Studying Abroad: Where Museum Personalities Clash

Posted on August 2nd, 2017 by

By collections intern Amy Swartz. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

A few weeks ago we were tasked with reading pieces of John H Falk’s Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience. For our weekly blog post that week, I wrote a bit about my initial reactions to the piece. However, while reading parts of the book I was really struck by his museum visitor’s model as I myself have inhabited those many models at different points in my life. This past spring I studied abroad in Copenhagen, Denmark and had the amazing opportunity to visit many European countries. As someone who loves museums so much that I want to work in one for the rest of my life, all of my trips included some type of museum visit. During these museum visits, depending on which museum I visited and who I was with, my identity flipped and flopped.

Falk’s five identities are explorer, facilitator, experience seeker, professional/hobbyist, and recharger. I am most often an explorer. I go into museums seeking to discover, I pick and chose what I spend my time on, and I often have some background knowledge. When I am with my friends, who are often experience seekers but sometimes explorers, I often am in a semi-facilitator role. I want them to learn and enjoy their visit so that we can actively discuss it. However, while in Europe my identity was in flux. I found that in my experience there are two types of museum experience for those who are studying abroad and traveling: the explorer and the experience seeker.

A ship in the Viking Museum, Oslo, Norway

A ship in the Viking Museum, Oslo, Norway

The explorer traveler finds museums in new cities and decides that a museum visit would be a good way to learn about the city or country’s culture. They go simply because they think it would be a cool experience and are more likely to go to a museum that is either free or has a museum discount rather than an expensive museum. My time in Oslo fits this description. My sister and I did not know what to do in the city, especially since it was rather rainy our whole trip and the city is quite expensive. We bought a museum pass, which was a great purchase and visited the Fram Museum and the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo, among others. I approached each visit solely as an explorer. I came in without any expectations or assumptions and simply enjoyed myself and learned a lot.

One of Monet’s Water Lilies Paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

One of Monet’s Water Lilies Paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

The experience seeker finds themselves at museums while abroad for the great or well-known works housed inside. They often operate on a limited schedule and work to check certain things off their bucket list The best example of this was my time in Paris. While at the Louvre, my best friend and I saw a lot but we narrowed down our visit to the greats: the Mona Lisa (an obvious choice), the Nike of Samothrace, and the Venus de Milo. We quickly went to the Le Musée de l’Orangerie next, only glancing in some galleries in order to get to Monet’s Water Lilies.

Me and my host sisters in the Kusama exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Me and my host sisters in the Kusama exhibit at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Other museums I visited brought out both personalities. While in Denmark I visited the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art with my visiting host family. Majority of my time there I was an explorer, hungrily consuming information. The Louisiana has an amazing collection and while there I actually saw a lot of works I later learned about in my Women, Art, and Identity course. However, I was also an experience-seeker as there was a well-known exhibit by Yayoi Kusama called Gleaming Lights of the Souls. In that moment I had to see it just to see it and have that experience – it was worth a bit of a wait, which turned out to be nothing based on the wait at the Hirshhorn Museum which had hours long wait lines.

I’ve found that one’s identity at a museum is very dependent on the circumstances of the visit. That’s why it is always beneficial for a museum to cater to multiple identities – which JMM does very well through its various educational programs, exhibits, and lectures.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Looking for Stories of Culture

Posted on July 31st, 2017 by

By exhibitions intern Tirza Ochrach-Konradi. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

Judaism is built on stories, which is natural for any religion. Religions are based on shared beliefs and the story format is the way a lot of that content gets passed down generation to generation. Religious stories act like pneumonic devices for religious beliefs. It would not be easy to compile, maintain, and memorize a giant bulleted list of religious beliefs, but it is attainable to establish, maintain, and recollect from a big book of stories.

Jewish religious stories are super accessible and have been carefully maintained but, the particular Jewish stories that I am interested in are less carefully stored. I am interested in the stories of Jewish culture and Jewish community. The stories that come from Jews as a group of people doing things together that are designed to share what it means to participate in Jewish culture. This is entirely personal bias. I am not a religious Jew and cultural Jewish stories resonate more with me.

I learned holiday traditions from my parents, but I also had those traditions reinforced through reading story books. In particular I remember reading The Matzah that Papa Brought Home which is by Fran Manushkin and illustrated by Ned Bittinger about Passover and Purim Play by Roni Schotter as well as ZigaZak! a Hanukah book by Eric Kimmel illustrated by John Goodell. As a child these stories helped me understand my family’s traditions and situate them into a larger culture. Participation in religious community was not right for us because we didn’t believe. We also didn’t live in an area with a high population of Jewish neighbors so these stories were the way I got a broader understanding of the traditions and holidays my family undertook.

The cover of The Matzah that Papa Brought Home.

The cover of The Matzah that Papa Brought Home.

This summer has been fun because the oral histories that I have been working with are basically big cultural Jewish stories. This includes the collection project I am focusing on. I have been part of conducting a major interview project for Beth Am. The congregation is collecting the recollections of members who were present during the earliest years of the synagogue. Some of these people are folks who went to Chizuk Amuno when it was in the Eutaw Place temple and chose to remain in the downtown location when the rest of Chizuk Amuno moved to their Stevenson location. The rest of the participants are individuals who joined very early on in the life of the congregation.

I do feel out of my depth when interviewees reference religious practices with words I’ve never heard before. However, even though this project revolves around a religious institution, I find that what I really get is a sense of how these people built a Jewish community. The stories I get to collect are full of accounts of how friends drew other friends in, how the membership took pride in being a “do-it-yourself” shul where everything from youth education to painting the building was undertaken by rank-and-file members, and how the biggest strength of the shul is its open and welcoming culture.

Watercolor painting of the Eutaw Place temple by Rod Cook. (JMM 1995.192.010)

Watercolor painting of the Eutaw Place temple by Rod Cook. (JMM 1995.192.010)

I’ve personally interviewed five people this summer and I’ve heard and transcribed the recordings of five more. Because these interviews are so intently focused on the one topic the effect of having heard all of the recollections is as if I have read the same story written out by ten different people. Each version highlights different events and participants. Together they build a picture of the full reality of the experience. It is awesome to have this front row seat in pulling together the piece. Like the books of my childhood, these stories have been able to share a sense of Jewish community and help me understand myself as part of a bigger culture.

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Intern Weekly Response: Get Social!

Posted on July 27th, 2017 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to read a selection of articles on Museums and Social Media, and write a brief response focused on the JMM’s use of social media in a particular channel. We also asked them to recommend other museums’ social accounts and to try their hand at creating their own posts for the JMM’s twitter, tumblr, and instagram channels! To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


 

The Wonderful World of the JMM Instagram

By collections intern Joelle Paull

Recent JMM instagram posts.

Recent JMM instagram posts.

The JMM instagram @jmm_md shares stories from the collections and exhibits, behind the scenes looks featuring JMM staff, and highlights from programming at the museum. Ultimately it is what you would expect from an institution like the JMM. My favorite recent posts are the series of weddings related to the ongoing Just Married exhibit. Who doesn’t love looking at wedding photos from weddings throughout the decades? They are the perfect way to engage followers with fun stories and share content related to the exhibit.

It would be interesting to see the account taken over by a staff member in a different department, visiting curator, or even a partnership with another museum or institution. Whether a day or a week, it would be a change from the institutional voice of the account and could equally engage long term followers and new users alike.

The Storm King & The Hammer!

The Storm King & The Hammer!

My Instagram feed is often full of posts from museums around the world. Two of my favorites are the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles (@hammer_museum) and the Storm King Art Center (@stormkingartcenter). Hammer often posts images of visitors interacting with the exhibits, permanent collection, and their Thomas Heatherwick Spun chairs. Especially during rainy weeks like this one, who wouldn’t welcome images of the beautiful open air museum on their Instagram feed? The incredible views of the Hudson Valley and great art inspire social media envy. The Storm King Art Center, like the Hammer, often reposts posts from other visitors. It is a fun way to see how people interact with the landscape and art in a unique way. Check both of them out!


 

Tweet a little tweet on twitter!

By exhibitions intern Ryan Mercado

The world of Twitter is a crazy one! Almost everyone is on it expressing opinions, announcements, policies, or winners to contests. It’s no wonder that museums eventually got into this practice too. This week, we interns were asked to look at a social media channel and respond to the JMM’s use of it after reading an article. I got Twitter as my assigned channel, and I read the article, “The Institution as a user: Museums on social Media.” The article is mainly about how social media can make a museum seem more human and personable. Some examples listed in the article include museums responding to questions that visitors tweet at them.

Does the JMM have a specific voice on social media, specifically twitter? Scrolling through the twitter account of the JMM is like scrolling through a current event’s page of a catalog. There are many articles and links to the museum’s website and to the blog. Pictures of images are showcased with beautiful resolution images, and of course, retweets from other institutions!

However, there are some personable tweets that make you feel more connected to the museum. #MapMondays is a weekly tweet of cool maps that I otherwise would not see, #marryingmaryland also appears on the twitter page to showcase stories of weddings, and like any social media account, throwback Thursdays or #TBT are tweeted as well. Those posts are interesting and give me, the user more insight into the museum, and into things I would not normally see in exhibits. The Twitter page therefore does have its own voice, it’s a more personal voice that shows us more of the JMM than what we normally would not see.

Map Mondays is just one of several series of tweets the JMM sends out every week!

Map Mondays is just one of several series of tweets the JMM sends out every week!

 


 

The JMM on Tumblr!

By exhibitions intern Tirza Ochrach-Konradi

I like that the JMM posts very consistently on this platform. There is a steady stream of original content going up on the blog.  My favorite post is one that I found got significantly more interaction then most other posts. This was the canoe day post. I think this post did so well because it was photo heavy and text light.  All of the content was readily available, without needing to click through to reach a full text or to follow a link to a different website. I also appreciate the tags used: canoe day, canoes, boats, summer, boating, collections, and museums. Good tags do a lot to get posts in front of people’s eyes.  In comparison tags are doing less work for a post from this past week which links to a magazine article entitled, “Solving the Mystery of ‘La Estrellita,’ the Spanish Dancer who was Really a Nice Jewish Girl from Cincinnati”. The tags on this post are: la estrellita, stella, hurting, dancers, jewish, and tablet magazine.  La estrelllita, stella, and tablet magazine are all relevant tags, but they are not tags that will help the post spread. Good tags to add for this picture could include: dress, beaded dress, sepiatone, San Francisco, California, nice jewish girl, museum, and museums on tumblr.

Posts on Tumblr tagged with ‘sepia tone.’  A lot of our collection would fit right in!

Posts on Tumblr tagged with ‘sepia tone.’ A lot of our collection would fit right in!

I love that the Tumblr site links to the JMM’s other social media, but the theme lacks a search bar. There is a lot of careful tagging of posts which is awesome.  By having a search bar and a list of the tags associated with each exhibition people would be able to search the site to finds all the posts the Jewish museum made about Just Married, Beyond Chicken Soup, or whatever caught their fancy.  One of the museum blogs I’m recommending does this particularly well, Museums on Tumblr. (Although it isn’t strictly a museum Tumblr blog.) It reblogs the best content from museum blogs across Tumblr so you can find a bunch of museum blogs through browsing its archive. This is where it’s search-ability comes in handy. If you want to find all of the posts they have shared from the Exploratorium’s blog you can search for them. My other museum Tumblr recommendation is the Tate Collectives blog. This blog is incredible for its level of interaction with the Tumblr user community. Lots of its content is rebloged for other sources and it also offers young artists the chance to have their art featured on the blog. This isn’t a level of investment that is possible for the JMM, but it’s exciting to see the breadth of what is possible!

Check out the Tate Collectives submission page!

Check out the Tate Collectives submission page!


Damn, What a Gram!

By education intern Sara Philippe

The JMM does a great job of including a great variety of material on its Instagram account. The account consists of everything from professional-looking images from the museum’s archives to casual, often humorous posts that are very clearly from a real person (Rachel, the social media manager), to promotional material for upcoming events at the museum. It is clear, after going through many posts, that there is an effort to humanize the museum through snapshots that provide glimpses into daily life at the museum and the work the staff does, while emphasizing the museum’s principal role as a place that houses valuable historical artifacts, some of which can be accessed through visiting its exhibits, and others of which can best be shared on a social media account such as an Instagram. I really enjoy the posts that give the public access to some of the many of the museums treasures that are not physically available to the public.

A recent collections item featured on Instagram.

A recent collections item featured on Instagram.

For example, this post! It consists of a telegram sent by Henrietta Szold, an important figure in Baltimore Jewish history, congratulating parents on their daughter’s wedding in 1927. I love that this post offers a tidbit of insight into the life of a fascinating historical character while also keeping things current by keeping with the theme of weddings and reminding followers to check out the museum’s wedding-related information and artifacts on display in person at the museum itself. One suggestion I have for the museum’s account would be to post more photographs of visitors to the museum, and to then use this a platform to encourage followers to post their own photos that highlight their trip to the museum. I also would love to see more video posts, which would make the JMM’s Instagram all the more exciting!

Two other great museum's instagrams!

Two other great museum’s instagrams!

The Field Museum in Chicago has a great Instagram account that features beautiful images accompanied by very interesting information about animals, plants, and other items from its collections. The account is full of fun facts and detailed descriptions that make you want to see what else the museum has to offer by making a visit. You really get the feeling that experts are contributing their scientific knowledge to the content of the Instagram. Check out their account here.

I also recommend the Studio Museum of Harlem’s account, which showcases wonderful photos of its artwork, videos of talks and events hosted at the museum, and images of people at the museum, engaging with and enjoying its exhibits. Check them out here.


 

Getting Social: The Use of Twitter and the JMM

By collections intern Amy Swartz

This week, we learned about social media and museums and read three different articles about the ways a museum can use social media. However, one of the key themes I drew from the readings was about how museums have a dual identity in social media. Often in many social media accounts run by museums there are posts catered to different audiences. There are posts that feature accessions and objects in the collection and there are more personable posts such as blog posts and retweets, and then there are promotional posts such as events. However, museums are increasingly trying to bridge the gaps between the Me/Us/Them or the Museum/Museum Employees/Visitors or Guests.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland (@jewishmuseummd) uses all three forms of content on their Twitter channel. The account frequently displays various accessions, often related to daily holidays and has trending hashtags for exhibits. It also features blog posts from employees and interns in its posts which fulfills the Us in the museum content. However, there are less posts by guests or visitors on the JMM channel. One thing that the JMM account does particularly well is its use of catchy hashtags for exhibits. One of the best examples is the current hashtag #MarryingMaryland and #JustMarried. These are successful for two reasons. Firstly one is the name of the exhibit and the other is catchy (the use of alliteration is often successful as a hashtag) and can be used by anyone married in Maryland.

Recent posts from High Clere Castle and The Met.

Recent posts from High Clere Castle and The Met.

Two other great museum accounts to follow are the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Twitter account @metmuseum and Highclere Castle’s Twitter account @HighclereCastle which not only provides cool background looks into its collections but also caters to current pop culture. The best example of this was a recent post that the Met posted regarding a recent series of tours centered on the 50th anniversary of the well-known book “From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler.”  The Highclere Castle account also caters to pop culture, fully accepting its identity as the place where the tv show Downton Abbey was placed, using the hashtag #TheRealDowntonAbbey and hosting events related to the series.


 

Terrific Tumblr

By education intern Erin Penn

Some recent JMM tumblr posts.

Some recent JMM tumblr posts.

The Jewish Museum of Maryland’s tumblr serves as a great site to display all of the happenings of the museum. As a one-stop shop, JMM’s tumblr contains recent blog posts, interesting articles, and photos from the JMM’s collections. I really enjoy the range of posts and the continuous flow from pages. There is a culmination of posts directly related to the museum and pieces for all museum lovers. For example, “Ink for the Arts” hangs next to an intern blogpost.

NYPL and GW Textile Museum Tumblrs!

NYPL and GW Textile Museum Tumblrs!

Other museum tumblrs use this social media platform to share exhibits and show behind the scenes of museums. I recommend the George Washington Univeristy Textile Museum and The New York Public Library. The GWU textile Museum tumblr page shares not only great high-resolution images but also shows close up shots on how the employees manage and display these textiles.  This website even has several posts showing the storage units—a real behind the scene treasure! The New York Public Library’s tumblr is great for several reasons. I personally love seeing their book suggestions for subway reading. It’s cool to picture scrolling through this tumblr while riding public transit from your smart phone.

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