Networking with the Nation

Posted on May 19th, 2017 by

Blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

Last week, Collections Manager, Joanna Church and I attended the conference of the American Alliance of Museums in St. Louis.  We were two out of more than 4,000 museum professionals gathered there to discuss changing fiscal and social contexts, the most recent technological developments and yes, some general kibbitzing about people and exhibits creating a buzz.

Projections on the ceiling of Union Station in St Louis.

Projections on the ceiling of Union Station in St Louis.

Wearing my hat as a liaison between the museum world and our JMM members, I thought I might use this newsletter to share a few highlights of the conference and how they might impact our future.

The theme of the event was “Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion”.  The first featured speaker was Haben Girma, an Eritrean refugee who is also the first blind/deaf graduate of Harvard Law School.  Haben would have been an impressive orator in any forum… she had a wicked sense of humor and used it effectively to press the case for greater attention to access needs.  Her very presence spoke volumes as to how small acts of consideration can make big differences in enabling everyone to participate and contribute.

But the inclusion story was not only about accommodating disabilities, there were several sessions that dealt with demographic diversity.  On the opening day of the conference I represented the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) on a panel entitled “Transcending Boundaries: The New ‘Identity Museums'”.  I was joined by moderator, Marsha Semmel (former Deputy Director of IMLS), Lisa Sasaki (Director of the Asian-Pacific American Center) and Antonio Rodriguez (Chair, AAM’s Latino Network).  We talked about the challenges of simultaneously meeting the needs of constituent and cross-over audiences, the ways that on-line and mobile devices are reshaping our delivery of content, and opportunities for collaboration with non-“identity museums.”  The recent CAJM meeting in Boston and JMM’s own work on our new core exhibit helped inform my presentation.

The conference was also our first opportunity to pitch our upcoming exhibit Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling to an assembly of traveling exhibit coordinators from both history and science museums.  Our exhibit – which includes a slice of technology, a shmear of history and a topping of environmental science – received a very positive reception.

A curiosity from the expo floor - this is a cut-out combined with a projection, but it felt like a hologram.

A curiosity from the expo floor – this is a cut-out combined with a projection, but it felt like a hologram.

Our main purpose at the conference though, is not to present, but to learn from others.  Joanna, for example, not only sat in on sessions about the nuts and bolts of collections registration and storage, but also attended programs that took a broader look at collecting strategies, audience engagement, and exhibit design within the framework of the theme of diversity and inclusion. Several speakers tackled issues of collecting and exhibiting traumatic history, recent events, and “risky” topics, issues we all wrestle with.  She quoted one speaker whose advice was “steal and adapt”: that is, when faced with a problem, we can look to our fellow museums for guidance, since it’s likely one of them has already encountered the same problem.  Joanna pointed out that diversity of types of museums in attendance at AAM is one of this conference’s great strengths, and it reminds herthat we don’t have to go it alone.

The math of music from "Math Alive" at the St. Louis Science Center.

The math of music from “Math Alive” at the St. Louis Science Center.

Speaking of museum diversity, it was on full display both in the projects highlighted in the sessions and in the venues for the evening events.  AAM’s award for excellence went to “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration” at the Eastern State Penitentiary Museum in Philadelphia.  It is a bold concept, dramatically designed – can’t wait to see it.  In St. Louis itself, the stand-out project for me was “#1 in Civil Rights” at the Missouri History Museum – featuring the ACTivist in Action program, a unique fusion of theater and exhibit in one seamless experience.  A close runner-up for innovation was the “Math Alive” traveling exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center (I missed it during its premiere at the Smithsonian in 2012 – it appears to be holding up well for a five year old exhibit).  And perhaps the most impressive venue for the conference was the Missouri Botanic Garden, not just in terms of scale and beauty, but in the cleverness of its design.

From the venues to the sessions to the expo floor, we packed our bags full of new ideas to bring back to JMM.

The Japanese Garden at the  Missouri Botanic Garden

The Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanic Garden

The Mediterranean Garden at the Missouri Botanic Garden

The Mediterranean Garden at the Missouri Botanic Garden

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Generations 2007-2008: Bridges to Zion: Maryland and Israel

Posted on November 9th, 2016 by

Generations 2007-2008: Bridges to Zion: Maryland and Israel

Table of Contents

Introduction by Avi Y. Decter and Deborah R. Weiner – download as pdf

An American in Palestine: Mendes I. Cohen Tours the Holy Land by Deborah R. Weiner – download as pdf

The American Delegate(s)* at the First Zionist Conference by Avi Y. Decter – download as pdf

Revolutionizing Experiences: Henrietta Szold’s First Visit to the Holy Land by Henrietta Szold – download as pdf

Why I was a Zionist and Why I Now Am Not by Rabbi Morris S. Lazaron

“Israel” by Karl Schapiro

Mahal Days by Raphael Ben-Yosef

Photo Gallery: Maryland Philanthropy and Israel by Rachel Kassman

The Blaustein-Ben-Gurion Agreement: A Milestone in Israel-Diaspora Relations by Mark K. Bauman

The Comeback Kid: Leon Uris Returns to City College, 1995 by Rona Hirsch

“Who is a Jew” by Shoshana S. Cardin

Book Review: A Dream of Zion: American Jews Reflect on Why Israel Matters to Them by Melvin I. Urofsky

Field Notes: The Jewish Journey: The Jewish Museum in New York by Fred Wasserman

Chronology: Maryland and Israel

Cost: $10

To order a print copy of Generations 2007-2008, please contact Esther’s Place, the JMM Museum Shop at 443-873-5179 or email Devan Southerland, Museum Shop Assistant at dsoutherland@jewishmuseummd.org.

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Graham Goes to Washington!

Posted on May 30th, 2016 by

Over the past few days, I (along with most of the staff at the JMM), attended the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) annual conference in DC. This is my third AAM conference and I am always amazed by the scale of the event. Roughly 6,000 museum professionals from around the world attended. Throughout my time at the conference, I sat in on sessions on volunteer management, accessibility, audience engagement, docent training and how to effectively supervise college interns. I also socialized with present and former colleagues and made lots of new contacts in the museum community.

The first session I went on to on Thursday was titled “Embracing the Power of Older Adult Volunteers.”

The first session I went on to on Thursday was titled “Embracing the Power of Older Adult Volunteers.”

As Ilene Cohen, our current volunteer coordinator will be leaving us shortly and I’ll be taking over some of her responsibilities, I thought it would be a good idea to get some tips about how to advocate for our fabulous volunteer corp. At the session, I learned techniques for training older adult volunteers on technology and got some suggestions of places to recruit for new volunteers.

I then went to the MuseumExpo exhibit hall where I browsed through exhibitors relating to audio tours, admissions, educational programs and regional museum associations. I met with a representative from Blackbaud to get some tips about the new Altru ticketing/donor management system which we will be implementing soon at the Museum.

I also tried out a virtual reality station about the Wright Brothers flight and bought two books to help me in my current position.

I also tried out a virtual reality station about the Wright Brothers flight and bought two books to help me in my current position.

I then went to a session called “Museums for All,” which was about an initiative developed by the Institute of Museum of Library Services. This program offers free or reduced admission to museums across the country to low-income families. I discovered that this is a great way to broaden our visitor base, reach out to under-served audiences, and perhaps most importantly, to be socially conscious and inclusive. In the coming weeks, I hope to implement it at the JMM.

In the evening, I went to a Happy Hour from the Museum Education Roundtable and another one sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Museum Studies program, which I graduated from a few years ago.

In the evening, I went to a Happy Hour from the Museum Education Roundtable and another one sponsored by the Johns Hopkins Museum Studies program, which I graduated from a few years ago.

On Friday, I went to a session called “60 Great Ideas for Historic Sites and Historic Homes” where I got lots of ideas ranging from improving the visitor experience to forming new partnerships and increasing attendance at special events.

I then went to the General Session where Robert Edsel, author of the Monuments Men, spoke about the legacy of the Monuments Men, the unsung heroes (both men and women), who saved the world’s greatest art and cultural treasures during World War II. He challenged all of us to become advocates for the return of artwork to their rightful owners and reminded us that modern day monuments men and women are still working to safeguard our cultural heritage in war torn-places like Iraq and Syria.

A packed general session!

A packed general session!

In the afternoon, I went to the Marketplace of Ideas “Small Museums Talk Volunteers and Sustainability,” where I got to brainstorm with other volunteer managers about issues that we have been facing at JMM.

On Saturday, I went to a session on “Training 21st century Docents” where I learned the importance of encouraging more participation and discussion into tours and sharing best practices among the docents. I also got ideas such as field trip exchanges to other museums to see how they do their tours and ways to incorporate direct feedback at the end of each tour.

I then had lunch with an intern from a prior position, visited “Crosslines,” a two day exhibit featuring  artists and scholars at the newly restored Arts and Industries Building, and met up with a former boss and mentor.

I concluded my experience with a stop by the Party “Inside the Great American Outdoors” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. I felt privileged to be able to explore the museum after-hours with many of my colleagues.

I concluded my experience with a stop by the Party “Inside the Great American Outdoors” at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. I felt privileged to be able to explore the museum after-hours with many of my colleagues.

To sum up, I had a jam-packed time at the conference and came away with many takeaways which I hope to implement at the JMM.

GrahamA blog post by Graham Humphrey, Visitor Services Coordinator. To read more posts by Graham click HERE.

 

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