Posted on March 13th, 2015 by Rachel
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.
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 on December 15th, 2010 by admin
A post by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, Education and Program Coordinator.
Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, today we have a very special announcement. After a very long process, much head and heartache, and many rounds of edits and revisions, the JMM web presence has a brand new look!
Starting this summer, the JMM began working with Red Thinking, a talented group of web designers and Skeevis Art, a web development company. As anyone who has ever worked on a large design project can attest, the process is grueling. The JMM staff is diverse and opinionated and it took a lot of intensive discussion to find a design that worked visually and functionally for everyone. I am happy to say, however, that we were finally successful. And in the middle of the night on Monday the new website (and the new blog) went public.
The main visual feature of the new site are the large circles parading across the top. We loved these because they’re fun, colorful, inviting, and (we think) appealing to all audiences. Plus, as soon as we saw the very first mockup we instantly wanted to play with the site! That, my friends, is the sign of a great design.
One of the things we wanted most out of this redesign was a place where everyone’s interests and pet projects could be celebrated on the front page. As you readers may know, starting in September all JMM staff were required to blog monthly. Each staff member, from Dr. Barry Lever to Ilene Dackman-Alon has different goals and a different mission at the JMM. Their blog posts represent their interests and all their hardwork. This little space on the front page highlights the most recent blog post (and the next upcoming event) allows the diverse interests of the staff.
Sidebar for the Visiting Section
Another thing we were really hoping to do was better utilize the sidebar that shows up on each page of the website. Instead of getting rid of it, we customized each section to show a different thing, something specific to the section. For instance, in the Visiting section we will be highlighting a different neighboring museum (like the Carroll Mansion, shown above). In the Events section we have a poll asking visitors what types of programming they’re interested in. In Collections & Research we have the top items that we are currently searching for. Get the picture?
The point is, we’re pleased. So pleased. Red Thinking & Skeevis Art did a wonderful job, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with for our next website- the Chosen Food site!
See the website at http:///jewishmuseummd.org.