we’ve gathered—and you’ll get a sense the scope of the requirements. Yesterday, I got together with Rachel Kassman, who’s helping me organize our application, to go over the list of attachments we’re required to submit. Our To Do list goes something like this:

  • Mission Statement—Got it.
  • Institutional Plan—Wait, do they mean strategic plan? Dig through glossary of terms to determine that, yes, these are one and the same and we do have one.
  • Evidence of delegation of authority to director—Become intimately familiar with by-laws to determine that they do, indeed, outline evidence of delegation.
  • Organizational chart including governing authority, staff and volunteers as applicable—Good thing we put one of those together when we were doing our strategic planning.
  • Position descriptions for all staff—Need to update those.
  • Visuals to illustrate scope of museum’s collections—I guess Rachel will be doing some photography.
  • Collections management policy—We’re in the midst of updating that, along with program policy, ethics policy, library policy, and all our other policies. The Board will review and approve all.
  • Samples of materials that illustrate range of programs for students and teachers (4 max); samples of museum publications and/or nonprint media materials (4 max)—“4 max”? That’ll barely scratch the surface. How are we going to choose?
  • Copy of current fiscal year budget, approved by board for operating, nonoperating income and expenditures; audited financial statements for last 2 fiscal years, including management letters; investment policy—Thank goodness Susan Press is on top of all this.
  • Emergency/disaster plan—Good thing that one’s up to date.

Box of hard copy attachments. Not so bad, right?

But it unpacks into all this! And that's not even everything in the box!

And that’s just a small sampling . . . .

All this plus completing a series of self-study forms with hundreds of questions about everything from finances to facilities to collections stewardship to governance. It’s a bit like filling out a grant application on steroids, and I’m very grateful that almost everyone on staff is pitching in, that our trustees are providing thoughtful guidance as we update all our policies, and that it isn’t due until June.

It’s a lot of work and a lot of tying up of loose ends, and a lot of considering what we do from a critical angle. Like staff at most museums, we dash along from day to day, consumed by myriad tasks and demands and distractions. We don’t always have the time or energy to devote conscious attention to the policies that guide us or the ethical considerations that inform our decisions about everything from how we greet our visitors to what exhibitions we develop. Instead, we’re generally guided by a sense that the things we do are mission-critical. And we’re usually right. But deconstructing the considerations that inform our day to day activities adds a new level of insight into all that we do. And preparing for AAM re-accreditation—essentially a protracted spell of navel gazing—helps us to think about what inspires us, to ensure that we continue to conform to the highest standards, and to set a course for our future activities.

All that said, I’m glad re-accreditation only rolls around once every ten years.

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