Learning More About Our Visitors

Posted on July 13th, 2018 by

Our monthly look at JMM “by the numbers,” Performance Counts, comes to you this week from Visitor Services Coordinator Paige Woodhouse.  To read more posts from Paige, click here!


When you, the JMM visitor, enter the museum you are greeted by one of our dedicated front desk volunteers. While welcoming you to the Museum, they ask you a few questions. The conversation often goes something like this:

“Welcome to the Jewish Museum of Maryland! Have you visited with us before?”

“No, this is my first time.”

“Wonderful, we are so happy to have you. How did you happen to hear about us?”

“I read about you in the Baltimore Sun. They did an article on your Houdini exhibit.”

“Interesting! And where are you visiting us from today?”

“Pikesville.”

Not only do our front desk volunteers absolutely love hearing the personal story that has landed you on the JMM’s doorstep, the answers to these questions help the JMM learn more about our visitors as a whole. Here at the JMM, we seek to be a destination. We want to encourage more visitors to engage in our historic sites, exhibits, collections, and programs. From programming to marketing, the answers to these questions inform decision-making at the JMM. By seeing who we reach, we are also able to see who we haven’t reached, and where new potential visitors may be.

So, let’s take a moment to look back over the past fiscal year (July 1, 2017 to June 30, 2018) at you, the JMM visitor. We categorize an “onsite visitor,” or someone who physically steps foot inside our Museum’s campus, into a few different groups. These categories are: adult groups, school groups, general attendance, teacher trainings/workshops, researchers, rentals, and public programs/events.

Visitors enjoying Amending America: The Bill of Rights.

During the last year, over 10,800 people chose to visit the JMM and experience the six special exhibits we displayed (Just Married, Discovery & Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage, Beyond Duty: Diplomats Recognized as Righteous Among the Nations, My Family StoryBook of Joseph: Giving Voice to the Hollander Family, and Amending America: The Bill of Rights). Of those visitors, over 3,900 people fall into the general attendance category.

Over 3,600 visitors attended one (or multiple!) of over 65 public programs featuring scholars, artists, authors, and filmmakers that built on the Museum’s exhibits.

Contestants and Visitors participating in the Great Kugel Cook Off last October 8, 2017,one of the many public programs offered by the JMM.

About 2000 people attended as part of a school group and about 600 visitors came with their adult group or organization. (Of course, this doesn’t count the 1600 students we reached in their schools and synagogues.) The remainder of visitors came to the Museum as researchers, part of a rental, or teachers taking part in a workshop (like our Summer Teacher’s Institute coming up in August).

Students from Frederick Adventist Academy during their visit to the Jewish Museum of Maryland on April 25, 2018.

But let’s not forget those questions. Of our general attendance visitors who kindly answered our questions upon arrival, 38% had previously known about the museum and 29% learned about us from a friend, family member, or coworker. So, if you had a great experience, please keep spreading the word!

This chart breaks down how different people have heard about the JMM over the last year.

The JMM attracted local, regional, national and international visitors last year. 52% of visitors came from Baltimore City and Baltimore County. Alternatively, 4% of visitors joined us from other countries, including Israel, New Zealand, Brazil, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Romania (to name a few).

This chart breaks down where our visitors are coming from. Not surprisingly, most of our visitors are local residents.

While seeking to be a destination, the JMM also strives to be a site of discovery. We hope that you can draw personal connections to individuals, groups, events, and trends in Maryland’s Jewish history. We hope that you can “find yourself here.” With this in mind, our front desk team always suggests that you join us on a tour of our two historic synagogues. Over the last year 401 tours were delivered by volunteers to 1508 visitors! The next time you drop by, please delight our volunteers with your stories of how you made your way to the JMM, bring a friend, and don’t hesitate to join a synagogue tour.

~ Paige Woodhouse
  Visitor Services Coordinator

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Intern Weekly Response: Museum Accessibility

Posted on July 5th, 2018 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to reflect on a recent Museum Accessibility workshop led by our visitor services coordinator Paige Woodhouse and to read and respond to a selection of articles – including suggestions for JMM to apply. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.


Museums and Accessibility: What’s in a Label?

~Intern Cara Bennet

Labels play a huge role in making museum exhibits accessible to a diverse audience. A label’s content, language, format, and style all have an impact on a visitor’s experience and their ability to understand and retain the information being presented. As I’ve learned through my museum studies courses, the best labels use clear, concise, simple language that can be understood by visitors of varying age ranges and educational backgrounds. The Smithsonian’s guidelines for accessible exhibit design argues for the use of active voice in labels, explaining that “people who have difficulty reading English are most successful when the active voice is used in short sentences. Subject-verb-object sentence structure ensures better understanding.” While many of the JMM’s individual object captions in its permanent exhibit “Voices of Lombard Street” are clear and concise, many of the exhibit’s introductory text panels are quite long and wordy. These panels also use words that may be unfamiliar or difficult for some visitors such as “artery” or “knell.”

Label styles and formats also play an important role in making an exhibit accessible to a wider audience. Many museums offer labels in braille and other languages for people that have vision impairments or are non-native English speakers. Even small design details like font type, size, spacing, and color contrast (all things I’ve never really considered before) play a huge role in making labels more accessible for visitors with disabilities.

White text on a yellow background was not the best design choice for these labels. The Smithsonian’s guidelines explain that “contrast is an essential element for people with low vision.”

While the JMM has done a great job making its accessible by offering large print and braille exhibit guides, I would suggest making the following changes to make its exhibits even more accessible to visitors. In addition to offering large print and braille exhibit guides, the JMM should also offer visitors exhibit guides in foreign languages. Currently these guides are kept at the front desk and must be requested by visitors. I would suggest that the JMM make it clear that these guides are available either by displaying them at the exhibit entrance or posting signs near the exhibit entrance notifying visitors that these guides are available. I would also suggest that museum includes braille and foreign language labels within the actual exhibit, but I understand that working with a small museum’s budget and limited exhibition space this isn’t always an option. I would also suggest that the JMM simplify and condense some of the text panels in its permanent exhibit to make the content more accessible to a wider audience. I would also suggest that the JMM replace all low-contrast labels to make them easier for all visitors to read.

The San Diego Natural History Museum offers labels in both English and Spanish. Image via.


Website Accessibility

~Intern Alexia Orengo Green

Museums are the perfect place to learn about a topic, increase your interest, or admire a piece of art. For many, museums are places where they can enjoy themselves while engaging in a learning environment. But, even though for some, museums are safe heavens others feel excluded because of the lack of accessibility these have.

Last week, we had a Museum Accessibility workshop with Paige Woodhouse. There we learned the different types of accessibility that museums need to have, and methods museums are using to become inclusive to all. On the workshop we also learned how the JMM is accessible and its plans to grant accessibility to everyone, making their experience more enjoyable.

One of the ways in which the JMM is planning to become more accessible is through its website. Most of the visitors of the JMM access the website to learn about the different exhibits and events happening in the museum. Because of this, it is important that everyone can engage with the website in a comfortable way.

Underneath is a list of suggestions for the new JMM website that I created following the recommendations from our workshop and readings.

List or Recommendations:

1. Bigger Text: For people who have vision impairments, such as poor vision, it may be difficult to read a small font size.

2. Night mode: The bright colors of the page might give headaches to people with vision impairments or suffer from migraines.

3. Declutter: Decluttering the page may help people, for example, with ADHD to focus better while visiting the page.

4. Underline hyperlinks: Underlining the hyperlinks would make the website’s experience for people who are color blind better by not relaying on color.

5. Smaller paragraphs: Having smaller paragraphs on the website may also help people to focus better while reading the website’s information.


Accessible Websites and The JMM

~Intern Ash Turner

Good website design can sometimes be underappreciated. As Jared Spool, a writer and researcher, states, “Good design, when it’s done well, becomes invisible. It’s only when it’s done poorly that we notice it.” And poor design negatively affects a website’s accessibility and usability.

This week, I did my readings on website design and accessibility. I found that there are a lot of checklists and articles about creating more readable and accessible websites. There are articles on different disabilities, and how to best design for them. They range from overall best-practices articles such as this one, to articles that are more specific, such as this one about designing for color-blindness.

“Posters showing the dos and don’ts of designing for users with accessibility needs including autism, blindness, low vision, D/deaf or hard of hearing, mobility and dyslexia.” Image and caption from the gov.uk article, “Dos and don’ts on designing for accessibility”

The key trait for all good web design, though, seems to be clarity. Pages need to be simple and clean, from their font and color choices, to the language used, all the way to the layout of the page and its navigation. There are other things to keep in mind as well for website accessibility, such as having image descriptions for photos, captions or transcriptions for video content, and multiple ways of understanding the content for all pages.

After my research, I have a few suggestions for improving the accessibility of the Jewish Museum of Maryland website:

>Simplify and clarify the navigation

-This includes using less colors and more consistency, and underlining or differentiating links from other non-clickable text

-Declutter the navigation by making sure it’s all in the same area and easily findable

>Use larger font sizes (for both computers and mobile)

-As stated in this article about readability on websites, larger font sizes increase text readability for all users, not just those that are vision-impaired

A screenshot taken of the JMM mobile website. Notice how small all of the text is, which can create problems for readability

>Use a mix of media to convey information

-Using different types of media (such as video, sound, or images along with text) gives people the option to understand content in different ways

-For example, the museum location page could include a small map graphic for visual understanding

>Think about changing the body text font to sans-serif

-Fonts that are more common are easier to read, and sans-serif fonts are most common on the internet for body text

>Test the website with different people

-This is especially important, since all good design should be centered on actual people

-Make sure to test with those who use assistive technology

-As the accessibility blog on Gov.uk states, “Testing with people who use assistive technology can be a quick and effective way of identifying issues that affect all users”

Overall, increasing accessibility through web design can only create a better experience for everyone.


Avoiding Stagnation

~Intern Marisa Shultz

While closely considering accessibility for this week’s intern response – I say closely because accessibility is something we should be considering often – a quote from Mary Ann Wojton, Joe Heimlich, and Natalie Shaheen’s article: “Accommodating Blind Learners Helps All Learners” stood out:

“Museum Educators generally design educational programs that they believe accommodate all visitors.”

What is so essential about this quote is that it emphasizes that museum educators believe they have accommodated all kinds of visitors, implying two things. First, that museum educators have not been as successful in this endeavor as they perceive, and second, that some museum educators may be stagnant because they feel a permanent and fulfilling solution has already been found and implemented.

So how can we, at the JMM, avoid being stagnant, and continue to accommodate our diverse visitors? While the article I was inspired by specifically describes how to accommodate the Blind and Low-Vision communities, I would like to address our Deaf visitors and their experience on the Lloyd Street Synagogue tour.

The museum has an excellent tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue and B’nai Israel, but we do not have staff members and docents trained in American Sign Language (ASL). This lack of ASL trained staff and docents may make Deaf visitors feel alienated. While the ideal solution is to have two ASL trained staff members or docents on site each day (one to accommodate Deaf visitors at the front desk and another on the Synagogue tour), I feel this may not be a realistic goal in the short term. Perhaps instead then, we can approach this in a two-pronged manner. If we could hire (or train) a staff member or docent who knows ASL, we could schedule and advertise multiple ASL tours each week at a variety of times corresponding with the work schedule of the staff member/docent.

Additionally, our website has a section devoted to accessibility with our wonderful Paige Woodhouse as a contact; perhaps members of the Deaf community could schedule ASL tours on dates and times that are most convenient for them (barring of course, when the museum is closed). If it is not possible to hire (or train) a staff member/docent with ASL skills, perhaps it would be possible for the museum to pay for an interpreter; however, this would require a prior arrangement, and we should be striving to be accessible to all visitors, all of the time.

It is also important to note, that not all members of the Deaf community know ASL; therefore, these accommodations would only make the museum more accessible to some members of this community. Perhaps then, we could work in conjunction with an organization such as the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to create accommodations based around the community’s knowledge and experience, in order to create a more accessible environment.


Consider a Touch Tour

~Intern Ellie Smith

Accessibility should be a high priority for all museums. Accessibility allows for diverse audiences to patron museums and enjoy the museum community. For those with disabilities museums may not be the most welcoming place but as museum staffers we need to work hard to improve our accessibility standards so that everyone who comes to a museum can enjoy and benefit from it. Issues of accessibility range from having wheel chair ramps to providing noise canceling headphones for those with auditory sensory issues. Patrons with sight impairment or blindness need different experiences than other patrons. Museums like the Smithsonian and many others provide verbal description tours and touch tours. Verbal description tours are led by a docent who provides extremely detailed descriptions of objects that are in the museum. Docents not only describe the objects they also provide historical context and other information about how this object relates to the exhibit and the museum. Touch tours are tours where patrons wear special gloves and are allowed to touch the objects on display while a docent provides a verbal description. The Smithsonian has set a high standard for touch tours as described in their “Guidelines for Accessible Exhibit Design”.[1] This resource is available online and provides an in-depth look at how a successful museum provides the highest in accessibility standards.

Other patrons may require other forms of accessibility. Patrons who are deaf or have hearing impairment need videos with captions and transcriptions of any verbal pieces of exhibits. The Smithsonian takes great care to ensure that all patrons are able to experience the exhibits to the fullest. Another exhibit that has taken great care in making sure it is accessible to diverse audiences is Nano which is an interactive exhibit “designed by the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network.”[2] The designers of Nano worked to create an exhibit that has different pieces that patrons with different skill levels can interact with. Instructions for these activities are written in both braille, English, and Spanish. They are also in video form with captions. And there are also demonstration videos. Interactive parts of the exhibit are placed at different heights so children as well as those in wheel chairs or short people can access them. Nano is a prime example of an accessible exhibit which allows diverse audiences to participate.

I believe the Jewish Museum of Maryland could benefit from adding a touch tour to our exhibits. The Voices of Lombard Street exhibits lends itself well to a touch tour because it already has so many interactive pieces.

For example, there is a part of the exhibit that looks like a family dining room. Patrons can sit down and feel the reproduction objects on the table and a docent could read from the panels within the exhibit in order to make those objects relevant to the rest of the exhibit. The next room that a patron and docent walk into is set up like a garment factory. There is an interactive sewing machine. A patron can sit and feel the machine and fabric and press their foot on the peddle of the machine.

While this is taking place a docent can provide a verbal description of what the patron is touching and then tell the history of the garment industry in Baltimore. With new exhibits we should work hard to make sure that a touch tour can occur. Along with this we should also consider providing an audio tour that patrons can use independently and training docents to provide accessible tours. By improving our accessibility standards we can accommodate a more diverse audience and create an overall better museum experience for patrons.

 

[1] https://www.si.edu/accessibility/sgaed

[2] Rae Ostman and Catherine McCarthy, “Nano: Creating an Exhibition that is Inclusive of Multiple and Diverse Audiences”. Exhibitionist, fall 2015.

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Postcards for Paige: Spring 2018

Posted on May 18th, 2018 by

Welcome to the second edition of our quarterly feature, “Postcards for Paige”, giving us a chance to answer commonly asked questions about how to make the most out of your visit to the Jewish Museum of Maryland. (All the answers are real, the postcards are dubious… but these days, who knows?) Click here to read previous editions.


Postcard reads:

Hey Paige,

My husband and I have been members of the JMM for the past six years. One of my favorite benefits of being a member (other than the 10% discount at Esther’s Place) is having free admission to the regular programs. I attended the Book of Joseph event on April 26th and saw how popular it was – sold out in fact! A little digging on Facebook informed me that programs at the JMM have been selling out recently. Do I need to reserve seats for programs even if I am a member?

Seat-Seeking Susan

Hi Susan,

Thank you for being loyal members to the Museum. I am glad to hear that you have been enjoying our recent programs. It has been an exciting past few months at the Museum and we have been thrilled that numerous events have sold out. In April, we had 351 people attend 6 programs!

Since our programs have been showing such popularity, and seating is limited, I strongly suggest that you reserve a seat for any program that you are interested in attending to avoid disappointment.

You can do this online to our website by following these steps:

– First, head to our events calendar.

-You can find the event that you are interested in and click on it. This will take you to that event’s dedicated page.

-Select “JMM Member – Reserve Your Seats.” This will take you to the shopping cart.

-Sign in at the top, right corner of the screen.

-Enter the number of tickets you need and click “Add to Cart” on the bottom left of this screen. Remember, the type of membership you have will determine how many seats are discounted.

-It’s important to remember that your member discount will be applied on the next screen.

-You will receive an email confirmation with a link to your tickets. Don’t forget to bring your ticket to the front desk when you arrive.

If you need some help or you aren’t too fond of computer, please give me a call at 410-732-6400! I am happy to walk you through how to do it online or make your reservation over the phone.

With your tickets reserved, you can rest easy knowing that there is a seat for you.

~Paige


Postcard reads:

Hi Paige,

My three children are all budding magicians and are always surprising me with new tricks. It’s my turn to impress them and I need something that is going to be memorable for years to come. I saw that the JMM has a new exhibit opening on Sunday, June 24th about Harry Houdini. Can you help me to inspire and amaze my magicians-in-training? 

Illusion-less Mom

Dear IM,

On Sunday, June 24th the JMM is opening our newest exhibit, Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini, in a way that is sure to be memorable. Bring your budding magicians to see professional escape artist, Dai Andrews, who will recreate Houdini’s 1916 Baltimore escape from a strait jacket while suspended upside down from a 50-foot crane! Once you have amazed them, bring them inside the JMM for a first look at the exhibit that is guaranteed to be inspiration for magicians of all ages.

But that’s not all: Just like in baseball, the JMM has a double-header on Sunday, June 24th! Along with our special exhibit opening, you can celebrate Baltimore’s oldest neighborhood at the “The Magic of Jonestown” Festival. From 12:00pm to 4:00pm join together with our community’s cultural organizations and businesses to celebrate our shared heritage. This FREE event is perfect for families and friends of all ages.

Lloyd Street between Baltimore and Lombard Street will be closed to traffic and instead will be host to entertainment, craft activities, and giveaways. Along with the Jewish Museum of Maryland, you will find the National Aquarium, the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum, and many more. The event is free for all to attend, but don’t forget to register when you arrive for a chance to win some amazing door prizes!

Don’t miss out on the magic! I hope to see you there.

~Paige


Postcard reads:

Paige,

I’m a camp counsellor seeking creative, clever, and cool activities for my campers to do this summer. I want to amaze, astound, and awe the adolescents. Do you have any tricks you can pull out of your sleeve to help me?

Charismatic Counsellor

Hey Charismatic!

I have two words for you: Harry Houdini. Well I actually have eight words for you: Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini. There is no better way to wow your campers than by bringing them to our special exhibit opening on June 24th. They can be delighted by the magic and hands-on illusions the exhibit holds, while also learning about the man behind the performer.

Alternatively, let us bring the magic to your camp with Houdini’s Trunk, our newest living history performance. Your campers will be fascinated by this storytelling performance about Harry Houdini that uses magic to enhance the story.

Don’t let the fun be just for your campers, both the exhibit and performance are great for adult groups as well! Learn more here: http://jewishmuseummd.org/single/inescapable-the-life-and-legacy-of-harry-houdini/

Call 443-873-5167 to book your group or schedule Houdini’s Trunk.

~Paige


Postcard reads:

Salutations Paige, 

I volunteered to plan my book club’s summer reading list. June is just around the corner and I have the planning equivalent to writer’s block. Can you help me to impress my club with my selections?

Books & Babka Bibliophile

 

Hello Fellow Bibliophile,

I have just the remedy that is certain to win you brownie points with your group. Our upcoming programs for June and July are filled with a selection of talented authors speaking about their books. Take your book club to the next level and bring them to hear one (or all) of these talks. The JMM is even offering a discount to book clubs for these programs – no matter how big or small your group is! Call 443-873-5167 and reserve tickets for your group in advance to receive the discount.

Learn more about the programs, authors and books here:

Thursday, June 28th at 7:00pm – American Ambassador Alfred Moses will speak about Bucharest Diary: Romania’s Journey from Darkness to Light

-Sunday, July 1st at 1:00pm – David Jahr will speak about his first book The Witch of Lime Street. Followed by a book signing.

-Sunday, July 15th at 1:00pm – Author David Saltman will share discoveries he made while researching for his book Houdini Unbound: Espionage in Russia. There will be a book signing to follow.

-Sunday, July 29th at 1:00pm – Victoria Kelly will talk about her research into Bess Houdini for her novel Mrs. Houdini

I look forward to hearing your reviews and recommendations at the front desk!

~Paige

Have a question for Paige? Send her a (digital) postcard at pwoodhouse@jewishmuseummd.org!

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