So Much More Than a Number

Posted on July 12th, 2019 by

I asked the newest member of our team to write this month’s edition of Performance Counts. In her post, Visitor Services Coordinator Talia Makowsky, not only shares our phenomenal FY19 visitor numbers, but illustrates one of the reasons for our success- the incredibly dedicated and thoughtful staff we have assembled. ~Marvin. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts from Talia, click here.


For some people, summer means a break a from school, or a chance to hit the beach, or chowing down at a cookout. For me, this summer has been full of learning all about the Jewish Museum, and the numbers that keep us operational and successful.

At first glance, the statistics part of my role, as Visitor Services Coordinator, doesn’t seem so exciting. I have to keep track of how many people visit each day, how many go on tours, how many come in a group and so on. It’s a part of my job that may not seem all that appealing, but in my six months at JMM, I have come to appreciate the significance of every check mark I’ve recorded.

Each number is a person who chose to spend their time and their money engaging in our stories. One number is someone learning about the history of Jonestown, where they may have lived all these years but never knew about the immigrant community. Another number is someone stepping into a synagogue for the first time. Many of the numbers are school children, engaging with their learning in a new way.

These numbers are more than just how many people walked through our doors. They’re the experiences people had at our Museum. They’re people who’ve come for the first time, or are coming back again and again, because they feel that our stories are worth supporting, sharing, and learning. Please join me in celebrating these numbers and appreciating every person who chose us as their storyteller this year.

We had plenty of unique stories to tell this year, including the stories from our Jewish Refugees and Shanghai exhibit.

If you’re not familiar with how we keep track of our statistics, here’s a quick overview.  These numbers come from our past fiscal year, July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019. This is Fiscal Year 2019, or FY19. And it was one of the biggest ones we’ve had at our Museum.This last year we had over 15,000 people visit the Museum! This number represents the total onsite visitors, or the total amount of people who stepped foot onto our campus. This number exceeds our previous fiscal year, which was over 10,800 people. In fact, this number beats out our records going back to at least  FY11, the earliest year when we have a comparable method of counting.  We believe this may be the biggest year on record for the Jewish Museum’s onsite visitors, which includes general attendance, school groups, adult groups, public programs, rentals, and teacher trainings/workshops.

One of the reasons why we had such a magical year was because of our Houdini exhibit, which was open from June 2018 through January 2019. However, the momentum from Houdini didn’t leave when the exhibit did, to travel around. Our other exhibits this year, Jewish Refugees in Shanghai, My Family Story, and Fashion Statement and Stitching History from the Holocaust continued to attract visitors, with 5,890 people marked for general admission.

We loved showing off our style with our Fashion Statement exhibit, on view until September 15th!

We had 3,553 students and educators join us for those exhibits, as well as for our general education programming. This included visits to the Houdini exhibit, our Intro to Judaism program, and much more. With our Jewish Refugees in Shanghai exhibit, we were able to reach out to a whole new audience of learners, some of whom were studying Chinese, and could read both the English and Chinese sides of the exhibit panels!

Our educators love working with students to teach them about Jewish history in Maryland and beyond. Most of time, we end up learning from the students too!

The kids weren’t the only ones who had some fun learning in our Museum. We had 1,034 people visit in adult groups as well this year. These groups had a chance to find a connection not only with the Museum, but with their friends as well. Our adult groups experienced magic, laughter, and learning in our exhibits and tours, and we look forward to welcoming them back in the new fiscal year.Along with those exhibits, we had exciting programs to entice and educate our visitors. With over 50 public programs, we had a wide range of topics and activities to entice the 3,776 people who attended them! With programs ranging from book talks to seances, bake-offs to Sephardic musical performances, we had plenty of things to do last year. Of course, the fun doesn’t stop just because it’s hot out! We already have programs planned through November, so make sure to keep an eye on our Events page!

We had a grand and spooky time last Halloween, with our Houdini Séance. We hope to continue having fun with you all this year! – Photo courtesy of Will Kirk.

With so many things to do and exhibits to see at the Museum, it’s no surprise that we’re attracting people from all over. While 17% of our visitors’ hail from nearby Baltimore City and Baltimore county, this year we had 116 people visit us from other countries. These countries included Singapore, New Zealand, Poland, the UK, France, and Canada, showing us that our Museum is a destination worth traveling for in any direction!These amazing numbers this year represent more than just the success of our marketing, program planning, and outreach. These numbers are the thousands of people who have chosen to visit our Museum to listen to the stories we collect and share with our audience. Each number is a person thinking more deeply about history, whether their own Jewish history or a new culture they’ve never encountered before. Each number is someone opening their mind and their heart to our community, here in Jonestown, and we’re honored by every single one.

Thank you to everyone who visited this past fiscal year, to make FY19 a success. Please continue attending our programs, checking out our exhibits, and supporting us as members, so that we can keep sharing these incredible stories.

~Talia


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Connecting Community

Posted on June 14th, 2019 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes from Development Director Tracey E. Dorfmann and Office Manager Jessica Konigsberg as they introduce our newest Board Members and share some details on a year’s worth of board activities! To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here.


Welcome FY 2020 Board Members

This year we are welcoming two new board members bringing our total to 30.

We are excited that Anita Kassof will be rejoining our ranks on the board side. She is currently the Executive Director of the Baltimore Museum of Industry. Anita has served as Deputy Director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York City, and was the Associate Director of the Jewish Museum of Maryland. Previously she co-founded Historic Jonestown, Inc., and served as a curator at the Baltimore City Life Museums and was on the founding staff of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC.

And we are thrilled to welcome Iris Krasnow, an award-winning author and journalist to the board.  This summer Iris is putting the finishing touches on a book about the lasting power of summer camps, which is due for publication in 2020. Her writing has been featured in many national publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and AARP The Magazine. She has been a guest on numerous television and radio programs. Iris is also a journalism and relationship studies professor at American University in Washington, DC.

Our board now connects us to 12 different neighborhoods in Baltimore City and Maryland.  Home base neighborhoods include Locust Point, Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Mt. Washington, Roland Park/Cross Keys, Druid Hill/Bolton Hill, Remington/Hampden, Pikesville, Reisterstown, Columbia, Owings Mills, and Annapolis.

And while staff offer insight into museum operations, Board Members bring a breadth of professional experiences and community connections to the Museum.

Represented among our FY 2020 Board Members’ professional affiliations are fields ranging from medicine and health to real estate, construction, and law. Our Board Members’ backgrounds include nonprofit work and education—representing everything from cultural programming, museums, academia, to Jewish communal services. Also represented is expertise in fine art, interior design, marketing and public relations, investment banking, engineering, and public service. JMM’s Board Members serve on the Boards of local synagogues as well as on Boards and in volunteer capacities with other community organizations.


FY2019 Year in Review

The JMM board and past presidents are, as a whole, a very engaged group, active in in all aspects of JMM stewardship! Throughout the year board members participate with museum life in a myriad of ways.  Each member of our board serves on one or more committees including: Board Education, Board Nominating, Collections, Development, Finance & Auditing, Visioning, Facilities, Marketing, and the Executive Committee.  More than a third of our board members made time this year to enthusiastically welcome museum visitors, introducing films, speakers, and programs.

Public programs are not the only places you’ll see Board Members regularly lending their expertise and passion to the Museum’s daily operations. We also have four active Board Members serving on our JMM volunteer team: one welcoming visitors at the Front Desk, one leading historic synagogue tours as a Docent, one working in the Archives, and one supporting Outreach and Programs. The only volunteer-supported department currently without a Board Member volunteer is the Gift Shop (maybe in fiscal year 2020…let Jess know if you’re interested!).

In fiscal year 2019, the Board Education Committee—comprised of six Board Members and three staff members—introduced a series of Board engagement sessions designed to offer Board Members behind-the-scenes experiences and deepen Board Members’ knowledge of museum management, exhibit design, collections management, and education, connecting Board more closely with the daily projects of JMM staff.

The committee successfully launched three engagement series focused on different aspects of the Museum:

>In January, six Board Members attended the first Tuesdays with Marvin lunchtime lecture with Executive Director Marvin Pinkert, where they learned about museum management, ethics, mentors, and more.

>In March, three Board Members (including one Past President) and three eager staff members joined collections staff Joanna Church and Lorie Rombro in an exploration of purple objects from the collection—a total of nine objects including Pikesville High School cheerleading pom-poms, a Baltimore user’s guide from Jewish College Services, and a beaded handbag originally belonging to Henrietta Szold.

>In April two Board Members joined 43 seventh graders and four teachers from John Ruhrah Elementary/Middle School to see JMM’s lively school programs in action—led by staff members Ilene Dackman-Alon and Paige Woodhouse. Board members joined students as they conducted research and created stories based on objects on display in the Fashion Statement exhibit, observing as students thought critically about what we can (and can’t) learn about someone based on their clothing choices. The class also experienced the Lloyd Street Synagogue through the eyes of a student learning about the Jonestown neighborhood and the immigrant community.

Already on the calendar (for Noon on September 10th) is the next Tuesdays with Marvin lecture, titled “31 Years, 80 Exhibits and a Few Lessons Learned.” The Committee is currently working on planning a neighborhood walking tour, the next object study session, and another opportunity to observe school programming in action.

In addition to the series, the committee helped make our Board Retreat possible. On November 13, 2018, at the Baltimore Museum of Industry, seventeen board members joined four staff and one facilitator (Acharai’s Beth Gansky) for a three-hour process of discovery and discourse, as we learned more about the whys, whats, hows, and how-I-loves of JMM. (Watch for another board retreat this September, tentatively scheduled for September 17th.)

Thank you to our fantastic board for their counsel and guidance in the year ahead: Robert Keehn (President), Nancy Kutler (Senior Vice President), Jeffrey Scherr (Vice President), Len Weinberg (Vice President), Jerry Macks (Treasurer), Arnold Fruman (Secretary), Duke Zimmerman (Immediate Past President), Toby Gordon, Saralynn Glass, Judy Pachino, Ira Malis, Bob Gehman, Erica Breslau, Robert Manekin, Stuart Rosenzwog, Angela Wells-Sims, Steven Hawtof, Alan Dorenfeld, Bonnie Heneson, Abe Kronsberg, Lola Hahn, Lee Rosenberg, Claire Tesh, Roberta Greenstein, Suzanne Levin-Lapides, Sheldon Bearman, Neri Cohen, Rikki Spector, Iris Krasnow, and Anita Kassof.

We are looking forward to an exciting new year together!

~Tracey & Jess


Jonestown Festival 2019

Join us Sunday, June 23rd at the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House for a day-long, neighborhood celebration!


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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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