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.

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Appreciating Our Volunteers

Posted on August 10th, 2018 by

This month’s edition of Performance Counts comes from Volunteer Coordinator Wendy Davis (who is, herself, a volunteer). To read more posts from Wendy, click here.

Have you interacted with a JMM volunteer? If you’ve ever visited the Jewish Museum of Maryland, then you probably have! They might have been the friendly greeter at the front desk, the helpful shop assistance at Esther’s Place or the docent leading a tour of the historic synagogues (or all three!).

There have been 53 of us dedicated volunteers this past year, supplementing the work of the Museum’s 11 full-time staff members, along with an additional 35 volunteer Board Members. Some of us only volunteer a few times a month, while others are at the JMM two days a week (like me!).  Whether it’s a two-hour shift or a six-hour shift, the time volunteers are able to share with the JMM is incredibly helpful and appreciated. Volunteers are absolutely critical to the success of the Museum.

Nine of those 53 volunteers have been stationed at the front desk, clocking in a total of 744 hours this year.  These front desk volunteers make sure our visitors receive a warm welcome, but they do much more than that! These volunteers serve as fonts of information about all the services that the Museum offers, including making sure our visitors know about tour times, current and upcoming exhibitions, and public programs. Plus, they help collect demographic data from our visitors and make sure we maintain an accurate count of Museum visitors each day.

Eleven of those 53 volunteers have assisted in the wonderful Museum gift shop, Esther’s Place, clocking in 285 hours this year.  Not only do these volunteers interact with visitors processing sales, but they helped conduct our annual shop inventory, design merchandise displays and help keep the shop looking clean and inviting.

Nineteen of the 53 volunteers have served as docents, clocking in 905 hours this year as they lead visitors through the two historic synagogues on the JMM campus and on group tours of the Museum’s exhibits.  Our docents share their knowledge and passion for local Jewish history with our visitors. They also become experts at customizing their tours depending upon the background and age of that day’s visitors.

But our volunteers aren’t limited to just the “front of the house.”  11 volunteers spend their time working with the extensive collections at the JMM, particularly with our archives, cataloging, summarizing, translating, and digitizing.  This time-consuming work improves intellectual access to the Museum’s varied collections. This group of volunteers clocked in a grand total of 1,874 hours this year, more than any other group of JMM volunteers!

While there is no way to truly show how much we love our volunteers, the JMM does try to demonstrate our gratitude for all their wonderful contributions. This year there have been multiple field trips to other museums as well as special discounts at Esther’s Place. But the highlight of the year is definitely the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner.

On the evening of July 29th, all of our volunteers were invited to a celebratory dinner held here at the Museum. In addition to the delicious food, we were entertained by David London, the superb curator of the current exhibit Inescapable, The Life and Legacy of Harry Houdini.  Using his story telling and magician skills, David portrayed Harry Houdini, bringing the magic and mystery of Houdini to life.

If you want to be among the “appreciated” next year, call or email me or Sue Foard to make an appointment to learn more about how to join our team of JMMers.

Wendy Davis

Sue Foard

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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?”


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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