Performance Counts – January 2014

Posted on January 10th, 2014 by

WE ARE NOT ALONE

At last count the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) had 82 members, from the Alaska Jewish Museum and Cultural Center in Anchorage to the Zimmer Children’s Museum in Los Angeles.  CAJM includes a handful of accredited history and art museum, like the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and dozens of institutions that in some ways share characteristics with museums as centers for culture in their respective communities.  These include galleries at JCCs, Holocaust museums and centers, synagogue museums, and community archives. CAJM aims to strengthen the field of Jewish museums by serving as a central body for information exchange, professional development, and advocacy.

cajm logoJMM has played an important role in the development of CAJM for more than two decades.  Today, Deborah Cardin serves as Vice Chair of the organization.  The Chair of CAJM is former JMM curator, Melissa Martens Yaverbaum and the Treasurer of CAJM is Avi Decter.  While every institution that belongs to CAJM has a unique mission and a distinctive audience, the opportunity for sharing ideas in this cultural community remains very valuable to us.

Each year CAJM holds an annual conference in some part of the United States bringing together its diverse body of professionals.  This year the organization is taking a year off from the usual museum conference format to hold what we are calling a “Retreat/Forward” at the Bon Secours Retreat and Conference Center, here in Marriottsville, MD from March 23 to 25.  Though it is not quite Baltimore, JMM is serving as the official host institution (with Marvin Pinkert taking a leadership role as host chair).  Since the “Retreat/Forward” is open to staff, trustees and Museum volunteers (that is, most of you who receive the Performance Counts newsletter), we thought we would share the link to the event with all of you.

The brochure is located at http://www.cajm.net/uploaded/file/fd.CAJM_2014_Conference_Brochure.pdf

The brochure is located HERE. 

The program will feature:

•  Cutting-edge thinkers and practitioners on participatory culture and emergent learning trends

• Frank discussions about audience expectations, civic engagement, and changing community structures

• Workshops, charettes, and small group discussions that will make the retreat an engaging, active experience for all participants

• A dance demonstration and group exercise by MacArthur Fellow Liz Lerman, founder of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, and a lively talk, “From Holy Land to Graceland,” by former Walters Art Museum Director Gary Vikan

•  Remarks from Ford W. Bell, President of the American Alliance of Museums; Marsha Semmel, former Acting Director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services; and Steven M. Cohen, advisor to the recent Pew Research Center study, “A Portrait of Jewish Americans”

Single day registration as well as full conference registration are available at the website.

STILL MORE SHARING

Not all of our collaborations with other Jewish museums happen at conferences.  Next month we celebrate the role of Lincoln and the Jews in the Civil War.  In addition to Passages Through the Fire:  Jews and the Civil War, we will be using our orientation plaza to display Jewish Life in Mr. Lincoln’s City, an exhibit developed by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington.

Check out our upcoming programs HERE.

Check out our upcoming February programs HERE.

We will share exhibits and we will also “exchange” directors.  Laura Apelbaum, Executive Director of JHSGW will speak on Lincoln at JMM on the afternoon of February 9th and she is bringing a tour group from her Board, staff and volunteers with her.  Ten days later, Marvin Pinkert will head down to the JHSGW’s Lillian and Albert Small Jewish Museum to give his final presentation on Jews and the Civil War.

You may have noticed that we now carry news about the Small Museum to our membership through Museum Matters and Laura distributes information about upcoming programs at JMM.  It’s just one of the ways that it is better not to be alone.

 

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JMM Insights, December 2013

Posted on December 20th, 2013 by

Top JMM News Stories of 2013

 In this month’s JMM Insight we look back at 2013.  The staff was invited to nominate their favorite stories of the last twelve months.  Our countdown for 2013 includes many events you will remember and perhaps a few that will still be “news” to you.

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12. Genealogy Society Renews its Links

After disbanding several years ago, the JMM welcomed the news of the reorganization of the Jewish Genealogical Society of Maryland. With a large membership of individuals passionate about family history, the JMM looks forward to partnering with the JGSM in the year ahead as we work together to make even more of our genealogical sources accessible to the public.

 

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11. Wonder Woman Sells Out

Move over Batman.  The top selling superhero product in the Museum Store during the run of Zap, Pow, Bam was the Wonder Woman tote bag.  Esther had to re-order these twice – eventually selling 120 bags.  It was part of a banner year for store revenue, over $6000 in the last six months.

 

photo by Will Kirk

10. AAM Conferees Discover JMM

In May Baltimore became the center of the museum world as our city was inundated with Museum professionals from across the country (and even the globe) who arrived for the annual conference of the American Alliance of Museums. The JMM was thrilled to be among a select group of local institutions invited to serve as an evening reception site for conferees and even more so by the response of our colleagues to the joint event – Heroes: Real and Imagined – that we threw in partnership with the Lewis Museum. Attendees had a wonderful time schmoozing as they toured our exhibits and synagogues (Zap! Pow! Bam! was a huge hit), created superhero masks and sampled hero sandwiches and specialty cocktails.

 

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9.  Volunteer Launches Outreach to the Visually Impaired

Docent Robyn Hughes launched several important initiatives this past year to advance JMM’s accessibility. Robyn had the brilliant idea to create a twin vision comic book (a book that incorporates Braille text overlaid on the print) that was displayed in Zap! Pow! Bam! She then invited members of our community with visual impairments to visit and enjoy the JMM through tours that emphasized touch and verbal description. But this was only the beginning for Robyn, who also created another twin vision books out of the JMM’s Synagogue Speaks! children’s book and worked to develop a partnership with the Maryland School for the Blind. Robyn has served as a wonderful ambassador on behalf of the JMM and we appreciate her continuing efforts to promote the JMM to this important constituency.

 

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8. New York Times Finds Nostalgia in Baltimore

In April, Jennifer Moses made the Jewish Museum of Maryland and her historic family ties to B’nai Israel a part of a feature story in the travel section of the New York Times.  The article was circulated across Baltimore by New York relatives with notes that said “did you see this?” Ever since April, visitors have mentioned this article, when asked “where did you hear about JMM?”  However, “word-of-mouth” continues to top our list of referrals, so keep talking about us!

 

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7. “1861 Tour” Offers New View of Lloyd Street Synagogue

How can a one hundred seventy year old building become a “new” attraction?  With the opening of Passages Through the Fire:  Jews and the Civil War we started to offer our first daily specialty tours at the Lloyd Street Synagogue.  The tours immerse visitors in the early struggles of Baltimore Hebrew Congregation and they recreate Baltimore rabbis’ debate over slavery.  They also encourage a second look at some of the details of the synagogue (e.g. the tzedakah box built into the pillar), that might otherwise go unnoticed.

 

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6. IMLS Lends a Healing Hand

We received a big boost for our big project this September.  The Institute for Museum and Library Services awarded a competitive $150,000 grant for our fall 2015 exhibit on Jews and medicine.  This was quickly followed by a lead gift from the Herbert Bearman Foundation for The Herbert Bearman Foundation Presents:  Jews, Health and Healing.  Significant support for the project also came in from LifeBridge Health, Johns Hopkins University and CareFirst.  We are still seeking additional partners for this groundbreaking exploration of the intersection between Jewish culture and the healing sciences.

 

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5. Clark Kent Finally Gets a Bar Mitzvah Party

A super boy became a man at our summer celebration of this important milestone in Clark Kent’s life. The festivities included a visit by Superman who danced the hora with guests, enjoyed sampling a hero-sized cake, and because no Bar Mitzvah celebration would be complete without this tradition, participated in a candle lighting ceremony honoring the special people in his life.

 

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4. “You Gave Me Back My Grandmother”

Beloved Baltimore doyenne and caterer extraordinaire, Bessie Bluefeld was brought to life as the newest member of our Leo V. Berger Immigrant’s Trunk roster. Thanks to the combined talents of script writer Jonathon Scott Fuqua, director and producer Harriet Lynn, and actor Terry Nicholetti, we were able to create a performance that explored many of the dramatic moments in Bessie’s life from her arrival in Baltimore as a new bride fresh off the boat from Russia, to her determination to save the family from financial ruin after a bad business deal. At the performance premiere we were delighted to welcome members of the Bluefeld family and received perhaps the highest form of praise from one of her grandsons who thanked us for introducing us to the grandmother he never knew.

 

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3. City Springs Students Get to Know Us

JMM educational programs have a long history of providing high quality enrichment services for students of all backgrounds and from all over the state. So it seemed only natural to reach out to the school that is quite literally in our own backyard, City Springs Elementary and Middle School. After many conversations and meetings with school administrators and teachers, we created a series of tours and programs designed to accommodate each grade and were thrilled to welcome every student from the school this fall. Our goal is to develop a partnership with both students and teachers so that they view the JMM as their museum, a place to return to with family and friends.

 

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2. JMM Walk-In Visits Run Way Ahead

We will end 2013 with at least a 1/3 increase in overall visitors, but the gain in “walk-in” visitors is truly impressive.  A “walk-in” visit is our technical designation for what many of us would call a “family visit”.  It consists of one or more individuals who come to the museum just to see the museum – not part of a group, or a school or a special tour or program.  In the first eight months of the year, “walk-in” visits at JMM were up 140% over the prior year.  We attribute this rather dramatic change to: a) expanded hours, b) improved marketing (including some of our first radio and tv ads), and c) compelling exhibits and programs.  With four special projects in 2014 – Civil War, Mah Jongg, Electrified Pickle (Tech Fair)and the A-Mazing Mendes Cohen (Maze Exhibit) – we intend to keep up the momentum

 

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1. It’s Official:  We’re Accredited AGAIN

We’ve held off making the formal announcement until this newsletter… but we are overjoyed to share the news that the American Alliance of Museums has (re)accredited the Jewish Museum of Maryland for another ten years.  There are just three museums in Baltimore to be awarded accreditation by the Alliance (The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Walters Museum and us).  In making the award the Accreditation Commission stated in part “…the museum continues to meet National Standards and Best Practices for U.S. Museums and remains a member of the community of institutions that have chosen to hold themselves publicly accountable to excellence.  Through a rigorous process of self-assessment and review by its peers, the museum has shown itself to be a good steward of the resources held in public trust and committed to a philosophy of continual institutional growth.”

 

Here’s to our “continual institutional growth” in 2014, L’chaim and Happy New Year.

 

 

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Performance Counts: December 2013

Posted on December 13th, 2013 by

FINDING US, FINDING YOU

In a November 26 article in the Jewish Times I was quoted as saying that at a small museum “you have to spend more energy making sure you’re on the map.”  We are using this issue of Performance Counts to update you on some of our efforts to make ourselves better known.

Speaking of Maps

3047_002Last month the Greater Baltimore History Alliance published a new map of historical sites in metro Baltimore and it’s just the latest tool for visitor’s to navigate the region’s rich historic landscape.  Historic Jonestown has its own block of color on the map (we think the color is Raven’s purple) reflecting the density of historic attractions within a five block radius.  We are dues-paying members of the Greater Baltimore History Alliance (GBHA) and the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance (GBCA) not just because we have a place in their geography, but because our regular meetings with other Baltimore cultural institutions inspire partnerships and collaborations.  At one GBHA meeting this summer, JMM entered into a conversation with the National Electronics Museum (at first you might think this the ultimate “odd couple”).  But now a joint project is emerging next summer to bring a community tech and engineering fair to JMM, a show that combines some great artifacts in our collection (sewing machines, typewriters etc.) with hand-on DIY tech activities for the whole family.  We are also part of BNHA (the Baltimore National Heritage Area) which recently developed a conceptual planning “map” for this federally recognized district.  This interpretive plan for the Heritage Area opens up the road to eventual project funding for JMM.  From our perspective, this is a wonderful development – so many aspects of the interpretive plan – “defining America’s identity”, documenting the “immigrants influx”, securing “religious freedom” overlap with our core mission.

Circulator Map

One map of increased importance to us as our attendance grows is Baltimore’s Circulator map.  We noticed this last summer an up-tick in people reporting that they reached our doors by free bus rather than by car.  It is a significant asset to not only be on the Circulator map – but to be a named location on the route.  Thousands of people each day first here about us when the audio recording on the bus calls out: “next stop, Jewish Museum of Maryland”.

A “Map” for Donors

Of course, it’s not just visitors that need to find us.  We need to get into the philanthropic map of the community as well.  This mainly involves developing the network of contacts that allow us to make our case to those who share a passion for our mission.  A lot of this effort is centered on personal contact.  But to back up that personal contact we’ve really needed materials that describe the museum.  In the last month we had a major advance on this front.  Working with the design team at the firm of Gallagher and Associates (a pro bono contribution to JMM), we have created a new generation of collateral material that matches the new vision the Board approved in fall 2012.

3048_001The theme of this collateral material is “{Find Yourself Here}” – a message about inclusion and community that speaks to the soul of the institution.  The first step in our effort was to create a descriptive brochure about JMM as a place of Discovery, Discourse, and Documentation and as a Destination for thousands of visitors.  The descriptive piece also has a matching folder – our old plain purple folders may have described our football loyalties, but didn’t really say much about the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

The next step will be creating single page sheets on upcoming opportunities for funding that match the brochure and folder, and finally a video clip that can be embedded in a Power Point presentation or inserted in the folder.

We expect to have a presentation of our case that reflects the true quality of the underlying museum and that’s the place where we want to be on the “map.”

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