Why Museums Need Guinea Pigs

Posted on September 22nd, 2014 by

A few days ago we had our first opportunity to test out the educational programs we’d created for school groups visiting The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit. The 8th graders at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School were brave enough to sign up to be our guinea pigs!

Picture 1

Checking out the exhibit

Going into it, our education staff was unsure if we could manage more than ten students at a time inside the maze. Nightmareish images of children hiding in unseen corners and running roughshod over the interactives flooded our minds. Limiting the number of students allowed in the maze at one time would of course make planning field trips for large groups very awkward. We had to be creative about our use of time and space. The plan we came up with was based on the average group size of 40 students. We would split them in half—20 and 20—between Voices of Lombard Street and The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen. The 20 in Mendes Cohen would then be split again—10 and 10. The first group of ten would be led through the exhibit, while the second group did an archival activity in the Orientation Space. They would switch at 15 minutes, and then, at the half hour mark, switch with their classmates in Voices, and repeat.

Picture 2

Hard at work

We learned a lot by observing a school group go through the exhibit. The first thing we learned—much to our relief—is that it’s not as terrifying to take students through the maze as we’d imagined. We decided that it would not be impossible to even take up to 20 students at a time. The next thing we learned was that we really needed to give the students more time to go through the exhibit. It has so much to offer—from the fun of going through a maze, to the neat objects on display, and the hands-on interactives dispersed throughout the corridors and “rooms”—and no one was benefitting from having to rush through it.

The teacher also expressed her disappointment that we had put as much emphasis on the archival activity as on the exhibit itself. She felt that the archival activity could as easily be done in the classroom as at a museum, and she’d hoped for a more hands-on experience for her students. While I don’t think we should completely discount the appropriateness of utilizing our primary resources during a museum visit (many schools have limited access to these kinds of resources), we did take her critique to heart.

Afterwards, we went back to brainstorming:  how could we supply just enough structure to make the school’s visit intellectually stimulating without making it seem like just another day in the classroom? How could we best get a group of students to not just walk through the maze, but to actually engage with its content? We had previously assumed that these two activities had to be separated—hence the archival activities. Now we needed to come up with a way of bringing the two together.

A major theme of the exhibit is the puzzle of Mendes Cohen’s complex identity. The exhibit seeks to demonstrate the different aspects of his character with his objects, letters, and actions. There are puzzle pieces scattered throughout the exhibit that list his attributes—e.g. “Family Man” and “Proud Jew.” Each of these puzzle pieces lifts up to reveal a question about how we know that Mendes was all of these things. At the end of the exhibit, we turn the question to the visitor: what are the attributes that make up you?

Picture 3

A “make your own” puzzle piece

It was this central theme that led our Education Director, Ilene Dackman-Alon, to a breakthrough idea. For the next school group that visits us, we will ask the students to work in pairs to find each of the puzzle pieces in the exhibit, and to write down the answer to each one’s question.  At the end of the exhibit, we will ask them to think of attributes that describe their own class. Each pair will contribute their attribute to a piece of the class puzzle that they will then get to take back to school with them!

We are very excited about this new plan! It can be daunting to have to go back to the drawing board after working so hard to come up with the first lesson plans, but actually knowing what it looks like to take a school group through the exhibit helped us shape what we hope will be an even better one.

 

abby krolikA blog by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts from Abby, click here.

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The Making of An Exhibit – Mendes Arrives!

Posted on September 17th, 2014 by

After many months of hard work developing The A-mazing Mendes Cohen exhibition, JMM staff members were eagerly awaiting its arrival by truck on September 3 from Seattle. What many people might not realize is that exhibits do not arrive fully constructed and that the task of assembling and installing the exhibition structure, text panels and artifacts is complex necessitating the work of a team of individuals. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at the Making of The A-mazing Mendes Cohen.

Day One

The first moving truck arrived at 9am. Luckily our forklift and driver arrived just in time to help take the crates off the truck.

The first moving truck arrived at 9am. Luckily our forklift and driver arrived just in time to help take the crates off the truck.

Exhibition designer and maze builder extraordinaire, Kelly Fernandi of Minotaur Mazes enjoys his ride on the forklift making sure that the crate stays in place.

Exhibition designer and maze builder extraordinaire, Kelly Fernandi of Minotaur Mazes enjoys his ride on the forklift making sure that the crate stays in place.

Our orientation space which serves so many purposes became our temporary storage space for the crates.

Our orientation space which serves so many purposes became our temporary storage space for the crates.

Because we are recycling a maze structure from another exhibition (Chimp Adventure that was recently on display at the Kansas City Zoo) not all the parts in the crate are being used for The A-mazing Mendes Cohen. Here, Susan Press, Joanna Church and Darrell Monteagudo unpack and sort crate contents.

Because we are recycling a maze structure from another exhibition (Chimp Adventure that was recently on display at the Kansas City Zoo) not all the parts in the crate are being used for The A-mazing Mendes Cohen. Here, Susan Press, Joanna Church and Darrell Monteagudo unpack and sort crate contents.

Once the parts are unpacked, we begin installation. First task, arrange metal pipes in appropriate spot on the floor around the gallery using this floor plan as our guide.

Once the parts are unpacked, we begin installation. First task, arrange metal pipes in appropriate spot on the floor around the gallery using this floor plan as our guide.

 Where the heck do they all go? (Fortunately, Kelly was checking all my work and rearranging as necessary!)

Where the heck do they all go? (Fortunately, Kelly was checking all my work and rearranging as necessary!)

Once all the floor pipes are arranged, we then got to work attaching them to one another. Everyone got very good at using a hex wrench to tighten connections, a very important step!

Once all the floor pipes are arranged, we then got to work attaching them to one another. Everyone got very good at using a hex wrench to tighten connections, a very important step!

The outline of the maze becomes apparent as the floor pipes are connected.

The outline of the maze becomes apparent as the floor pipes are connected.

After all the floor pipes were in place we then began attaching vertical poles. You can see Susan Press in the corner making sure all our connections are very tight. This was a great job for Susan!

After all the floor pipes were in place we then began attaching vertical poles. You can see Susan Press in the corner making sure all our connections are very tight. This was a great job for Susan!

After a few unsuccessful attempts at getting the ceiling pipes in place, we decided to call it a day.

Day Two

Despite feeling sore in body parts we didn’t even know existed, installing the roof pipes went much smoother the second day. Do you see the maze starting to come together?

Despite feeling sore in body parts we didn’t even know existed, installing the roof pipes went much smoother the second day. Do you see the maze starting to come together?

Once we have the metal frame structure in place, it’s time to begin work on the maze panels. Here they are laid out on the lobby floor.

Once we have the metal frame structure in place, it’s time to begin work on the maze panels. Here they are laid out on the lobby floor.

Kelly provides a tutorial in hanging panels. Sadly, he will have to repeat this lesson several times before it really sinks in.

Kelly provides a tutorial in hanging panels. Sadly, he will have to repeat this lesson several times before it really sinks in.

Ilene Dackman-Alon and I start to get the hang of it (pun intended!)

Ilene Dackman-Alon and I start to get the hang of it (pun intended!)

Panel successfully hung!

Panel successfully hung!

Program manager, Trillion Attwood, became an expert wielding cable ties. Who knew they made such wonderful hair accessories!

Program manager, Trillion Attwood, became an expert wielding cable ties. Who knew they made such wonderful hair accessories!

Once the panels are hung, we go back through to make sure that all the screws are tight.

Once the panels are hung, we go back through to make sure that all the screws are tight.

Another long day but the end is almost in site!

Day Three

The third day was largely devoted to installing artifacts in cases.

Textile conservator, Michele Pagan, arrived with the flag that Mendes made to hoist up the sail as he traveled on the Nile. Michele has been working for several weeks to fill in the color of the red stripes that have faded and to repair the paper stars that have disintegrated. Here she is gently cleaning the flag before its installation in a special case designed and fabricated by Mark Ward.

Textile conservator Michele Pagan arrived with the flag that Mendes made to hoist up the sail as he traveled on the Nile. Michele has been working for several weeks to fill in the color of the red stripes that have faded and to repair the paper stars that have disintegrated. Here she is gently cleaning the flag before its installation in a special case designed and fabricated by Mark Ward.

Sanchita Balachandran, registrar at Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, arrives with a sampling of the Egyptian artifacts that Mendes collected while in Egypt. She and Joanna worked to unpack and install the objects in their case.

Sanchita Balachandran, registrar at Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, arrives with a sampling of the Egyptian artifacts that Mendes collected while in Egypt. She and Joanna worked to unpack and install the objects in their case.

Next up, the fabulous red jacket that Mendes purchased during his travels. Michele Pagan did some conservation work on the jacket as well. To the best of my knowledge, this exhibit will be the first time that the JMM has displayed many of the wonderful treasures in our collection belonging to Mendes.

Next up, the fabulous red jacket that Mendes purchased during his travels. Michele Pagan did some conservation work on the jacket as well. To the best of my knowledge, this exhibit will be the first time that the JMM has displayed many of the wonderful treasures in our collection belonging to Mendes.

We left most of the heavy duty installation jobs to Kelly. Here he is installing one of the exhibit’s many interactive, a map where visitors can take a stab at tracing Mendes’ journey.

We left most of the heavy duty installation jobs to Kelly. Here he is installing one of the exhibit’s many interactive, a map where visitors can take a stab at tracing Mendes’ journey.

Day Four

Feeling much more rested after taking a day off, we spent Sunday working on final details.

Our fantastic lighting designer, Rich Pullman, did a heroic job navigating the maze frame to install our new LED lights. Once the lights were in place the exhibition finally came to life.

Our fantastic lighting designer, Rich Pullman, did a heroic job navigating the maze frame to install our new LED lights. Once the lights were in place the exhibition finally came to life.

Kelly spent much of the day working on exhibit interactive and straightening maze walls and panels.

Kelly spent much of the day working on exhibit interactive and straightening maze walls and panels.

One final touch, vacuuming!

One final touch, vacuuming!

Now that you know about all the fun we had putting it up, we hope you will join us to see how it all turned out. The A-mazing Mendes Cohen opened on Sunday, September 14 amidst Baltimore’s Star Spangled Spectacular. And while the fireworks may be over, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen and all his adventures are ready for you – look forward to seeing you here!

deborahA blog post by Assistant Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts by Deborah, click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Museum Matters: September 2014

Posted on September 5th, 2014 by

Museum Matters

September 2014

NINE DAYS TO MENDES

This week everyone pitched in to hang the maze for our new exhibit.  Each day’s package delivery contained a new set of delights, exhibit brochures, flyers and postcards;  maze toys that Esther had purchased for the store; new energy-efficient lights for the exhibit gallery – it was like Hanukkah in September.

Deborah and Ilene hard at work!

Deborah and Ilene hard at work!

Even those of us that have been living with the exhibit for the last eighteen months are “amazed” to see it coming together so swiftly now.  If you are a JMM member, you’ll want to put the evening of September 14th on your calendar – not only to see the exhibit but to see what’s behind the exhibit. The exhibit continues until next Flag Day (June 14, 2015), so you have plenty of time to tell your friends about it.

The only thing better than seeing the gallery come to life, would be seeing you in it.

Marvin

 

Upcoming Programs

Please note that unless otherwise noted, all programs take place at the Jewish Museum of Maryland (15 Lloyd Street, Baltimore, MD 21202). For more information and to RSVP for specific programs, contact Trillion Attwood: (410) 732-6400 x215 / tattwood@jewishmuseummd.org. For more information on JMM events please visit www.jewishmuseummd.org.

 

MC_Exhibit Assets_v2Public Opening, The A-mazing Mendes Cohen

Sunday, September 14, 10am-5pm

Included with Museum Admission 

Join us on the opening day of our latest exhibit! Explore the story of Mendes Cohen through our new, innovative exhibit developed in partnership with the Maryland Historical Society. On opening day we will have some great family activities available, so you can take a bit of Mendes home with you!

 

Members Opening: The Making of The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen

Sunday, September 14, 5:00pm

Free for Members

Just for members of the Jewish Museum of Maryland and members of our partner, The Maryland Historical Society, we will have a special insider’s evening at the maze.  This will be a chance to not only meet our living history character and explore the exhibit, but also to hear from the creative voices who turned a little-known 19th century soldier, businessman and adventurer into a physical experience.  Our panel of experts will delve into the decisions that drove the development of the maze and character—and reveal some of the stories and anecdotes that had to be sent to the “cutting room floor.”  It’s a chance to go behind the scenes of the exhibit process for people who love museums.

 

photo of common defense edit 1Citizen Stand: Battle for Baltimore 1814

Sunday, September 21st, 1pm

Performed by Baltimore School for the Arts

Included with Museum Admission

Help us welcome BSA to the JMM for a performance of their latest student production, Citizen Stand: Battle for Baltimore 1814. Students have worked with Maryland Historical Society and National Park Service to develop three short plays about the battle that led to the writing of the Star Spangled Banner.  The plays explore different experiences for Baltimoreans in the lead up to war. One play is especially important to us as there is a character not dissimilar from Mendes Cohen.

 

MPT Pledge Night

Sunday, September 28th 

Support JMM and public television on the same night! – we have been invited to participate in an upcoming MPT pledge night on Sunday, September 28th . We have been asked to bring 10 to 15 volunteers to MPT studios in Owings Mills. The volunteers simply need to answer the phones when people call to pledge to the station during the reprise of The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama. In return for this service we will have the opportunity to make a live pitch for the Mendes Cohen exhibit. This is in addition to the fact that our promotional fifteen second spots will also run that evening. MPT has said that it will provide kosher meals for all our callers.

For more details (and to sign up) contact Rachel Kassman (rkassman@jewishmuseummd.org) and join in on the fun.

 

_RWK4001Premium Members Salon: Mendes Cohen

Sunday, October 5, 5:00pm

Free for Living History Circle and above members

This year’s Members Salon will feature a performance of our latest living history character Mendes Cohen, performed by Grant Cloyd. Learn more about this fascinating character as he recounts some of his most fascinating anecdotes, including his experience as a defender at Fort McHenry and his time as a world traveler. Mendes was known in later life to stop passers-by to recount these fascinating stories, now is your chance for history to come to life!

This event is open to our Living History Circle members and above. Light refreshments will be served.

 

fullgloryIn Full Glory Reflected

Sunday, October 19th, 1pm

Author Burt Kummerow

Included with Museum Admission

We are pleased to be welcoming to the JMM, Burt Kummerow , the director of the Maryland Historical Society, our partner institution for The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen. Mr. Kummerow, an expert on Maryland history, will be talking about his book In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake. The book uncovers its gripping stories of devastating raids, heroic defense, gallant privateers, fugitive slaves, and threatened lands.

 

the-golem-aka-der-golem-wie-er-in-die-welt-kam-1920Free Fall Baltimore

The Golem: A Horrific Hero with Feet of Clay

Sunday, October 26th, 1pm

Speaker Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg

 FREE

These days, you don’t have to wait for Halloween to find horror—and especially the living dead—in every corner of pop culture. But where are the Jewish zombies? The mythical golem is an artificially constructed, supernaturally animated, liminal being caught between life and death. Jewish folklore often features this creature in stories of injustice and vengeance. Tales of the golem provide a vital link between the more familiar global legends of the living dead and a Jewish tradition that mingles horror with heroism; it’s time for the golem to get a little respect.

 

Arnold T. Blumberg teaches courses in zombies in popular media (Univ. of Baltimore) and comic book literature (UMBC).

 

_RWK3797Mendes Cohen Living History Performance

Sunday, November 16th, 1pm

Actor Grant Cloyd

Included with Museum Admission 

See history come alive with this performance of our newest Living History character, Mendes Cohen. Mendes, the focus of our newest exhibit, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen, developed in partnership with the Maryland Historical Society, is possibly the most fascinating Baltimorean you have never heard of! Learn more about this fascinating character as he recounts some of his most captivating anecdotes, including his experience as a defender at Fort McHenry and his time as a world traveler.

 

More Programs

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 bnaiisraelcongregation.org.  For more of this month’s events from BIYA, please visit biyabaltimore.org or check out BIYA on facebook. www.facebook.com/groups/biyabaltimore

The next meeting of the JGSMD will be held on Sunday, September 28, 2014, from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., at the Pikesville Library’s meeting room, 1301 Reisterstown Rd, in Baltimore. The program will be presented by James Schollian, George Harmon, and John Graves of the Hampstead Family History Center. Their presentation will give a brief background of the LDS Church’s worldwide efforts to document, digitize, and index available records essential to family history research (including Jewish records). The program is free for paid members and $5 for non-members (applied to membership fee when a visitor joins JGSMD) after their first meeting. Refreshments will be available. Please check our web site at www.jgsmd.org for late updates and for the time, location, and program of future meetings.

 

Exhibits

Exhibits currently on display include Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore, The Synagogue Speaks! We are delighted to announce the opening of The A-mazing Mendes Cohen on September 14 (on display through June 14, 2015).

 

Hours and Tour Times

The JMM is open Sunday-Thursday, 10am – 5pm. We offer tours of our historic synagogues each day at 11:00, 1:00, 2:00, 3:00, and 4:00.

Please note we are closed for Rosh Hashanah on Thursday and Friday, September 25 and 26.

Get Involved

The JMM is looking for volunteers to help staff our front desk, work in the gift shop, and lead tours as docents. No prior knowledge or training is required. All that is needed is an interest in learning about the JMM, our historic sites, exhibits, and programs and a desire to share this knowledge with the public. All volunteers are provided with thorough training. If you are interested in learning more about our volunteer program, please contact Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen at 410.732.6400 x217 or icohen@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

Membership 

Revamped and revitalized, membership at the JMM is now better than ever – with new categories, benefits, and discounts to enrich every visit to the Museum for you and your friends and families.

All members receive our monthly e-newsletter, along with a 10% discount at the Museum store, free general admission to the Museum, free admission to all regular programs, attendance at exclusive member opening events and discounted weekday parking at the City-owned garage at 1001 E. Fayette Street.

Your membership provides much needed funding for the many programs that we offer and we hope we can count on you for your continued support. Memberships can be purchased online! http://jewishmuseummd.org/get-involved/museum-membership/ For more information about our membership program, please contact Sue Foard at (410) 732-6400 x220 or sfoard@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

Gift Shop

The definitely A-mazing Mendes Cohen, has made his mark on the Museum Shop, cast an eye on our A-mazing Mendes Cohen mugs!

Mendes-Blue-Rim-Handle-Mug-v2

Get your very own Mendes Mug!

Keep thinking mazes..our Amaze game and the Laser Amaze, a #1 Best Seller, not to mention the Gravity Maze!  Games that will both amaze and delight you.

Gravi-1006-Thinkfun.HiResSpill

Train your mind with the gravity maze!

The Museum Shop is ready for your holiday shopping, we have made reductions on some best-sellers, come and visit the shop. Remember that all purchases benefit the Jewish Museum of Maryland, and your membership in the JMM entitles you to a 10% discount in our A-mazing Shop!

For information, call Esther Weiner, Museum Shop Manager, 410-732-6400, ext. 211 or email at eweiner@jewishmuseummd.org.

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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