Posted on February 13th, 2015 by Rachel
This month’s Performance Counts comes from Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik!
Today is Maryland’s “Tourism Day”—an event organized by the tourism industry to make the case to our state legislators that recreational and cultural attractions have an important impact on the economy and quality of life in Maryland. In keeping with the spirit of the day, we decided to take a look at who comes to the JMM and where they come from.
This is a more complicated question than you might think; there are countless ways to categorize our guests. We usually divide our on-site visitors into four main categories: general visitors, school groups (including summer camps), public program participants, and adult groups (e.g. mah jongg clubs or sisterhood visits that book in advance). School groups are traditionally the largest segment of our visitors, but in the last two years general visitors have been catching up and program visitors are not far behind.
John Ruarah Middle School students explore The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit.
School groups come to us in a handful of main categories—public/private/parochial/homeschool; Jewish/non-Jewish; and Day School/Hebrew School. Within these groups, our single largest draw is from Baltimore City public schools, but this year we’ve had increasing success in attracting the local Jewish schools (both Day Schools and Hebrew Schools). We’ve also expanded our educational outreach in Baltimore County, and we are making efforts to recruit more parochial schools. We have even received a grant from the Delaplaine Foundation to extend programming, outreach and onsite visits to Frederick County schools. Our programs are aligned with the Common Core standards, which helps to attract the interest of teachers and principals. While we work with students at all grade levels—from Pre-K to even college level—the average group that visits us is in middle school, particularly 7th grade (when all the city schools teach “The Diary of Anne Frank”).
City Springs Elementary School students in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.
General visitors can be subdivided in several ways as well. The most obvious is, of course, geography. We don’t have data on 100% of our visitors’ points of origins (not everyone chooses to leave us a zip code), but we have enough data to give us a pretty good sample. It is true that a lot of our visitors come from Northwest Baltimore and the immediate suburbs, but there is also a significant segment from downtown Baltimore as well as Columbia, Md. We can tell when we’ve received coverage in the Washington Post Weekend section because we can see the boost in visits from Montgomery County, DC and Northern Virginia.
Many of our visitors come from a much farther distance. I love telling people that we get visitors from pretty much everywhere in the world! Just over the last year we’ve hosted guests from such far-flung and exotic states as Alaska and Oklahoma, as well as visitors from at least one country per continent (not counting Antarctica), including—but certainly not limited to—El Salvador, Argentina, Italy, Rwanda, Japan, and Kyrgyzstan!
For our public program attendance numbers, we are careful to not double count program participants as general visitors. For example, our raw number for general attendance last December was 517, but to get the right number for “on-site attendance,” we subtracted the number of participants in our programs that took place during our normal open hours, which left us with 222 as the general attendance. Our #1 best attended program in 2014 was the Joanie Leeds Chanukah concert—we counted more than 175 guests (though a few of them were in strollers)! Program attendance is probably the category with the greatest variability. Not only is it affected by the attraction of the topic or speaker, but also by the weather and the Ravens’ game schedule. There’s just no competing with football in Ravens’ Nation!
Some spirited dancing at our Joanie Leeds Chanukah Concert!
In addition to our on-site data, we also try to track off-site contacts : how many students we reach in the schools, or how many people who come to see Mendes Cohen at an event or who come up to our booth at a festival. Still, our focus is on the JMM as a destination, and that is the data that we are monitoring most closely. It helps us make sure we spend our limited resources wisely, and it tells us something about the success of our initiatives.
Posted on January 16th, 2015 by Rachel
Since starting as Collections Manager in August of last year, JMM has already accessioned more than 70 items from the daily life of Maryland’s Jewish communities. We’ve been pleased to receive offers of a wide variety of items – from single items to multiple boxes, from large paintings to small snapshots, from the 19th century to the 21st. Nearly every week has brought a new opportunity to check out something interesting, which might be of use to the museum.
As a collections professional, I’m inclined by both duty and temperament to appreciate almost anything that’s ever been made, used and saved by someone. In other words, I love stuff. But we simply can’t take everything that is offered to us. Fortunately, like many museums the JMM has a committee of Board members, staff, and other museum professionals who help ensure that only appropriate items are accepted as donations to our permanent collection: artifacts, photos, and archival material that relate to Jewish life in Maryland, in good condition, for which we can adequately care and which we envision using in exhibits, research, and interpretation.
But enough about the inner workings of the committee process – you want to see the stuff! Here are a few highlights from recent offers.
-Joanna Church, Collections Manager
Pharmacy show globe, Hagerstown/Hancock, Md. JMM#K2014.003.035
Donated by Dr. Adolph “Ed” Baer, P.D.
Though we don’t always have the opportunity to exhibit artifacts right away, the vintage pharmaceutical items donated by Dr. Baer will be of almost immediate use as we prepare the upcoming exhibit “Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America” (opening fall 2015). Dr. Baer graduated from the University of Maryland pharmacy school, and went on to own and operate two pharmacies in western Maryland. In addition to the modern tools and equipment he used over the years, Dr. Baer also donated several antique pieces, including this large glass “show globe.” Show globes, filled with colored liquid (ours was emptied for the purpose of donation and transport), were placed in shop windows as a symbol of the apothecary’s or pharmacist’s trade; modern pharmacists such as Dr. Baer often collect and display them, in a nod to their profession’s history.
The Colonial Chronicle, Annapolis, Md. JMM#2014.041
Donated by Tylar Hecht for the Allen J. Reiter Lodge of B’nai B’rith
Though registrars like myself do enjoy cataloging and processing donations, we also love it when the donor does some of that good work for us. Tylar Hecht brought in 40 years of The Colonial Chronicle, the newsletter of B’nai B’rith Annapolis Lodge No. 1239, associated with Kneseth Israel (Annapolis’s oldest congregation). In addition to the papers themselves, the donation included many of the original photographs used in the paper – which Mr. Hecht, with the help of older members of the congregation, sorted and identified for us before delivery. Their efforts mean that this collection will be accessible to researchers more quickly than if the JMM staff and volunteers needed to start fresh.
A selection of items from the Community Garden Club archives, Baltimore, Md. JMM#2015.002
Donated by Ruth Taubman for the Community Garden Club.
Likewise, the members of the Community Garden Club of the JCC (Baltimore) took the time to gather and organize materials from their 50+ year history, including programs, awards, photos, newsletters, and directories. The Club was founded in 1962 by a group of women taking flower-arranging classes at the newly-built Park Heights JCC; over the years the members have worked on landscaping projects at a number of landmarks around the city, and they were the first Jewish garden club to join the Federated Garden Clubs of Maryland. Though not very active today, several original members were determined to collect as much of the club’s records as possible, to ensure that their history is preserved at the JMM archives.
Shomrei Mishmeres signs, Baltimore, Md. JMM#2014.045.001-002
Gift of Rabbi David E. Miller, Rabbi Michael S. Miller, Deborah L. Kram and Judith S. Kalish.
In a wonderful coincidence, one of the first things offered to the JMM after I started was a pair of early 20th century hand-lettered signs used by the Shomrei Mishmeres congregation in the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Tobias Miller, then President of Shomrei Mishmeres, took these signs with him when the synagogue building was sold to the new Jewish Historical Society (now the JMM); his grandchildren recently decided that these two pieces should “come home” to Lloyd Street. We’re always glad to find artifacts and records from the Lloyd Street Synagogue’s long history; such a meaningful and thoughtful donation was a fantastic way to start off my work here at the JMM!
Left: “It is strictly forbidden to speak and to converse when the congregation prays or the Holy Bible is being read. He who will not obey the prohibition, in addition to his sinning this great sin, he is transgressing the accepted norm, and therefore will be fined towards the synagogue.”
Right: “By order of the members of this Shul: It is not permitted to remove the prayer shawls before reciting kaddish recited at ‘Anim Zemirot.’ He who will not obey, shall be severely punished.”
Posted on December 12th, 2014 by Rachel
2014 has been a busy year at the museum. In total, we have seen presented four different exhibits over the course of the last twelve months (Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the American Civil War; Project Mah Jongg; Electrified Pickle and The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen). This rich menu of offerings stimulated some great ranging from serious lectures to cotillions and concerts – on topics from Abe Lincoln to zombies. I’ve asked Trillion Attwood to take a look back and give us a quick review of our ten top programs of the last year. Just in case you missed a few, here are the highlights.
Thanks, Marvin. We had so much fun with the program schedule this year that it was hard to pick out just 10 (we actually presented/will present more than 60 programs in 2014). Here are my choices. How many of these do you recall?
1. Kaddish For Lincoln with Harold Holzer
The Sadie B. Feldman Family Lecture
Sunday, February 23rd
We invited Harold Holzer of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the JMM to deliver his talk Kaddish For Lincoln. The talk was a fascinating exploration of how the Jewish community mourned the passing of the 16th president and how his connection with the Jewish community passed into legend. Prof. Holzer, a nationally respected Lincoln scholar, offered new insights on why this unlikely self-educated man became the beloved “Father Abraham” to so many American Jews.
2. The Jews of Shanghai with Rabbi Marvin Tokayer
The Eighth Annual Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration
Sunday, May 18th
The Eighth Annual Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration focused on the plight of European refugees in China in WWII. Rabbi Marvin Tokayer provided incredibly vivid descriptions of what life was like for thousands of people living in limbo in a land with few shared customs and culture. He kept the large audience at Baltimore Hebrew Synagogue on the edge of its seat. We were especially excited to welcome a number of former Jewish Shanghai residents to the event.
3. The Future of American Jewry with Professor Leonard Saxe
Sunday, June 1st
The Annual Meeting, when we welcome our new board members and thank those who are leaving, is always an important event in our programs calendar. This year we also welcomed to the museum Professor Leonard Saxe of Brandeis University to present his keynote lecture The Future of American Jewry, which is based upon the recent findings by the Pew Report. This fascinating talk presented a much more optimistic view than anticipated by many based upon the initial report findings.
4. Annual Volunteer appreciation event featuring Our Volunteers
Friday, June 6th
Each year, we hold a number of events for our volunteers, and this year our volunteer appreciation lunch was held at the National Electronics Museum. We all had an opportunity to explore the museum that would be our partner institution for the then upcoming exhibit The Electrified Pickle. We were taken on a guided tour by Alice Donahue, the Assistant Director, who was able to highlight some of the most important parts of the collection. I know that some of you may be thinking I’m cheating a bit to put this on the list, because only volunteers could attend this great event – and you are not a volunteer. Well give us a call and we can fix that!
5. Mah Jongg: More than Just a Game of Chance with Dr. Robert Mintz
Sunday, June 8th
Project Mah Jongg brought a new audience to the Museum. We were surrounded by the sounds of tiles clicking for three months, and some of us even managed to learn the game ourselves. Our most popular program in connection with the exhibit was the presentation by Dr. Robert Mintz of the Walters Art Museum. Dr. Mintz discussed the art of the game and the significance and history of the images on those tiny tiles. Even the most experienced Mah Jongg aficionados found new details about the design and history of the game that they had never thought to ask.
6. Imagine This! featuring Jennifer George (Rube Goldberg’s granddaughter) and a team of robots
Sunday, August 3rd
For five weeks over the summer we featured a different tech related theme each week as part of The Electrified Pickle. I learned so much on each of these Sundays and we had such great volunteers from the Jewish tech community that it was hard to pick just one. But I believe I have a special passion for Imagine This!, in which we explored the world of tomorrow. The museum was overrun with robots of all shapes and sizes, including one that was able to play giant Jenga with our visitors!
On the same day, we were also very excited to welcome Jennifer George to speak about her grandfather, Rube Goldberg, and some of his crazy inventions. The talk had some of the funniest bits we put on all year, thanks to Mr. Goldberg’s marvelous cartoons and some of the videos that professionals and amateurs made in homage to his art.
7. Where are all the Jewish Zombies with Prof. Arnold Blumberg
Free Fall Baltimore
Sunday, October 26th
We participated again this year in Free Fall Baltimore. It has been a great success in the past, and this year proved no different. As with previous years, we saw plenty of new faces which is always a great sign. We invited Arnold T. Blumberg to speak, and he delivered a great talk titled Where are all the Jewish Zombies? The focus was on the story of the “golem” through its many twists and turns in Jewish history. We couldn’t resist the opportunity for a little horror so close to Halloween!
8. Profiles in American Jewish Courage with Dr. Gary Zola
Thursday, November 6th
It was a very significant night for us when we marked the 50th Anniversary of the re-dedication of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. This special event was attended by lay and religious leaders from our local community. We were honored to welcome Dr. Gary Zola, Executive Director of the American Jewish Archives, to present his keynote lecture, Profiles in American Jewish Courage. Dr. Zola tied his stories of three exceptionally brave activists of the 19th and 20th century to their contemporaries here in Baltimore.
9. Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights
Sunday, December 7th
Our most successful family program of the year was this past Sunday, when we welcomed Joanie Leeds and the Nightlights to the museum for a Chanukah concert. Families had a wonderful time singing along and dancing. Freeze Dance proved to be one of the most popular songs of the entire concert, getting everyone up on their feet!
The performance was part of our Downtown Dollar Day program which, in total, drew 190 people to the museum in just one day!
10. Early Jewish Baltimore with Gil Sandler
Thursday, December 25th
So far we have had a great year with some wonderful programs, but we are not finished yet! We still have several great programs left, including our Jewish Book Festival on Sunday, December 14th and Mitzvah Day on Thursday, December 25th. We are especially excited to be welcoming back to the museum noted local historian Gil Sandler on December 25th.
This has been a great year to be at the museum, and I have had a wonderful time planning such a range of events. I hope you enjoyed attending them and are looking forward to another year of great programs!