Diving into the Associated Scrapbooks

Posted on December 22nd, 2017 by

This month’s JMM Insights comes from our archivist, Lorie Rombro. You can read more posts by Lorie here.

In the last few months I have begun working on a collection of scrapbooks from The Associated Jewish Charities. The books date back to 1919 and I have been recently investigating the late 1940’s and 1950’s scrapbooks of the publicity and campaign work of the Women’s Division. These books are incredibly interesting, giving a peek into a large, organized group of women working to help not only the Jewish community of Baltimore but people throughout the world. Reading and processing the scrapbooks has been a history lesson of the time period, here and abroad.

Scrapbooks have long been a way to preserve photographs, newspaper clippings, pamphlets, documents, and other assorted items.

The problem with scrapbooks is that they are often put together with materials that are detrimental to long-term preservation. In the past, scrapbook pages where made of poor-quality, highly acidic paper that deteriorates rapidly and discolors. The pages would also become brittle over time and then tear easily and crumble. Often, the binding of the album was not made for the increase in size caused by the materials placed in the scrapbook, causing the spine to break and pages to come out. Papers are attached to the scrapbook with harmful tapes and/or glue. Multi- paged letters or pamphlets may be fastened only by the last sheet, causing rips and tears, or folding and crushing of documents.

For all of these reasons I have been carefully cataloging, photographing and taking apart the scrapbooks. Archivists like me always struggle with the decision whether a scrapbook should stay together or be taken apart. If possible, we try to leave a scrapbook together, since it tells a story not only with the information inside of it but how someone chose to put it together. That is why if I do dismantle a scrapbook, I carefully document its original form for future researchers. To some, these scrapbooks may only seem to contain old bits of paper, but to us they are full of important historical information.

I wanted to share some of what I have found in the scrapbooks. Not only does it give a picture of the time it was made, but some of the pieces could be produced and used today.

The two images above are from the 1949 Women’s Division scrapbook.

We hope you laugh a little at these two postcards that went out to the husbands of the women volunteering! In 1950 over 1200 women participated in the campaign.

This picture is from the 1951 G-day handbook – check out all the do’s and don’t’s they’ve got listed!

Last is my very favorite which I believe could be used today – babies are always a good tug on the heartstrings. These are images from the publicity and booklets for the 1955 Women’s Division campaign.

Making a Scrapbook to Last

Today, making a scrapbook which will stand up to the test of time is easier. Choose a book which is made with acid free paper and pH neutral adhesives for the binding. Use acid free photo corners or other type of binding, make sure all the corners are carefully attached but do not use glue.

In this picture you can see how tape discolors and negatively affects paper.

You want to be able to remove anything placed in a scrapbook, you never know when you might need it again! Scrapbooks are an incredible way to document your family history, a trip, an important event or your organization – they are worth spending a little extra money on good supplies to make sure that future generations can enjoy them.

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Quantitatively and Qualitatively Measuring the Museum

Posted on December 15th, 2017 by

This edition of Performance Counts is brought to you by JMM Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE. Read past editions of Performance Counts by clicking HERE.


This question has become a driver at decision points for organizations and individuals. It is an important question, and also one that is not always as straightforward as the asker might assume. Simply counting your steps gives you data, but not a complete picture. How do your step counts compare to other people’s? Where did your steps take you? If 60% of them led to the freezer for more ice cream, surely they are not the same health value as non-ice-cream-related steps, right?

Still, data has a lot to teach us, and finding ways to measure ourselves—whether as individuals or as organizations—is both a challenge and an opportunity. At JMM we have been digging into that opportunity in recent weeks and months. For this Performance Counts, I’d like to share with you some of the story our data is revealing, as well as some of our ongoing opportunities and challenges in data collection.


The first and most obvious measure of the Museum’s performance is our visitor attendance numbers. They are the building blocks of our health as an institution. Recently, I’ve been looking more closely at our attendance numbers, over the past several fiscal years. Our highest-attendance month was March of 2017 when we opened Remembering Auschwitz. We welcomed more than 1600 visitors that month. Our lowest attendance month in the past 3 fiscal years was September, 2015, with only 113 visitors. Not only was the decline in tourism after the Uprising still in effect, our changing gallery was closed as we de-installed Cinema Judaica and installed Paul Simon. September 2015 also contained Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, so we also had fewer days open to the public than the average month.

In terms of trends, the numbers more-or-less confirm what we suspected (see the graph below for a visual representation):

>Attendance is dependent upon the exhibit we have on view in the changing gallery, with all of our lowest-attendance months corresponding to months the gallery was in transition and therefore closed to the public.

>Some exhibits are more popular than others (up to 230% in a given month, year over year)

>When an exhibit starts with low attendance, it is difficult to increase momentum.

Attendance by Month

In addition to actual visitor attendance, we count virtual visits. Did you know you can search the collections from our website? Not everything is available through the online search, but a whole lot is, and thanks to the work of our dedicated volunteers, we’re constantly adding new items to what is searchable. (This morning I searched for “Baltimore” and received 20709 results!) On average, 188 people search the collections online in a given month, and they spend an average of 8.51 minutes per session with our collections. Nine minutes may not sound very long, but according to google, the average session duration for traffic coming from Google organic search is around 50 seconds.


Attendance numbers alone can’t show the quality of the experience of the people who do attend, whether 113 of them or more than 1600. To attempt to measure that experience, we have or are embarking on several studies. Starting with Remembering Auschwitz we administer surveys to visitors to our public programs. So far we’re seeing positive numbers. For programs associated with Remembering Auschwitz, 82% of those surveyed agreed that they “learned something new” from their visit, and 83% told us “my appreciation for the topic increased.”  We continue to administer the survey to visitors who are willing to take it.

Additionally, we always survey educators when they bring field trips to our museum. Educators consistently score us 5 out 5 on several quality measures, including quality of program and staff. The one place we aren’t consistently receiving perfect scores is for our pre- and post-visit materials. To address it, we’re hoping to develop a new survey that will help us understand what improvements we can make to better serve our colleagues in the classroom.


Another measure of the quality of a museum visit is its memorability. Marvin often tells the story of museum guru, John Falk, who was challenged at a lecture by a  teacher that field trips were too expensive and simply didn’t provide enough return on investment. John invited this colleague to remember a museum field trip that he had taken as a child. The teacher provided a detailed description of a grade school trip to the Museum of Science and Industry (another of Marvin’s alma maters), and his journey into the Coal Mine exhibit there. John then asked what the man had learned in school the day after the field trip, or the next week?, or that month? As you might imagine, the story of classroom learning was not nearly as forthcoming.

Marvin’s qualitative anecdote is something we’re hoping to capture quantitatively with a memorability study. We’re collecting visitor contacts, and then surveying them about their experience here at least three months later. We’ll be asking questions like: “as a result of your visit to JMM, do you remember…having a conversation about what you saw? …searching for information on the internet? …thinking about what you saw after the date of the visit?” The first wave of surveys is scheduled to start this week, and we are currently collecting contact information for a second wave to happen in March. I, for one, am excited to have some quantitative data about our qualitative effect!

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Talmud to Tik: Iraqi Jewish Heritage Day

Posted on November 17th, 2017 by

JMM Insights: November 2017

On October 15th the Jewish Museum of Maryland opened our latest exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage. We have held six public programs in connection with the exhibit in its first month, averaging an audience of 75+ for each event. However our biggest program is yet to come. I have asked Trillion to outline the festivities we have planned for the first Sunday in December. 



Talmud to Tik: Iraqi Jewish Heritage Day is a full day celebration of the rich culture developed by the Jewish community in Iraq and preserved by their descendants across the globe.  I believe our guests will find something suitable for all ages and all tastes and that we will enable greater Baltimore to make a personal connection with that culture.

What can you expect on the day? Here are some of the highlights.

Rabbi Haim Ovadia will be joining us from Washington, DC to perform two concerts that will explore the origins and diversity of Jewish Iraqi music. The morning concert at 11am will be especially designed for kids and families, while the afternoon concert at 2 pm is for everyone.

Feel like dancing?  Enjoy and learn some of the traditional dances of the Iraqi Jewish community with the Silk Road Dance Company. This troop of dancers will actually put on three different performances on the 3rd, starting at 12:30, 1:30 and 3:30 pm.

If there is music and dance, can food be far behind?  Get a real taste of Iraqi Jewish culture, literally. Jackie Feldman of Sephardic Jews in DC, will lead a workshop making Baharat, a spice mixture eaten across the Middle East which is a critical building block for most Iraqi Jewish recipes. This tasty mixture can be taken home and combined into a variety of delicious recipes.

And one more treat for our youngest visitors.  We will also be joined by Violet Battat, representing SHIN DC who will be offering a special Jewish Iraqi story times. Violet will share with us stories passed down through her family, combined with singing and an exploration of Iraq. These sessions are specially designed for children aged 3 to 7 though the young at heart are also welcome.

If that isn’t enough we will also have several arts and crafts opportunities. Activities include making evil eye bracelets, decorating your own tik (the container traditionally used to hold an Iraqi Torah) and even making some delicious date balls to take home, or eat immediately, if you are feeling peckish!

The day is certain to be fun filled, we couldn’t have managed such an extravaganza were it not for the support of the Jacob and Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education of the Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

For more details or to buy your tickets please check our event page here. 

Hope to see you there.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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