Greetings Graham: Just Married edition

Posted on July 21st, 2017 by

Greetings Graham,

I’m in Baltimore for the summer and I need things to do! I grew up here but I haven’t been back since I was a kid and I want to make the best of the time I have. What do you recommend I see?

~Busy Bee

We are so glad you are coming back to Baltimore this summer! We just opened Just Married: Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland  which explores how Jewish Marylanders have navigated the multitude of options to create a meaningful ceremony, from what they wear to who officiates to whether and what they use for a chuppah.

Yemenite bride, 1958. via.

Yemenite bride, 1958. via.

We have several Sunday programs coming up such as Sephardic Weddings: Traditions of Yesterday and Today on August 20th or The Myth of the “Authentic Jewish Wedding” on August 27th.

September 17th!

September 17th!

If you are still around on September 17th, I would recommend coming to the JMM where you can hear true personal stories about the wonder and wackiness of weddings from people. Please note that Stoop Stories is a premium program and everyone, including members (at a special discount rate), will need to purchase tickets.


Greetings Graham,

My best friend is getting married soon and I am trying to find a wedding gift. Do you have any suggestions?

~Lazy Susan

You have come to the right place! Devan Southerland, our shop Assistant, would be more than happy to help find the perfect wedding gift. We have intricately crafted silver candlesticks, traditional and fun mezuzahs, playful tzadakah boxes, beautifully designed Spode china wedding cups, framed prints for the home and even teacups which form a heart shape. We also have plenty of picture frames to choose from to capture the memories of your friend’s special day. I am confident you will not leave Esther’s Place emptyhanded!

Marrying Maryland

Marrying Maryland

After your friend’s wedding, feel free to share pictures on our Marrying Maryland Tumblr page. Just go to and click “Submit a post” to get started.


Greetings Graham,

I am a social studies teacher and would like to show my students some of the different cultures of the world. I know the Middle East has rich Jewish history, but I don’t where to go to find out more about it. Can you recommend anything?

~Re-energized teacher

Dear Re-energized teacher,

The JMM’s upcoming exhibit Discovery and Recovery: Preserving the Iraqi Jewish Archive is a wonderful place for you to start your journey! The exhibit features recovered Iraqi Jewish artifacts such as a Torah case, the Babylonian Talmud, and documents and photographs from everyday life at the turn of the century in Iraq. Be sure to come by the JMM to take in all the exciting elements of the Iraqi Jewish Archives, starting October 15 and ending January 15. You will not want to miss this.

If you would like to plan a field trip, please get in touch with our Visitor Services Coordinator, Graham Humphrey  at, and he would be more than happy to arrange your visit. In addition to our current temporary exhibit, we have a full range of educational programs including synagogue tours, archival explorations and living history performances. We hope to see you at the JMM soon!

Opening October 2017.

Opening October 2017.


Greetings Graham,

I deeply enjoyed the Remembering Auschwitz exhibit this past spring and was looking for any additional opportunities relating to the Holocaust.

JMM Member

Dear JMM Member,

Thank you for your continued support! We rely on members like to support our exhibits, programming and general operating expenses. We are glad you were able to see the Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust and Humanity exhibit.

Starting on August 14th, we will be offering our annual Summer Teacher’s Institute. The theme this year is “Teaching the Holocaust in the 21st Century.” It promises to be an exciting three days of learning, discussion and even includes a field trip to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington ,D.C.  Don’t worry if you are not a teacher. This program is open to everyone and the cost is only $25! If this looks of interest to you, please fill out and return the application.

2017 Summer Teachers Institute

2017 Summer Teachers Institute

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Networking with the Nation

Posted on May 19th, 2017 by

Blog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

Last week, Collections Manager, Joanna Church and I attended the conference of the American Alliance of Museums in St. Louis.  We were two out of more than 4,000 museum professionals gathered there to discuss changing fiscal and social contexts, the most recent technological developments and yes, some general kibbitzing about people and exhibits creating a buzz.

Projections on the ceiling of Union Station in St Louis.

Projections on the ceiling of Union Station in St Louis.

Wearing my hat as a liaison between the museum world and our JMM members, I thought I might use this newsletter to share a few highlights of the conference and how they might impact our future.

The theme of the event was “Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion”.  The first featured speaker was Haben Girma, an Eritrean refugee who is also the first blind/deaf graduate of Harvard Law School.  Haben would have been an impressive orator in any forum… she had a wicked sense of humor and used it effectively to press the case for greater attention to access needs.  Her very presence spoke volumes as to how small acts of consideration can make big differences in enabling everyone to participate and contribute.

But the inclusion story was not only about accommodating disabilities, there were several sessions that dealt with demographic diversity.  On the opening day of the conference I represented the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM) on a panel entitled “Transcending Boundaries: The New ‘Identity Museums'”.  I was joined by moderator, Marsha Semmel (former Deputy Director of IMLS), Lisa Sasaki (Director of the Asian-Pacific American Center) and Antonio Rodriguez (Chair, AAM’s Latino Network).  We talked about the challenges of simultaneously meeting the needs of constituent and cross-over audiences, the ways that on-line and mobile devices are reshaping our delivery of content, and opportunities for collaboration with non-“identity museums.”  The recent CAJM meeting in Boston and JMM’s own work on our new core exhibit helped inform my presentation.

The conference was also our first opportunity to pitch our upcoming exhibit Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling to an assembly of traveling exhibit coordinators from both history and science museums.  Our exhibit – which includes a slice of technology, a shmear of history and a topping of environmental science – received a very positive reception.

A curiosity from the expo floor - this is a cut-out combined with a projection, but it felt like a hologram.

A curiosity from the expo floor – this is a cut-out combined with a projection, but it felt like a hologram.

Our main purpose at the conference though, is not to present, but to learn from others.  Joanna, for example, not only sat in on sessions about the nuts and bolts of collections registration and storage, but also attended programs that took a broader look at collecting strategies, audience engagement, and exhibit design within the framework of the theme of diversity and inclusion. Several speakers tackled issues of collecting and exhibiting traumatic history, recent events, and “risky” topics, issues we all wrestle with.  She quoted one speaker whose advice was “steal and adapt”: that is, when faced with a problem, we can look to our fellow museums for guidance, since it’s likely one of them has already encountered the same problem.  Joanna pointed out that diversity of types of museums in attendance at AAM is one of this conference’s great strengths, and it reminds herthat we don’t have to go it alone.

The math of music from "Math Alive" at the St. Louis Science Center.

The math of music from “Math Alive” at the St. Louis Science Center.

Speaking of museum diversity, it was on full display both in the projects highlighted in the sessions and in the venues for the evening events.  AAM’s award for excellence went to “Prisons Today: Questions in the Age of Mass Incarceration” at the Eastern State Penitentiary Museum in Philadelphia.  It is a bold concept, dramatically designed – can’t wait to see it.  In St. Louis itself, the stand-out project for me was “#1 in Civil Rights” at the Missouri History Museum – featuring the ACTivist in Action program, a unique fusion of theater and exhibit in one seamless experience.  A close runner-up for innovation was the “Math Alive” traveling exhibit at the St. Louis Science Center (I missed it during its premiere at the Smithsonian in 2012 – it appears to be holding up well for a five year old exhibit).  And perhaps the most impressive venue for the conference was the Missouri Botanic Garden, not just in terms of scale and beauty, but in the cleverness of its design.

From the venues to the sessions to the expo floor, we packed our bags full of new ideas to bring back to JMM.

The Japanese Garden at the  Missouri Botanic Garden

The Japanese Garden at the Missouri Botanic Garden

The Mediterranean Garden at the Missouri Botanic Garden

The Mediterranean Garden at the Missouri Botanic Garden

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights: Learning By Doing

Posted on April 21st, 2017 by

Want to listen to a pumping heart? Save the day at Ft. McHenry by removing ammunition from a stockade? Turn a pickle into a light bulb?

If you’ve visited JMM in the last few years, you might have done all of the above.  The opportunities to “learn by doing” continue this summer with our next exhibit, Just Married!: Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland now under development.

As you might expect, this exhibit features wedding gowns, accessories, invitations, and even ketubahs that are more than 150 years old.  But in making this experience accessible to people of all ages and all learning styles it will also contain “interactive” experiences.  Despite the 21st century jargon in the name, interactives in museums date back more than a century.

In 1911, Jewish businessman and philanthropist Julius Rosenwald took his 8 year-old son William to the Deutsches Museum in Munich.  There he saw something new in the museum world – instead of halls exclusively devoted to objects in cases, some of the exhibits had cranks and levers and pulleys.  These devices invited visitors not just to observe the scientific world but to understand it through participation. Rosenwald was so impressed with the impact of this new style of museum experience that he became determined to bring it back to America, to his hometown of Chicago – and so began the story of the Museum of Science and Industry, the nation’s largest science museum.

Over the course of the 20th century, interactives migrated from science museums to children’s museums and by the 1980s to natural history and history museums as well.  These exhibit units are sometimes characterized as “activities for kids,” but it is the experience of museum professionals that interactives receive as much of a workout from adults as children, if only vicariously (i.e. “Johnny, try pulling the crank first and then flipping the lever”).

In approaching the interactives for Just Married!: Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland, we began, as always, with educational objectives…how do we transform the topic into a vehicle for inspiring in-depth exploration and critical reasoning?  What concepts and activities would fit our exhibit themes, while attracting visitors both young and old?  We came up with a mix of puzzles, tactile experiences, and audio rewards to engage the brain as well as the senses.

The meeple family tree

An important part of interactive planning is beta testing. Over the winter, we tested two of our activities, one on the public and one on the JMM staff.
Our seating chart puzzle, designed by our in-house game maven, involves a set of adorable but in-law challenged meeples [wondering what meeples are? (and no, the singular of “meeples” is not “merson”)].  Our meeple families: the color-coded Pinkerts and Greensteins, Silvermans and Goldbergs needs to be strategically seated to achieve a set of goals for the bride and groom.  In this way we hoped to transform a common problem into a 3-D logic puzzle – both entertaining and thought provoking.

A seating challenge!

We set a simple prototype in the JMM lobby and invited visitors to give it a try.  This gave us insight into what visitors found confusing – such as the fact that unlabeled meeples are indistinguishable (so who could say if cousin Steve was sitting where he should be?) We experimented with affixing tiny labels to the meeples, simplifying the game’s rules and clarifying how to reset the game board for the next player.  All of these small adjustments will contribute to successful interactive – a tool that promotes learning (and fun).

Curator Karen takes a crack at matching photos

Joanna’s match-the-photo puzzle was tested out on the staff in a slightly less formal manner (but with scorekeeping, which always adds to the fun). In this activity, players are asked to match the wedding and anniversary photos of several Maryland couples from various eras.  Our collections include some great images, thanks to generations of Marylanders celebrating the milestone anniversaries of parents and grandparents.  Eleven of our staff and volunteers gave the game a try; there were mixed results, score-wise (and yes, one person did successfully match all eight couples), but everyone found themselves engrossed in the challenge.

Marketing and Development Manager Rachel had a tough time as the inaugural tester

These trial games were invaluable.  In the case of the photos, Joanna learned that the original version – a scattering of sixteen photos from eight couples, with no indication as to which images were wedding and which were anniversary – was much too difficult for anyone who hadn’t been staring at the pictures for three days like she had.  A few tweaks to the set-up improved things considerably. Our goal is to make interactives challenging – but not frustrating, often a difficult “sweet spot” to find.Interactives are just one component in turning a space into an experience.  A strong interactive complements, but does not replace, memorable images or artifacts – but the right tools can transport the visitor from “watcher” to “doer” and give them a sense of personal ownership of an exhibit.

MarvinBlog post by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert (with assistance from Collections Manager Joanna Church). To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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