Small, But Mighty

Posted on November 9th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts is from Marketing Manager Rachel Kassman. To read more posts from Rachel, click here. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here.

What can you do in less than 60 square feet of vertical space? Turns out, quite a lot.

By now, I’m sure you’ve all spent countless hours exploring our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit in the Shoshana S. and Jerome Cardin Exhibition Gallery, touring our two historic synagogues and sharing Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini, located in the Samson, Rosetta and Sadie B. Feldman Exhibition Gallery, with your friends and family (if not, what are you waiting for? Plan your visit now!). Today I want to turn your attention to a slightly more diminutive – but no less exciting – space: the lobby niche.

Measuring just 80 inches wide and 107 inches tall at its peak, this small space can pack a powerful punch (though we do cheat and get an extra few feet with those side walls!). We have used this space to expand on stories presented in the larger exhibit galleries, as we did for Paul Simon: Words and Music with Marvin’s exhibit An American Tune, which explored Jewish connections to folk rock; and for Inescapable, with A Little Magic from the Collections, highlighting both new and old accessions in the Museum collections with a particularly magical bent. In February we’ll be preparing the space to accompany the Jewish Refugees in Shanghai exhibit, on loan from the Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum.

The size and flexibility of this space also makes it perfect for displays tied to special events and programs. Most recently you may remember seeing The Book of Joseph: Giving Voice to the Hollander Family, which was on display in conjunction with the play’s run at Everyman Theatre. In 2016, during the run of Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America, we were lucky enough to host a special luncheon for the alumnae of the Sinai Nursing program and used the niche for a display of Sinai nurse-related material from our collections.

We have also created displays on the Jews of Shanghai for the 2014 Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch Memorial Program on Immigration;  a feature on artist Saul Bernstein when we debuted the updated and recast living history character; and Raise Your Glass, highlighting items from the collections to compliment a Father’s Day program on the Jewish heritage of American whiskey.

Our newest lobby display, which will be on view starting this Sunday, November 11th, is a companion to our special Veteran’s Day program on the Jewish Legion. Generously supported by a gift from the Carole and Hanan Sibel Family Foundation, this display will highlight the various Jewish Legion-related materials in our collections, which will be further discussed at 1:00pm by our archivist Lorie Rombro.

We have also used this space to give our interns a chance to apply their skills and share what they’ve learned over the course of their internship. Most recently we had Just Desserts: Baking and Jewish Identity, created by 2018 summer intern Cara Bennet. 2015 summer intern Falicia Eddy created Recognizing and Responding to Injustice, which focused on using the Holocaust as a teaching tool to combat intolerance as a companion to our annual Summer Teachers Institute.

This space is not the only small gem we can use to tell special stories outside the bounds of our major exhibit offerings (although it is the most consistently filled). In the basement of the Lloyd Street Synagogue there is a single case that has been used to explore Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Hanukkah, and Shavuot using materials from our collections and is often curated by interns or museum educators.

In the Anne Adalman Goodwin Memorial Library you can often find a small case featuring an item from the collection – perhaps a special menorah around Hanukkah, a Seder plate around Passover, or a funky clock that caught Joanna’s eye down in the stacks this past May.  During the final week of our Just Married! Wedding Stories of Jewish Maryland exhibit, we expanded a little farther into the library to share some special wedding “extras” that we just couldn’t bear not to share, like vintage wedding shoes and additional dresses from the collections.

These small spaces, and others, allow us to be experimental, responsive, and creative. In 2014 we created a tribute to actress Vivienne Shub in light of her passing. In 2015, in response to the unrest and uprising in Baltimore we created In Every Generation, exploring materials in the collections related to protest, public campaigning, and activism in the community.

So keep your eyes on our niches, on our cases tucked in to cozy corners, on those inspiring blank walls – you never know what new stories will pop up!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Our Favorite Esther’s Place Stories

Posted on October 12th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts is from Office Manager and Shop Assistant Jessica Konigsberg. To read more posts from Jessica, click here. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here.


At Esther’s Place, we hope to provide that personal touch to your JMM experience—the opportunity to slow down and reflect on the exhibits and tour and find special items to take home with you so that you might continue that spark of curiosity with a great book, treasure that moment of connection with a personal memento, or relate a favorite story to a loved one via the perfect gift.

After starting 9 months ago as JMM’s Shop Assistant, it has been my great pleasure to get to know the stories that make a JMM experience meaningful and the products that capture our visitors’ imaginations—or even just make them laugh. So I was delighted to write this month’s Performance Counts and to take a deep dive into the Gift Shop to discover our visitors’ favorite Esther’s Place stories and how we at JMM been evolving and growing to meet these needs.

What stories have been shared or suggested, requested, or unexpectedly beloved this year in the Gift Shop by our valued visitors? To answer that question, let’s look at some of the top sellers (by quantity) from the previous Jewish calendar year!

In the past year, we’ve held many book talks, making for an especially engaging and edifying year of stories, ranging from beloved tales of Jewish Baltimore to the cultural contributions of Jewish punk music to the intriguing career of Harry Houdini. Our top-selling title for the year is new Jewish Baltimore history book, On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore (by Eric Goldstein and Deborah Weiner) with an impressive 72 copies sold since the book’s release in April.

Our next best seller, at 40 copies, is our favorite quirky Judaism primer, Did Jew Know by Emily Stone. The suggestion to carry Did Jew Know in the Gift Shop came to us from volunteer docent Howard Davidov—just one example of the valuable contributions our volunteers make to the stories of Esther’s Place. In third place on our bestsellers list is the charmingly-illustrated children’s book, I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley; with 34 copies sold, I’m delighted to know we are collectively uplifting Jewish women’s stories and sharing them with younger generations.

While performing inventory this year, I became deeply acquainted with our Gift Shop’s astounding supply of JMM catalogs and publications—a treasure trove of knowledge, research, and uniquely-JMM stories, photos, and ephemera. It came as no surprise that our best-selling JMM publication was Voices of Lombard Street—a truly evergreen story that so many of you have chosen to take home, share, and re-visit through this beautiful catalog. We sold 29 copies in the past year.

In April 2018, we developed a special display and social media campaign around our many whimsical mugs and our staff’s collective love of coffee and tea. The display is titled But First Coffee (or #ButFirstCoffee), and the social media campaign utilizes the hashtag #MugShotMonday—a Monday social media tradition. To date, we’ve shared 19 #MugShotMonday posts on Twitter and Instagram (and many on Facebook too), each one involving artful arrangements and heartfelt tributes to the caffeinated beverage.

This year, we also worked particularly hard to respond to a frequent request we had been hearing in the Gift Shop—the request for custom Maryland or Baltimore Jewish products. After introducing our line of See America products featuring the Lloyd Street Synagogue in January, we developed the humorous and uniquely-Baltimore mugs and magnets pictured here. 

Our most popular product so far is the “Oy Vey Seasoning” magnet with 51 sold, each one helping to share the story of German Jewish refugee Gustav Brunn’s Old Bay Seasoning invention and its famous Baltimore origins. Later this month, we expect to welcome our latest custom offering into the Gift Shop—postcard sets featuring Upstanders, Athletes, and Pets from the Collection of the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

While many of our bestsellers were easy to predict, several products delighted us this year with their unexpectedly warm reception. The most striking was our selection of magic tricks, merchandised in connection with our exhibit Inescapable: The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini (currently on display). From the exhibit opening on June 24 through to Rosh Hashanah 2018, we sold 82 individual magic tricks and 24 magic trick sets—and no doubt contributed to countless home magic shows and budding magicians.

Many of you ordered Esther’s Place merchandise from afar, and we were delighted to send our products and stories as far as California, Arizona, and even Germany this year. To place phone orders and have products shipped to you, please call us at Esther’s Place at 443-873-5179 or email jkonigsberg@jewishmuseummd.org.

We look forward to another year of unforgettable stories, products that make us smile, and the invaluable input of our valued visitors, volunteers, and Esther’s Place customers.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




Measuring Memories, Nurturing Upstanders

Posted on September 14th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes from Deputy Director Tracie Guy-Decker. To read past editions of Performance Counts, click here. To read more posts by Tracie, click here.


From the Collections: Cloth tape measure used at Pell’s Tailoring Shop, Baltimore, MD. JMM 1995.83.12

Back in December of 2017, this newsletter talked about how we measure the Museum. In that edition of Performance Counts, I let you know that we had begun a memorability study of the Museum. To refresh your memory, one of the measures of quality of a museum is its memorability.

To help explain what we mean by memorability, I will reiterate an anecdote that Marvin often tells. Museum guru John Falk was once challenged at a lecture by a teacher who argued field trips were too expensive and simply didn’t provide enough return on investment. John invited this educator to remember a museum field trip that he had taken as a child. The teacher provided a detailed description of a grade school trip to the Museum of Science and Industry (one of Marvin’s alma maters), and his journey into the Coal Mine exhibit there. John then asked what the man had learned in school the day after the field trip, or the next week? or that month? As you might imagine, the story of classroom learning was not nearly as forthcoming.

Our ongoing efforts to *measure* our memorability involve us collecting visitor information while they’re here and then calling them three months after their visit. Our post-visit phone call is a combination survey and conversation. Our colleagues at the Associated have been making these calls on our behalf. The first wave of calls happened in December of 2017 to visitors who had been onsite in September.

For this first wave, forty-one visitors shared their info for future follow up. Of those, fifteen were reached through thirteen telephone interviews. The Key findings indicate:

14 out of 15 visitors are extremely satisfied with their overall museum experience.

Comments to explain the high ratings include the following:
• Nice tour guide
• Interesting experience
• Met people there and we showed them around

And 14 out of 15 respondents are very likely to recommend.

Comments include:
• “I already recommended; I loved the exhibit”
• “History brought back a lot of memories”
• “It’s your culture, you want to learn more”

Visitors remember many details, and like the connections to history and their lives.

Perhaps even more important than the memorability of the Museum, is its capacity to inspire action. I’ve written before about how the Museum experience has the power to make visitors into better human beings—to make them upstanders instead of bystanders.

In the three months between their visit and their telephone interviews, our visitors remember engaging in follow up activities from conversation to creation, and of course, one of our favorites, planning a repeat visit!

I know that most visitors to JMM are not becoming community activists as a result of their time with us. It’s also clear from the study we’re undertaking that the after-effects of a positive museum experience spur new thinking, new conversations, new learning, and sometimes even the creation of all new things like art, literature, and curricula. And if one in a hundred or even one in a thousand of our visitors converts their experience here into new ways to improve their corner of the world, I’d say we’re doing something right.

We’re currently collecting visitor information, and intend to do wave 2 of interviews about three months from now. I look forward to sharing the results with you as they come in.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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