Posted on December 20th, 2013 by Rachel
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Posted on December 2nd, 2013 by Rachel
Dear Abby is at it again!
My dear friend, “S” has put himself into a bit of a pickle. He has a reputation for being a know-it-all, and now he’s made an ill-advised bet with his archenemy (let’s just call him “M”) that he knows everything about the Jewish Museum of Maryland. He even wagered his prized violin! There’s only one problem: “S” has never been to the JMM! Obviously, he needs to visit the museum as soon as possible. When is the soonest that he can go on a tour? Do your tours cover the whole museum? Another potential problem is that “S” has lived a long, full live, and his knees just aren’t what they used to be, so he is not comfortable using stairs—even with railings. Will this be a problem?
Dear Dr. W.,
A wager is very serious business, so I will try to do everything I can to help your friend learn what he needs to know in order to keep his violin! First of all, we offer five tours a day, Sunday through Thursday, so there are plenty of opportunities for “S” to go on a tour. These tours go out at 11:00am, 1:00pm, 2:00pm, 3:00pm, and 4:00pm. I would recommend that he come for the tours earlier than 3:00pm because the 3:00pm tour talks more about the Civil War than about the history of the synagogues, and the 4:00pm tour is abbreviated because we have to close up the synagogues at 4:30pm. For future reference, you can always find our tour schedule on our website, here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/visiting/.
The tours do not cover the entire museum. They only cover the two synagogues—Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel Synagogue. The exhibits inside the museum, and in the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, are all self-guided.
Unfortunately, while the main museum building is handicap accessible, both synagogues require our visitors to climb a lot of stairs, and because they are historic buildings, it’s very difficult to install ramps or elevators that still comply with the historic trust’s rules. Hopefully, in the near future, we’ll have a solution to the problem of ensuring access while preserving the historic character of these buildings, but for the time being, we’re stuck with what we’ve got.
Generally, I assume that each visitor knows his or her own abilities best, but if “S” is uncomfortable with stairs, even when they have railings (as ours do), then he will not be able to see the sanctuaries of the synagogues…in person. But that doesn’t mean that he can’t go on a tour! Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we have a DVD version of the synagogues tour that we can set up in as little as five minutes! If “S” asks for it at the front desk, we will have him set up in no time at all.
Have a question of your own for Abby? Click HERE to email her! Make sure to put “Dear Abby” in the subject line!
Posted on November 21st, 2013 by Rachel
The newest installment of “Dear Abby!”
My wife and I live in the North Pole, but every so often, we take the reindeer down to Baltimore to eat some good crabs and maybe catch a Raven’s game. At our last visit, we saw your brochure at the Visitors’ Center, and we tried to visit your museum. I say tried because we came across two problems. The first was that we couldn’t find a parking space! A sleigh is not exactly a compact vehicle, so street parking was out of the question, and your lot was full. We finally decided to give up and come another time when we saw a large group of schoolchildren walking into the museum. As much as we love children, due to the delicate nature of my occupation, it would simply be disastrous if I visited a museum while large numbers of children were present. We were also worried that the level of noise that generally comes with schoolchildren would startle our reindeer.
I don’t suppose you have any “adult only” hours at the museum?
Dear Mr. Kriss,
I’m sorry to hear that you had such a frustrating time trying to visit us! The lot that you saw across the street from us does not actually belong to the museum, unfortunately. That is a city lot, and it does often get filled up during the work week, as you saw. On Sundays, it is much easier to find a spot there, and on the street—which is free on Sundays too. There’s also a garage nearby where you can park. The entrance to the garage is on Baltimore St., just before crossing East St. To make it even better, we have a deal with that garage! The regular price for parking there is $5 for the day, but if you let us know that you parked there, we’ll give you a coupon that takes $2 off of that. You can also find information about parking at the museum on our website, here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/visiting/parking-and-transportation/.
School children discovering the Lloyd Street Synagogue.
As for not wanting to share the museum with a school group, that is an understandable dilemna. Schoolchildren can be very exuberant in their quest for knowledge (and in their excitement to be out of the classroom), and while some people might enjoy the energy that those kinds of fellow visitors bring to the museum experience, others might prefer a more peaceful, maybe even zen-like quality. If you (or your reindeer, in this case) are the latter kind of visitor, than I would recommend that you visit on a weekday afternoon. Most of our school groups come in the mornings, and our busiest day, in terms of any type of visitorship, is Sunday.
And don’t forget that, unlike many other museums, we are open on Mondays! You can extend that relaxing weekend feeling by visiting us on a Monday afternoon.
I hope this helped you and that we will be seeing you and the Mrs. very soon!
Have a question of your own for Abby? Click HERE to email her! Make sure to put “Dear Abby” in the subject line!