Small Improvements, Big Impact: Reshaping the JMM Visitor Experience

Posted on May 12th, 2016 by

Performance Counts May 2016

Many years ago I heard a joke: A very creative man, Moshe, was asked by his more run-of-the-mill friend, Joe, what Joe might do to help him be more like Moshe. Moshe replied, “sometimes, the smallest change makes a big difference in the way that you see the world. Try putting your pants on each morning with the other leg first. It will adjust your whole outlook on things.”

Joe thought Moshe might be crazy, but he tried it anyway. The next time he saw Moshe, he heartily thanked him, “I tried it, I put my pants on left leg first now, and since I started, I’ve been able to come up with creative solutions to problems that once seemed intractable.”

“That’s great!” said Moshe, “but what happened to your face?” referring to the large bruises on Joe’s cheeks and eyes.

“I fall on my face every morning, because I’m putting my pants on the wrong leg first.”


For whatever reason, and despite the punchline, that joke has really stayed with me. Mostly, I guess, because I believe it to be true: small changes, when they’re the right changes, can lead to big differences in individuals, organizations and cultures.

Some fresh, new landscaping.

Some fresh, new landscaping.

Since I started at the JMM about a year ago, we’ve begun collecting small changes:

*We started accepting credit cards at the front desk, so that our visitors don’t need to interrupt their entry experience to pay with card.

*We’ve moved more shop merchandise into the lobby, and have re-organized what’s in the shop, grouping items by theme, allowing us to make the shop experience also educational.

*Our front doors now feature handicap accessible paddles and power-assist opens.

*We brought in a company to power-wash the scaling from the portico that marks our entrance, and we re-landscaped the beds right out front.

*We’ve worked to stabilize the projector in our orientation space so that it no longer wobbles with the HVAC system’s operation.

*We retired the old Tzedakah box into our Institutional Archives, and had fabricated a new acrylic collection box that allows visitors to see others’ donation and encourages greater giving (the money collected this way has markedly increased!).

Our nifty new donations box.

Our nifty new donations box.

And we’re not done! In the coming weeks and months you can expect to see:

*A new phone system (it’s being installed this week) that will allow direct dial to all JMM staffers

*A new software package that will streamline the visitor entry transaction, and will allow us to better understand our visitors – who they are, where they come from, when they visit, etc.

*A facelift for our public bathrooms, including new lighting, sinks and mirrors

*A refresh of our lobby and orientation space, including fresh paint, new furniture and improved donor recognition panels

Taken together, as we move forward into fiscal year 2017 and beyond, these small changes are really starting to add up to positive developments at the JMM. I hope that you’ll agree, and will join me in celebrating the changes we’ve already made and share with me your ideas about how we can improve the visitor experience at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Tracie Guy-DeckerA blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.




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Museum Matters: May Flowers Edition

Posted on May 6th, 2016 by

“Stoke” detail, from JMM 1993.73.1

“Stoke” detail, from JMM 1993.73.1

It seems like the cool rainy days will never end, but here at JMM everything’s in bloom.  We have a spectacular month of movies, lectures and even a “welcome to the neighborhood” party.

The seed of the month ahead was Sunday’s launch of the “Book, Bell and Candle Mystery,” a new experience of Maryland’s oldest synagogue, where visitors are invited to help us track down questions about who designed and manufactured key components of this historic site – from the nails to the Torah scrolls.  Our “whodunit” (i.e. who built it) is open to sleuths of all ages, every Sunday at 3 through July 4th weekend.

And if your taste runs to wildflowers, you won’t want to miss the true story of Solomon Carvalho’s journey to the Wild West.  Hear the tale of Baltimore’s most improbable pioneer photographer and painter – a real life version of the Frisco Kid.

Speaking of movies, we’re offering a classic comedy double feature about Jewish doctors on May 22.  Hosted by our most-beloved media maven and zombie analyst Dr. Arnold Blumberg (see, even our doctors are blooming this May).

By May 29th there will be blossoms everywhere as we join the cultural institutions of Jonestown in welcoming our newest neighbors – the National Aquarium, Ronald McDonald House and Living Classrooms.

Don’t be a wallflower, join in the fun at JMM this May!

Upcoming programs
All programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland unless otherwise noted. Please contact Trillion Attwood at / 410-732-6400 x215 with any questions or for more information.

CARVALHO_sunrise Carvalho’s Journey: A documentary film by Steve Rivo
Sunday, May 15, 1:00pm
Movie Screening and Talk with Director Steve Rivo
Included with Admission

A real-life 19th century American western adventure story, Carvalho’s Journey tells the extraordinary story of Solomon Nunes Carvalho (1815-1897) … Read More
Get your tickets

Copies available at signing.

Fair Labor Lawyer: The Remarkable Life of New Deal Attorney and Supreme Court Advocate Bessie Margolin
Book Talk & Signing with Author Marlene Trestman
Thursday, May 19th from 6:30 pm
Included with Museum Admission

Come hear Marlene Trestman discuss her mentor and friend, Bessie Margolin. Margolin, who grew up in New Orleans Jewish orphanage, championed the wage and hour rights of millions of Americans. Margolin also helped to found the National Organization for Women and opened courtroom doors for countless women lawyers…. Read More
Get your tickets

may-PC-1A Day at the Races, A Night at Frankenstein’s Castle
Sunday, May 22, 11am
Speaker Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg
Included with Admission
A Day at the Races and Young Frankenstein: Two films released 37 years apart but united by remarkably similar senses of humor fueled by a uniquely Jewish perspective on mad doctors and mad love. Join Arnold T. Blumberg in his exploration of these two classics. Read More.

Schedule for the Day:
11:00am – Screening of Day at the Races
1:00pm – Lecture with Dr. Blumberg
2:00pm – Screening of Young Frankenstein

Get your tickets
Jonestown horizontal 4CWelcome to Jonestown
Sunday, May 29, 1:00pm to 4:00pm

You’re invited to JMM’s block party welcoming our new neighbors, The National Aquarium, Living Classrooms and Ronald McDonald House! Yes, there will be cake! Read More


DrPerman_HiRes2016 Annual Meeting
The Greatest Gap: Health Inequity in Baltimore
Samuel Boltansky Memorial Keynote Speaker Dr. Jay Perman, University of Maryland, Baltimore
Tuesday, June 14, 6:30pm

Join us for the JMM’s Annual Meeting as we elect members to our Board of Trustees and express appreciation to our retiring members. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Jay Perman, will address the social determinants of health—education, economic stability, personal and public safety, housing and transportation, social supports and cohesion—and how anchor institutions can help remediate the disparities we see in the health of populations. Read More

Couple collage smallHolocaust Memory Reconstruction Project: A Sacred Culture Rebuilt

With Artist: Lori Shocket
Sunday, June 19 – Tuesday, June 28

Holocaust survivors and their families are invited to participate in a series of workshops led by California-based artist, Lori Shocket, that will culminate in an art installation that will be on display at the JMM beginning in March 2017 in conjunction with our Remembering Auschwitz exhibits.
Please note that space is limited and registration is required. For more information and to register, please contact Deborah Cardin at (410) 732-6400 x236
Read More and see all dates


sofer imageA Glimpse into the World of a Sofer (Torah scribe)
Sunday, June 26th, 1:00pm
Speaker Rabbi Englander

Join us for this exciting program in connection with The All American Synagogue. Part lecture, part workshop:  Learn the basic steps of creating a Torah scroll, including how the letters are written and the rules governing the making of a Torah. Read More.

Esther’s Place: the JMM Store

new in shop JAdlerAt Esther’s Place we’re excited to show off some new merchandise, including from renowned designer, Jonathan Adler. If you haven’t been in lately, we have lots to show you!

We’re also still looking for a new manager for Esther’s Place. Learn more about the position and apply here.

Also of Interest

The JMM is pleased to share our campus with B’nai Israel Congregation. For additional information about B’nai Israel events and services for Shabbat, please visit  For more of this month’s events from BIYA, please visit or check out BIYA on Facebook.
Jewish American Heritage Lecture: We Called Him Rabbi Abraham: Lincoln and American Jewry, A Documentary History
Tuesday, May 31, 7:00pm
Speaker: Dr. Gary P. Zola
At the National Archives’ William G. McGowan Theater
Constitution Avenue & 7th Street, NW, Special Events Entrance
Washington, D.C. — Directions

Free general admission — register online via the National Archives Foundation
Premium reserved seats for $10/person. Limited availability.  Online | | 202-789-0900
Jewish Genealogy Society of Maryland March Meeting
Sunday, May 22, 1:30pm, Hadassah meeting room (3723 Old Court Road, Dumbarton Offices Entrance)
Speaker: Jim Bartlett, “Steps to Success with atDNA and Triangulation
The program is free for paid members and $5 for non-members. Refreshments will be available. Go to for more information.

Ongoing at the JMM


Exhibits currently on display include Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America (through January 16, 2017), Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore, and The Synagogue Speaks!

The Sanctity of Others will be on display in the JMM lobby through May 19.

Hours and Tour Times
magnifying-glass-detective-9875_0dc4603c0e0b7dfe4515c58822eb8ccaCombination tours of the 1845 Lloyd Street Synagogue and the 1876 Synagogue Building now home to B’nai Israel are offered: Sunday through Thursday at 11:00am, 1:00pm and 2:00pm.  Our new specialty tour, “Book, Bell and Candle Mystery” is offered on Sundays 3:00pm.

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Accessibility at the JMM

Posted on April 8th, 2016 by

Creating a welcoming museum environment that takes into account visitor needs is an important ongoing goal at the JMM. Whether this means developing exhibition educational resources for school group visitors or offering programs designed to facilitate conversation among visitors of different religious or cultural backgrounds, we take pride in our ability to serve diverse audiences. Providing access for visitors with physical disabilities has always been a Museum priority and in recent months, our staff has taken steps to improve our services in this area.

Recognizing the need to consider the entire spectrum of accessibility issues, this past October, we hired Ingrid Kanics of Kanics Inclusive Design Services to conduct an accessibility audit of the JMM’s public spaces including both of our historic synagogues, galleries, restrooms and library. As part of her survey, she measured door openings, made use of a wheelchair to navigate spaces and considered all aspects of the visitor experience.

Improved signage

Improved signage

Ingrid then drafted a report with recommendations that she shared with Museum staff. We were pleased to note that our Museum facility scored high in many areas. Having recently added a push button option to open our front doors provides easier access for visitors with limited mobility. Many of Ingrid’s recommendations related to signage and our staff has already produced larger signs to help visitors identify public restrooms. At her suggestion, we have created a checklist of items for our visitor services staff to check on a regular basis to ensure, for example, that the mechanical doors are functioning properly and that doors and hallways are kept clear of debris that can pose tripping hazards. Other improvements, based on Ingrid’s recommendations, are slated soon for implementation and include adding covers to drain pipes underneath restroom sinks to avoid burn risks for individuals in wheelchairs and smoothing out the transition strips between the lobby and coat room/restroom area to make for easier navigation for wheelchair users.

Thanks to the contributions of docent, Robyn Hughes, for several years, the JMM has worked to improve our services for visitors who are blind or visually impaired. Robyn helps us create Braille text for flyers, exhibition text and programs (we have both Braille and large print exhibition text for Beyond Chicken Soup available at our front desk) as well as create tours and programs designed specifically for visitors with visual impairments including camp groups from the Maryland School for the Blind who regularly visit.

Large Print Brochure

Large Print Brochure

A priority for this coming year is to improve services for visitors who are deaf or have hearing impairments. While we currently make sure that all exhibit videos are captioned and hire sign language interpreters upon request, we do not currently have the ability to offer accommodations for visitors at public programs who have difficulty hearing speakers or presentations. Our staff recently met with representatives from a company that manufacturers assisted listening devices and learned about how this system can improve sound in our orientation space for program participants. We intend on purchasing a system in the upcoming year that would enable visitors to borrow a receiver from the front desk with an over the ear headphone that would amplify sound in our lobby. The same system could also be used by visitors participating in guided tours of our historic synagogues.

The biggest challenge we face for visitors with physical disabilities is the lack of an easy solution for gaining access to our historic synagogues. Many years ago we created a video tour of the synagogues that is available for visitors to view in our lobby as a programmatic equivalent for those unable to climb the buildings’ stairs. We have also started to video simulcast programs that take place in the Lloyd Street Synagogue for visitors to watch in our orientation space. Of course, we recognize that these steps are not enough, and we are exploring different ways for creating access through ramps and possibly an elevator. B’nai Israel is in the process of adding a chair lift to aid congregants (and Museum visitors) in gaining access to its main sanctuary. And we remain committed to continuing to investigate potential solutions for improving accessibility to the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

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