Crowing About Tweeting (and Tumbling and Doing It for the ‘Gram)

Posted on May 10th, 2019 by

In this month’s edition of Performance Counts, Rachel Kassman, Marketing Manager, offers a quantitative as well as qualitative assessment JMM and social media. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Rachel, click here.

In thinking about what to write for this month’s Performance Counts, it came to my attention that it has been more than two years (2.5 to be exact) since our last look at the Museum and Social Media. I thought it was time for an update and to share some of the new social media-related projects and campaigns we’ve been experimenting with recently.

First, some quick stats: I’m happy to report that we’ve seen growth on all four social media platforms where JMM manages active accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram). Our biggest gains have been on Facebook, where we now count 3,232 followers (that’s over a 30% increase), and Instagram, where the number of people following our account has increased to 958 (That’s more than 1000% growth! To be fair, at last writing, we had only been using Instagram for 3 months, but I’m still pleased with our growth on this visual-focused platform!).

Hootesuite, which you may remember is one of the tools I use to manage all these disparate accounts, has also started offering its own set of analytics. This makes it easier to track progress across the different platforms. One of the features I find most helpful tracks engagements. Engagements can include all sorts of things like sharing a post, liking a photo, or leaving a comment. We didn’t have this base stat two years ago, but at this time I can report on the past 12 months, where we’ve seen 6,900 engagements on Facebook, 1,400 engagements on Twitter, and 12,000(!) engagements on Instagram.

Moving past the numbers, I wanted to call your attention to some of the different ways we’ve been using our social media platforms over the last two years, focused on different departments throughout the Museum.

Education: You may have noticed a significant increase in the number of photos we share from our many field trips! This initiative, spearheaded by our new School Program Coordinator, Paige Woodhouse, has a two-part purpose: First, to showcase the wonderful work our Education Department is doing, along with the diversity of students we serve, and capturing the positive experiences those students have here. Second, to help strengthen and grow our relationships with specific teachers and schools.

By increasing the number of photos we share from school field trips we are able to show students exploring our exhibits, using primary sources in our archival explorations, and capturing the wonder of learning through our synagogue tours, introduction to Judaism programs, and our living history characters. Paige is then able to take our various posts and share them directly with the teachers and administrators whose schools are represented, increasing the opportunity for more interaction between us and the schools. We have found a direct increase in the number of teacher evaluations received as well as deeper, more thoughtful responses within those evaluation. Teachers are also then able to share those posts with their students’ families as proof of the effectiveness and importance of the learning experiences the Museum provides.

Exhibits: Part of our exhibit program has been finding ways to increase the reach and scope of our original exhibits and the online sphere provides the perfect real estate. We decided to use the tools provided by the Tumblr platform to create “mini-sites” for some of our original exhibits – a much cheaper and faster option than creating whole new websites from scratch. Our first foray was in setting up the Marrying Maryland account, which was created as a companion to our Just Married: Wedding Stories from Jewish Maryland exhibit. Here we combined material from our collections along with crowd-sourced wedding invitations and photos to tell more stories than would fit into the physical gallery and give them life beyond the close of the exhibit.

The ease of creating Marrying Maryland led us to the second mini-site, Fashion Statement, a companion to our current exhibit of the same name. On this account, curator Joanna Church has been able to tell more stories about the individual items in the gallery and highlight items from our collections that just wouldn’t fit into the limited physical space. The Tumblr platform has proven an easy and effective way to let our exhibits grow beyond their walls and we look forward to our future creations!

A second, smaller innovation in our exhibits and social media is the new ability in Facebook to create multi-date events. This has allowed us to create specific events for the run of our exhibits in a form that is easy for our followers to share and to purchase general admission tickets online. It’s not yet a perfect tool (for instance, we’ve had to break up the current exhibits into multiple events because the time period that they are on display is longer than the current maximum number of dates for a single event), but it is a definite move forward. These events will also allow us to “boost” our exhibits on Facebook to reach a wider, interested audience.

Collections: Much of our social media, past and present, has focused on our collections, often using themed weekly posts like #WetNoseWednesday (featuring pets in the collection) and #ThrowbackThursday as well as unique holidays and observances (like International Jazz Day and National Picnic Day). These posts have continued to prove popular with our audiences across all social media platforms.

One of our longest running themed posts have been #TravelTuesday, which started as general vacation photos from our collection. In 2018, I decided to try a theme-within-a-theme, focusing on the vast array of passports in our collection. This allowed us to share a little bit more about the items in our collections, including stories of the passport’s owners and their families. For 2019, I chose something even more ambitious, introducing a new blog series called Traveling With Grace. This series transcribes the travel diaries of Grace Hecht and illustrates her various journeys. Each of these posts are then shared across our social media accounts. (You can check out the intro to the series here.)

Esther’s Place: One additional innovation we’ve been playing with over the last two years is themed posts about the JMM shop. We began with #MugShotMonday, originally used to highlight mugs in our collections, which allowed us to feature the fantastic selection available in our shop, using a “re-kickoff” post from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Having this campaign in place was perfect when we introduced our first custom products – the announcement post shows up in our top 3 posts of the last 12 months for both Twitter and Facebook!

Following up on that, Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg had the genius idea for #FrameItFriday, featuring the gorgeous photo frames available at Esther’s Place. We’re getting ready to start a new theme – #WearItWednesday, to coordinate with our two current fashion exhibits, featuring the variety of textiles and other wearable items available. We could use some models, so we’d love for you to stop in at Esther’s Place and let us take your photo with one of our beautiful pieces!

JMM continues to present a vibrant, active, and content-rich experience across multiple social-media platforms. I hope you will follow along with us on whichever platform you like best – and if you have any suggestions for what you’d love to see, please let me know!

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Membership Matters

Posted on April 12th, 2019 by

In this month’s edition of Performance Counts, Tracey Dorfmann, director of development, delves into why our members are so important – and how we say thank you. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Tracey, click HERE.

Why is membership so important?

Despite reports and some national indicators in the 2000s that showed museum membership can trend downwards, at JMM we have found our membership numbers are consistent and strong year-to-year.  Membership can be a meaningful way to stay connected to our rich learning environment, to feel a sense of belonging to our community and to historic Baltimore. We have a total of 960 loyal sustaining memberships (which represents an even larger number of individuals) who are committed to our mission. Membership matters!

What does it mean to be a JMM member?

Memberships come with great benefits and opportunities: including free regular admission for a whole year, free admission to regular public programs, invitations to special events and programs, a discount at Esther’s Place (the JMM shop), and reciprocal admission to select Jewish and local history museums. But more importantly, being a JMM member means that you understand and support what we do here – not just collecting and preserving the stories of Jewish Maryland, but sharing them with the community in Baltimore, Maryland, and beyond. Being a JMM member means you make our work possible, from presenting stellar exhibits to engaging public programs to meaningful school field trip experiences, and so much more.

What are some specific initiatives for members?

JMM values our members, which is why over the past several months we implemented some membership growth and retention initiatives. Around Hanukkah, we sent our Members a special invitation to visit the Museum and pick up a unique and exclusive gift created just for them. 78 members did just that! And while they were here, they visited our galleries, historic synagogues, and enjoyed special programs and events.

We also reached out to members of our Museum family whose memberships had lapsed over the past three to five years. We invited them back, wanting to share everything that’s been going on at the Museum (including our blockbuster Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini exhibit). Nearly 40 memberships were reestablished as a result. These returning members recognized the value of our thought-provoking exhibits, exploration of culture, and the social connection that a JMM membership brings.

We also talked in our November edition of JMM Insights about some of the benefits of membership – including new levels. If you missed that, you can read it on our blog here.

How do members support JMM?

Membership dues are unrestricted dollars, meaning that they support the annual operating costs of our museum. Much of the Museum’s other funding, like gifts and grants are directed to specific projects. Members make a tangible and positive impact at sustaining our day-to-day operations. Operating costs include everything from keeping the lights on to ensuring the grounds and building remain open and pristine, enabling visitors to enjoy our programs and learn with us five days a week. We also reach out to our members occasionally about special projects and initiatives they might like to support, like our current appeal to help purchase an auditory listening assistive system, which will help make our tours and programs more accessible to everyone in our family and community.

Thank you!
We value our members and will continue to share meaningful and evocative stories about the Jewish experience in Maryland and beyond. We are grateful for our membership family, which is why we are always looking to celebrate, whether through members-only events like last night’s Connected Threads reception or small thank-you’s like our gift initiative this past winter. We look forward to continuing to grow our JMM family.

Not yet a member – or know someone who you think should join the family? Share this link and help grow the family today!


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

From Pilot to Program: Innovation in Education at the JMM

Posted on March 15th, 2019 by

In this month’s edition of Performance Counts, Ilene Dackman-Alon, director of education and the visitor experience explains how two novel ideas have become JMM traditions. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

Tonight the Museum is celebrating. We are welcoming eager students and their families into the gallery for an evening of art and family history, representing the fifth annual presentation of My Family Story at JMM. In thinking about the hard work of our participating students, the support from teachers and administrators, and the pride and joy on the faces of attending families, it seems to me that now is the perfect time to share some insight into how we find great new ideas and make them our own.

My Family Story’s story began at the Jewish Museum of Maryland in 2015. I first learned about this international program directly from its parent organization Beit Hatfutsot – The Museum of the Jewish People in Tel Aviv, Israel. The goal of the project is for area Jewish students in communities across the globe to discover and find meaning in their own family heritage and family stories by doing research and conducting interviews with family members.  The exploration culminates in an artistic installation created by the students to represent their family’s personal history.  The hope of the program is to inspire students to think about their family’s history as a way to connect to the larger issues of American Jewish history, community, Jewish identity, and Israel. It was clear to me that My Family Story was in perfect alignment with JMM educational goals and vision and we knew we had to become a part of this amazing learning opportunity.

In order to pilot any new project, all kinds of support are needed. First, we needed a group of students to work with – middle school teacher Lizabeth Shrier at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School was willing to lead our first experimental year. Her excitement was kindled when she considered how the program could be integrated into her 8th-grade curricula, specifically weaving together units on ancient studies and art. Lizabeth brought her colleague Shelly Spector, an art teacher, on board, and they began having students work on their projects at the beginning of the school year. Lizabeth and Shelly were great ambassadors for our pilot – they were ready to work with the Museum as partners, understood the value that museums have in bringing history and culture to life, and believed in the importance of what museums can bring to the classroom.

Second, as with all great endeavors, we needed financial support. Here we have to share our gratitude for the Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund for the Enrichment of Jewish Education, who saw what we saw: how important and meaningful the My Family Story project would be for participating students. The Jacob & Hilda Blaustein Fund gave us the resources to pilot the first year of the My Family Story project at JMM, planting the seeds for the wildly successful annual program we know today.

One of the things we love about My Family Story is that it’s not just a local program. Students around the world participate in the collection of stories and creation of art installations, though each location designs their version of the program to best fit their resources and participants, as we did with our pilot. While generous funding and community support allowed JMM to not only host a special evening program for participating students and their families to see the finished creations, we also connected with the international level of the program with Beit Hatfutsot. Judges rate each of the projects created and choose two projects from each school that best exemplify the goals of My Family Story. Those selected projects are sent to Israel and compete with projects from all over the world. The top 40 projects are exhibited at Beit Hatfusot and their student creators are invited to Israel to participate in a special ceremony and see their work. We are especially proud that multiple participants from our My Family Story program have been selected for this top honor – including in our pilot year!

Over the past five years, the JMM has partnered with 6 different schools who have implemented the My Family Story project as part of their curriculum. Today, we are especially grateful to the Robert and Alli Russell Charitable Foundation for the generous funding of the My Family Story program over the past two years! With this additional funding, winners of the My Family Story program will get to meet and spend time with Israeli families living in Ashkelon, Baltimore’s sister city in Israel, after the celebration at Beit Hatfutsot.

This year we are thrilled to present work from the students at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School, Ohr Chadash Academy and Beth Israel Religious School. In addition to the special celebration for students and their families being held this evening, the Museum is hosting the My Family Story exhibit in our gallery for the public to enjoy from Sunday, March 17th through Sunday, March 24th. We hope you will come and see the amazing work created by these students – we know you will be moved and impressed.


Another example of an experimental pilot whose idea was birthed right here in Baltimore at the Museum: Personal Stories: PROJECTED.

Last year, inspired by our own commitment to storytelling and helping individuals connect with their own histories, identity, and the communities around them, we piloted a program called Morrell Park: PROJECTED. Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School is a longtime participant in our museum-school partnership program, which has let us develop strong connections to the school, its teachers, and its administrators. The goals of the museum-school partnership program, which is targeted at Baltimore City Public Schools, include helping students become active learners for the 21st century, helping students build their skills in information literacy, communications and technology literacy, critical thinking, problem solving, creativity, civic duty, and global awareness. From this was born Morrell Park: PROJECTED.

Morrell Park: PROJECTED was a year-long storytelling initiative that has helped students gain insight into their personal family stories. Working closely with 8th grade teacher Danielle Bagonis and young adult author J. Scott Fuqua, students learned storytelling and interviewing techniques so they could develop the skills to interview family and community members. Film students from Johns Hopkins University assisted the students in creating their own short films using their smartphones. The resulting films were screened at a “Red Carpet Premiere” as a way to celebrate the diversity, culture, and roots of the Morrell Park community. This pilot program was made possible by an Excellence Grant from Wells Fargo.

This was a transformative experience for many students who participated in the program. In the beginning, many students expressed a hesitancy to speak to their parents and family members. A few months later, those same students shared that this project has enabled them to talk to family members in ways that they never had before. All of the participating students expressed an appreciation to the family members that shared personal stories of their past. They were also proud of the short films they created; and that they learned new technology in connection with their smartphones.

This year our kernel of an idea has blossomed, expanding into the Personal Stories: PROJECTED initiative and bringing the transformative power of this project to two schools – a new group of 8th grade students at Morrell Park and a class of 7th grade students at Graceland Park-O’Donnell Elementary/Middle School. We are incredibly grateful to both Danielle Bagonis at Morrell Park, and Amy Rosenkranz at Graceland Park for their support, and their willingness to dive headfirst into this still-new initiative. This year, in addition to once again working with J. Scott Fuqua, we have welcomed film students from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County’s graduate program into the project.

Each school will be having their own “Premiere” evening later in May.  Personal Stories @ Morrell Park:  PROJECTED will take place on Thursday evening, May 9th at 6:30 p.m. and Personal Stories @ Graceland Park: PROJECTED will take place on Thursday evening, May 16th at 6:30 p.m. Both of these premieres are open to the public and we know the students would love to share their films – and stories – with you. Additionally, both schools will come together at a special event in early June at Graceland Park to see each other’s’ films and celebrate the storytelling and diversity of Baltimore City Public Schools.

Pilot programs in Museum education are a way to take a big idea and start small, experimenting with a single school, classroom, or teacher. The success of our pilot programs has depended on the support of motivated teachers who are engaged with the project and who trust us at the Museum to support them in their efforts. Pilot programs over the years have taught us the importance of advance planning, making sure all our teachers and Museum staff are on the same page, and understand the project’s goals and vision. We’ve also learned that success can take many forms, and to truly get all the benefits of piloting programs, we need to be adaptable and open-minded. It’s especially exciting when a pilot program grows into a full-blown educational initiative and becomes a regular part of our annual programs calendar, like both My Family Story and Personal Stories: PROJECTED.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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