JMM Insights: Fun (with a serious purpose)

Posted on January 22nd, 2016 by

I would be the first to admit that we’ve had a great deal of fun with our recent projects – “Paul Simon: Words and Music”, “Cinema Judaica”, “The A-mazing Mendes Cohen” but in this JMM Insights I want to remind us of why this type of fun matters.  You can call this my version of a “State of the History Museum Address”.

I begin with an observation: Today we sit within an ocean of information, never have so many Americans had easy access to eyewitness accounts of history; visual databases of historic artifacts; timelines, graphs and charts of every description.  Yet it is hard to argue that we have a deeper understanding of our past.  Politicians and pundits invoke an imaginary past with impunity – pretending, for example, that Japanese internment was a solution to a real problem in WWII or that slavery wasn’t the primary cause of the Civil War.  Nonsense is repeated with the same authority as fact and we lose our grip on reality.

So why don’t more of us take advantage of available resources to make ourselves better informed?

  1. We lack motivation and inspiration – this is where the “fun” part matters; we need to build good habits for exploring history the same way you would develop good habits for physical exercise or reading books – you need for lower barriers of engagement and increase rewards of participation. History museums are particularly good at this.
  2. We don’t see ourselves as history “makers” – we offer labs for science courses because we know that true understanding of scientific processes is more durable and deep when people make discoveries for themselves; history is not commonly taught this way in school – often relying exclusively on secondary sources written decades or centuries after the events. History museums allow visitors to “uncover” information from original sources.
  3. As a society we don’t value history. To many of us in the museum field today this is the most troubling cause of our collective version of Alzheimer’s. Most of us have heard of STEM, some of us have heard of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) but for at least a generation the history community has been pretty quiet about promoting its brand.  Public history has been starved of resources both within the formal education system (social studies as it turns out was “the child left behind”) and in public support for history museums, historic sites and historic parks, all of which lost government funding in the 2008 recession – and to put it politely, “have not participated in the recovery.”

A group of us have decided the time has come to change the public dialogue.  At the AASLH meeting in 2013 there was the formal launch of a national History Relevance Campaign, spearheaded by Baltimore’s own John Durel.  For more information on the Campaign check out their website:

The core of the Campaign is the Value of History statement – a common expression of the public history community.  Both the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Greater Baltimore History Alliance endorsed the statement this fall.  If you feel as we do, I urge you to download a copy of the statement for yourself – share it with friends and family and let people know why history isn’t just a “nice-to-have”, it’s an essential.

Closer to home Preservation Maryland is organizing a Preservation and History Advocacy Day in Annapolis on February 9.  This year Preservation Maryland has included new funding for history museums in its advocacy agenda in addition to its ongoing strong support of the Maryland Heritage Area Authority.  In a subsequent newsletter we will share details on how you can let our legislators know that history matters to you.

MarvinA blog post by JMM Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts from Marvin click HERE.

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JMM Insights: Greetings Graham!

Posted on December 18th, 2015 by

Regular readers of this newsletter may recall that our former visitor services manager Abby Krolik wrote a quarterly “Dear Abby” column to answer questions about JMM operations that we just knew were on your mind.  Our current manager, Graham Humphrey, is reviving this tradition and so we bring you “Greetings Graham.”
Greetings Graham,
I was planning on coming to see the Paul Simon exhibit – because I have a thing about Paul Simon.  Problem is that I’m coming from a galaxy far-far-away and don’t want to discover that all the tickets have gone over to the dark side.  Is there a way to buy tickets in advance?  May the force be with you.


Yes, there is! We have started an online ticketing program for the Paul Simon exhibit. You are not required to buy tickets in advance, but we have set up a system for the convenience of our visitors. If you are interested in purchasing tickets, you can visit this link ( and choose which day and time you would like to visit. After you pay securely on our website, please either print out your confirmation or have it readily available on your phone when you visit the Museum. Don’t worry if you cannot come during the timeslot you picked; you can use the ticket anytime you please.

Greetings Graham,

I just got back home from a great trip to the chocolate factory and saw on TV your Director, Marvin Pinkert, talk about the Paul Simon exhibit.  How can I arrange for my friends to come visit?

Mike Teavee

We would love to have you and your friends visit our Paul Simon exhibit! Please either call me at 410-732-6400 ext. 235 or send an email to In your message, please include what dates/times works for your group, how many people you expect to attend and any special needs you may have. Don’t postpone calling or writing as dates are filling up quickly. Also remember that the exhibit closes on January 18th!

Greetings Graham,

I came to the Museum a few Sundays ago at 2pm, but found out the program began at 1pm. I thought you always have programs at the same time on Sundays?

Frustrated Anne

NO! We sometimes change program times to take into consideration big city wide events, such as Ravens games. It is thus very important you read the event information carefully to ensure you don’t miss a fabulous program.

Greetings Graham,

My grandchildren are visiting and love to create music by banging their hands on my table and stomping their feet to create some beats. I don’t think my table can survive another week. Oy vey! Do you have any suggestions of a program that they could attend at the Museum?

My antique table can’t handle it

Yes! Christmas Day is Mitzvah Day at the Jewish Museum and we will be having a host of programs including a children’s activity in the morning where your grandchildren can make musical gifts for other children spending the holidays in the Herman and Walter Samuelson Children’s Hospital at Sinai Hospital. For our adult visitors, our Executive Director, Marvin Pinkert, will be talking about the influence of people of Jewish heritage on the American Folk Revival at 1 pm. Please clink on this link ( for more information. Remember too that the Museum will be open from 10 am-3 pm on Christmas Day and on New Years Eve.

Greetings Graham,

I overheard that you will be doing a chicken soup exhibit. I have won multiple awards for my Matzah ball soup. Would you like my recipe?


Starting on March 13th, we will be opening our next original exhibit, “Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America.” ( While the exhibit will be focused more on the interplay between culture, religion and the practice of medicine, we will be doing a cook off sometime next year where you can share your Matzah ball soup recipe with the community. Please watch out for more details.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

JMM Insights November 2015

Posted on November 20th, 2015 by


The end of an era

If you’re one of the tens of thousands of people who’ve visited the JMM over the past 23 years, there’s a good chance you’ve met Esther Weiner.

Everyone's favorite shop manager.

Everyone’s favorite shop manager.

Esther’s warm hospitality has been a mainstay of the Museum Store and the Museum for as long as anyone can remember. In 1992, then a member, Esther answered a help wanted ad in the Museum’s newsletter.

At first, her duties mainly consisted of administrative work in the back office, but somewhere along the way, the store fell into her lap. Despite being new to retail, Esther tackled her new task with gusto, and she succeeded marvelously. It’s the only way she knows how to do things!

Now, more than two decades since she answered that newsletter ad, it is with mixed feelings (sad for us, happy for her) that we report that as of December 2015, Esther will be applying her warmth and gusto to the next chapter of her life. We wish her all the best as she exits our gift shop, leaving it far better than it was when she got there.

We would like to invite our Board, our members, our volunteers and our staff to join us in a “Tribute to Esther” on December 14 at 6:30 p.m.  Come join us as we share stories and photos stretching across nearly all of the Museum’s history.

The fruits of her labor

Esther’s good nature, good sense and good taste have built the Museum Store into an institution that supports the mission of the JMM even as it enhances the experience of our visitors. If you haven’t been into the store recently now is the time to come and enjoy the fruits of her labor.  There are so many great items we’ve added that make perfect holiday gifts.

Pictures are a record clock, a record bowl, and a selection of cds.

Selections from the shop

For instance, in support of the Paul Simon exhibit, the Museum Store is offering playful books, toys, art objects and gifts chosen to complement the character of the experiences in our galleries and our programs. From clocks, bowls and journals crafted from old vinyl records to pull-back racers that remind us of the flower-power of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘60s to the lovely catalogue published by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Museum Store lets  visitors share a bit of their Paul Simon experience with family and friends.

We’re also excited to be carrying new products featuring the newly-launched JMM logo. Be the first on your block to sport the new JMM baseball cap or quaff down that coffee with a JMM/Jonestown mug – can’t guarantee it will taste better, just that it will be in good taste.

Add JMM to your Black Friday plans

For the first time in its history, the Jewish Museum of Maryland will be open the day after Thanksgiving (from 10am to 3pm)! The unusual Black Friday opening not only provides an alternative to the madness at the malls, it also gives us an opportunity to join in Story Corp’s National Day of Listening.  Make a reservation for an interview between you and a family member to record a significant family memory.  Stories recorded at JMM will be preserved at the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.  I can’t think of a more precious holiday gift… but just in case you want to top off your story with a tangible treat – Esther is offering a rare one-day sale in the Store: nearly everything but the Simon merchandise will be marked down 20%! We’ve got gifts for everyone on your holiday list, from baby to bubbe.

P.S. Don’t forget Nora Guthrie is coming to speak on Sunday.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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