A Look at JMM Collections Management Systems

Posted on March 4th, 2013 by


For decades museums, including the Jewish Museum of Maryland, used a bound ledger to record each donation. A separate ledger was used to track each incoming and outgoing loan. Later, we moved to a large three ring binder with a hand-written spreadsheet of information.


Individual cards were then written for each individual object, with separate cards for donors and each subject, all filed accordingly into the card catalog. Sorting and storing objects and photographs according to subject which was tremendously helpful for the registrar and/or archivist responsible for finding answers to research questions, or preparing for exhibition – and much easier than memorizing thousands of accession numbers!

How research was done before Wikipedia!

How research was done before Wikipedia!

The JMM moved to its first automated collections management system (CMS) in the 1990s, but by early 2000 it was apparent that the DOS-based program was ill-suited for our diverse collections. Cataloging archival documents in a system designed for three-dimensional objects is truly like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.

square peg

There are a number of CMS to choose from so it was important that we found a system that worked for our needs without selling us on features that we would never use. PastPerfect was perfect for us! Geared toward smaller museums, PastPerfect offered a database with separate (color coded!) modules for objects, archives, photographs, library books, and membership which is ideal for our history-based collection.  With the AASLH member discount, we couldn’t beat the price. The program is intuitive and easy to learn. Almost everyone on staff –as well as our interns and some volunteers—uses PastPerfect for research, programs, memberships, mailings, and of course, collections management . As the administrator, I can control access levels so that records can’t be accidentally deleted. Although we can attach 999 images to each record, my one complaint is that we can only attach them one at a time.

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Jobi trains the 2012 education and exhibition interns on the research functions of PastPerfect.

Jobi trains the 2012 education and exhibition interns on the research functions of PastPerfect.

And we just can’t say enough about their customer service–friendly, knowledgeable AND helpful!  While Brian, Ginger, Jannessa, and the gang have answered hundreds of questions for us over the years, the JMM has also been able to provide PastPerfect with some valuable feedback. For example, when we told PastPerfect that we really wanted to make the collections accessible to researchers, they developed PastPerfect on-line.

Darn archivist won’t let me bring my mug into the library, even if it is from PastPerfect!

Darn archivist won’t let me bring my mug into the library, even if it is from PastPerfect!

PastPerfect is constantly updating and improving their product, providing a complete explanation of how the changes will affect our work. The museum will be upgrading to version 5.0 in the next few months.  Some of us are a little nervous about navigating the new interface, but the promise of enhanced membership and development features have us very excited. Collections management systems in general are on-going, evolutionary process.  It should also be fascinating to see what the future brings and how “primitive” today’s technology seems 20 years from now.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM: The Salon

Posted on January 19th, 2011 by

In the past, the JMM has held salon events.  You know, floor to ceiling stacked with arts, coffee and croissants, people speaking about the artwork in a meaningful way.  But yesterday the lobby of our Herbert Bearman Campus became a very different type of salon.  A hair salon.

Enter Photo Archivist & Develop Coordinator Rachel Kassman.  She had hair.  She hated her hair.  She asked Education & Program Coordinator Elena Rosemond-Hoerr to cut her hair.  Because Elena has been cutting her own bangs for a while and has yet to cut them so short she couldn’t come to work.

So around 5 yesterday Rachel donned a number of children’s smocks, sat on a bench in the lobby, and got a fantastic new hair cut.

Rachel, pre hair-cut

First, I made Rachel pose for a “before” shot.  Because we’re always looking for fresh blog content.


Then, I applied the prechool size children’s smocks.  To protect her fancy shirt.

Then the cutting began.

That smile on her face is nerves, by the way.

The back

The back of her head, during the cut.

The finished product!

And finally, the finished product!  A lovely JMM style haircut for a lovely JMM employee!  What can we say, we wear many hats over here.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

A New Look!

Posted on December 15th, 2010 by

A post by Elena Rosemond-Hoerr, Education and Program Coordinator.

Ladies and Gentlemen, boys and girls, today we have a very special announcement.  After a very long process, much head and heartache, and many rounds of edits and revisions, the JMM web presence has a brand new look!

Starting this summer, the JMM began working with Red Thinking, a talented group of web designers and Skeevis Art, a web development company.  As anyone who has ever worked on a large design project can attest, the process is grueling.  The JMM staff is diverse and opinionated and it took a lot of intensive discussion to find a design that worked visually and functionally for everyone.  I am happy to say, however, that we were finally successful.  And in the middle of the night on Monday the new website (and the new blog) went public.

Drumroll, PLEASE….

The main visual feature of the new site are the large circles parading across the top.  We loved these because they’re fun, colorful, inviting, and (we think) appealing to all audiences.  Plus, as soon as we saw the very first mockup we instantly wanted to play with the site!  That, my friends, is the sign of a great design.

Homepage, bottom

One of the things we wanted most out of this redesign was a place where everyone’s interests and pet projects could be celebrated on the front page.  As you readers may know, starting in September all JMM staff were required to blog monthly.  Each staff member, from Dr. Barry Lever to Ilene Dackman-Alon has different goals and a different mission at the JMM.  Their blog posts represent their interests and all their hardwork.  This little space on the front page highlights the most recent blog post (and the next upcoming event) allows the diverse interests of the staff.

Sidebar for the Visiting Section

Another thing we were really hoping to do was better utilize the sidebar that shows up on each page of the website.  Instead of getting rid of it, we customized each section to show a different thing, something specific to the section.  For instance, in the Visiting section we will be highlighting a different neighboring museum (like the Carroll Mansion, shown above).  In the Events section we have a poll asking visitors what types of programming they’re interested in.  In Collections & Research we have the top items that we are currently searching for.  Get the picture?

The point is, we’re pleased.  So pleased.  Red Thinking & Skeevis Art did a wonderful job, and we can’t wait to see what they come up with for our next website- the Chosen Food site!

See the website at http:///jewishmuseummd.org.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland