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Kids in Museums

Posted on March 19th, 2020 by

Blog post by Program Assistant Laura Grant. To read more posts from Laura, click here.

During this time of uncertainty, I’m trying to focus on things I’m looking forward to. From big things, like traveling to visit family to small things such as visiting restaurants, I’m taking time to think about the things I’m excited for. Workwise, I’m looking forward to the opening of our next exhibit, Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit. Additionally, I’m excited to continue working on a project I started a few months ago, developing a series of monthly family programs at the Museum.

If you know me today, you would assume I loved visiting museums as a child. However, that was not the case.

My mom likes to tell the story of the time I got so frustrated as a toddler during a museum visit, I took my shoes off and refused to put them back on. As I got older, I still dreaded museum visits with my family. They tried their hardest to pique my interest, but for the most part I found the visits boring. It was only when an exhibit related to an existing interest of mine or involved unique interactive elements that I felt engaged.

An exhibit about weather at the Tallahassee Museum caught my attention since I wanted to be a meteorologist as a kid.

As an adult museum professional, I know the benefits of visiting museums as a child. Museums enable kids to express their creativity, become exposed to new ideas and perspectives, and develop social and cognitive skills. Museums also provide a space for intergenerational learning-for adults and children to share ideas and have a social experience together.

All of this makes me excited that I have the opportunity to develop programs for this audience, like creating menorahs out of recycled materials.

Yet, I also keep my early museum experiences in the back of my mind when I’m thinking through program planning. I try to incorporate a variety of interactive activities that rely on different skillsets to maximize the chance kids will find something that interests them. I include activities that families can do together and work towards modelling the kinds of questions and conversations adults can ask kids to help facilitate learning.

Finally, snacks and breaks are included within the program because everyone needs them.

In the coming weeks, I will be working on developing future family programs. As I do, I am thankful to my parents who despite my protests, exposed me to museums at a young age. It certainly had a big impact on my life.

If you or someone you know is on the lookout for programs designed for young kids, stay tuned for more details about upcoming themes, partners, and activities! Make sure you are signed up for our e-mail list – if you don’t already recieve our e-newsletters, email Rachel Kassman at to be added!


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African American History in Baltimore (and Beyond)

Posted on February 28th, 2020 by

Blog post by Program Assistant Laura Grant. To read more posts from Laura, click here.


February marks Black History Month, an annual commemoration of the achievements of African Americans. This February, I spent some time learning more about the history of African Americans in Baltimore and beyond.

My first stop was the Lillie Carroll Jackson Civil Rights Museum. Lillie Carroll Jackson was president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP from 1935 until 1970. Under her leadership, membership drastically expanded as she led efforts to fight discrimination and racial segregation in the city. Dr. Jackson’s home, which was a center for civil rights organization in Baltimore, was turned into a museum to honor her life. Much of Dr. Jackson’s original furniture is on display inside the museum and galleries present information about her life, her family, and her allies.

Exterior of the Lillie Carroll Jackson Museum

Next, I visited the Peale Center for Baltimore History and Architecture to see the exhibit Renovations: A Story of Edifice and Ecclesiastical Influences on 19th-Century African American Education. The exhibit takes inspiration from the Peale Center’s location as the site of the Male and Female Colored School Number 1, one of the first grammar schools in Baltimore’s Colored school system. It explores the Black Experience of education in Baltimore throughout history. There were a lot of opportunities for visitors to participate in the exhibit. In one room, I touched heated desks, which emphasized the fact that even today many schools in Baltimore City lack proper HVAC. I also viewed several pieces through a phone that was equipped with augmented reality (AR) technology. This was a unique and artistic way to learn about the history of African American education in Baltimore.

Left: Chalk handprints on desk
Right: Ink drawing of Bethel AME Church

While not a museum or historic site, Not in My Neighborhood: How Bigotry Shaped a Great American City, has been an enlightening book to read this month. Written by former Baltimore Sun reporter Antero Pietila, the book explores the long-lasting and pernicious existence of residential segregation in Baltimore. Pietila charts the ways in which laws, federal organizations, city officials, real estate professionals, and others promoted and upheld a housing system designed to discriminate against African Americans.

Lastly, while it is not set in Baltimore, I would be remiss not to mention the screening of the film Rosenwald held at JMM earlier this month. This film tells the story of the partnership between Chicago philanthropist and President of Sears, Julius Rosenwald and educator Booker T. Washington and their efforts to build schools in African American communities during the Jim Crow Era. One of my favorite aspects of the film was the interviews with people who were affected by Rosenwald’s generosity.  John Lewis, Maya Angelou, Julian Bond, and others speak about the impact of Rosenwald, who enabled them to attend school, on their lives.

Rosenwald film.

While I did not visit this month, I’d also recommend exploring the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, which covers hundreds of years of African American history in Maryland. Baltimore is rich in sites that explore African American History, and it would take longer than a month to experience them all. I’m looking forward to visiting more places like the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Maritime Park Museum and the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum in the months to come.

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Having a Blast at the Air and Space Museum in Virginia

Posted on January 23rd, 2020 by

Blog post by Program Assistant Laura Grant. To read more posts from Laura, click here.

When I lived in Washington, DC, I visited the Smithsonian Museums quite frequently, including the National Air and Space Museum. I even volunteered for the “Flights of Fancy” Story Time program for a brief period. However, it took moving to Baltimore for me to visit the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the companion museum to the one on the Mall located in Chantilly, VA.

The Udvar-Hazy Center is unlike other museums I have visited. The artifacts, which include airplanes, helicopters, and a space shuttle are much larger than typical museum objects. They are also displayed in a huge, open hangar. The Center has a very distinctive look and feel that adds to the experience.

Me in front of the “Dash 80”

There are about 170 airplanes displayed in the Center. This number includes both commercial and military aircraft. Some of the highlights of the visit for me included the “Dash 80,” the precursor to America’s first commercial jet, the “Enola Gay,” which dropped the first atomic bomb during World War II, and the Concorde which flew people across the Atlantic at twice the speed of sound. I also enjoyed the collection of small aircraft that were built by individuals, sometimes even in their own backyards.

The “Enola Gay”

My favorite object may have been stratospheric suit worn by Alan Eustace when he parachuted down to Earth from the stratosphere. With his flight, he set the record for the highest altitude free fall jump.

The other main section of the Center focuses on space exploration. The highlight of this area is the Space Shuttle Discovery, the oldest and most accomplished space orbiter. The scale of the Discovery is awe-inspiring.

I also found the innovativeness of the Apollo 11 flotation bag used to turn the spacecraft right around after it landed in the ocean impressive.

The last aspect of the Center that I visited was the Observation Tower which provides a panoramic view of Dulles airport and the nearby region. I have always loved watching planes take off and land and was glad I had the opportunity to experience that here.

Visiting the Udvar-Hazy Center made me excited for JMM’s next exhibition, Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit. While there won’t be any spacecraft on display, the exhibit will feature many unique objects including rare, ancient texts about astronomy and Judaica taken into space by the first male Jewish-American astronaut, Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman. You won’t want to miss it!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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