Small Improvements, Big Impact: Reshaping the JMM Visitor Experience

Posted on May 12th, 2016 by

Performance Counts May 2016

Many years ago I heard a joke: A very creative man, Moshe, was asked by his more run-of-the-mill friend, Joe, what Joe might do to help him be more like Moshe. Moshe replied, “sometimes, the smallest change makes a big difference in the way that you see the world. Try putting your pants on each morning with the other leg first. It will adjust your whole outlook on things.”

Joe thought Moshe might be crazy, but he tried it anyway. The next time he saw Moshe, he heartily thanked him, “I tried it, I put my pants on left leg first now, and since I started, I’ve been able to come up with creative solutions to problems that once seemed intractable.”

“That’s great!” said Moshe, “but what happened to your face?” referring to the large bruises on Joe’s cheeks and eyes.

“I fall on my face every morning, because I’m putting my pants on the wrong leg first.”

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For whatever reason, and despite the punchline, that joke has really stayed with me. Mostly, I guess, because I believe it to be true: small changes, when they’re the right changes, can lead to big differences in individuals, organizations and cultures.

Some fresh, new landscaping.

Some fresh, new landscaping.

Since I started at the JMM about a year ago, we’ve begun collecting small changes:

*We started accepting credit cards at the front desk, so that our visitors don’t need to interrupt their entry experience to pay with card.

*We’ve moved more shop merchandise into the lobby, and have re-organized what’s in the shop, grouping items by theme, allowing us to make the shop experience also educational.

*Our front doors now feature handicap accessible paddles and power-assist opens.

*We brought in a company to power-wash the scaling from the portico that marks our entrance, and we re-landscaped the beds right out front.

*We’ve worked to stabilize the projector in our orientation space so that it no longer wobbles with the HVAC system’s operation.

*We retired the old Tzedakah box into our Institutional Archives, and had fabricated a new acrylic collection box that allows visitors to see others’ donation and encourages greater giving (the money collected this way has markedly increased!).

Our nifty new donations box.

Our nifty new donations box.

And we’re not done! In the coming weeks and months you can expect to see:

*A new phone system (it’s being installed this week) that will allow direct dial to all JMM staffers

*A new software package that will streamline the visitor entry transaction, and will allow us to better understand our visitors – who they are, where they come from, when they visit, etc.

*A facelift for our public bathrooms, including new lighting, sinks and mirrors

*A refresh of our lobby and orientation space, including fresh paint, new furniture and improved donor recognition panels

Taken together, as we move forward into fiscal year 2017 and beyond, these small changes are really starting to add up to positive developments at the JMM. I hope that you’ll agree, and will join me in celebrating the changes we’ve already made and share with me your ideas about how we can improve the visitor experience at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.

Tracie Guy-DeckerA blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.

 

 

 

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Accessibility at the JMM

Posted on April 8th, 2016 by

Creating a welcoming museum environment that takes into account visitor needs is an important ongoing goal at the JMM. Whether this means developing exhibition educational resources for school group visitors or offering programs designed to facilitate conversation among visitors of different religious or cultural backgrounds, we take pride in our ability to serve diverse audiences. Providing access for visitors with physical disabilities has always been a Museum priority and in recent months, our staff has taken steps to improve our services in this area.

Recognizing the need to consider the entire spectrum of accessibility issues, this past October, we hired Ingrid Kanics of Kanics Inclusive Design Services to conduct an accessibility audit of the JMM’s public spaces including both of our historic synagogues, galleries, restrooms and library. As part of her survey, she measured door openings, made use of a wheelchair to navigate spaces and considered all aspects of the visitor experience.

Improved signage

Improved signage

Ingrid then drafted a report with recommendations that she shared with Museum staff. We were pleased to note that our Museum facility scored high in many areas. Having recently added a push button option to open our front doors provides easier access for visitors with limited mobility. Many of Ingrid’s recommendations related to signage and our staff has already produced larger signs to help visitors identify public restrooms. At her suggestion, we have created a checklist of items for our visitor services staff to check on a regular basis to ensure, for example, that the mechanical doors are functioning properly and that doors and hallways are kept clear of debris that can pose tripping hazards. Other improvements, based on Ingrid’s recommendations, are slated soon for implementation and include adding covers to drain pipes underneath restroom sinks to avoid burn risks for individuals in wheelchairs and smoothing out the transition strips between the lobby and coat room/restroom area to make for easier navigation for wheelchair users.

Thanks to the contributions of docent, Robyn Hughes, for several years, the JMM has worked to improve our services for visitors who are blind or visually impaired. Robyn helps us create Braille text for flyers, exhibition text and programs (we have both Braille and large print exhibition text for Beyond Chicken Soup available at our front desk) as well as create tours and programs designed specifically for visitors with visual impairments including camp groups from the Maryland School for the Blind who regularly visit.

Large Print Brochure

Large Print Brochure

A priority for this coming year is to improve services for visitors who are deaf or have hearing impairments. While we currently make sure that all exhibit videos are captioned and hire sign language interpreters upon request, we do not currently have the ability to offer accommodations for visitors at public programs who have difficulty hearing speakers or presentations. Our staff recently met with representatives from a company that manufacturers assisted listening devices and learned about how this system can improve sound in our orientation space for program participants. We intend on purchasing a system in the upcoming year that would enable visitors to borrow a receiver from the front desk with an over the ear headphone that would amplify sound in our lobby. The same system could also be used by visitors participating in guided tours of our historic synagogues.

The biggest challenge we face for visitors with physical disabilities is the lack of an easy solution for gaining access to our historic synagogues. Many years ago we created a video tour of the synagogues that is available for visitors to view in our lobby as a programmatic equivalent for those unable to climb the buildings’ stairs. We have also started to video simulcast programs that take place in the Lloyd Street Synagogue for visitors to watch in our orientation space. Of course, we recognize that these steps are not enough, and we are exploring different ways for creating access through ramps and possibly an elevator. B’nai Israel is in the process of adding a chair lift to aid congregants (and Museum visitors) in gaining access to its main sanctuary. And we remain committed to continuing to investigate potential solutions for improving accessibility to the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

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Performance Counts: March 2016

Posted on March 11th, 2016 by

Three years, eight months and twelve days (but who’s counting?)

This week marks the culmination of a major JMM initiative, the opening of Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. The exhibition was conceived soon after the arrival of our (then) new executive director, Marvin Pinkert, in June 2012. As we brainstormed ideas for a new exhibit, one idea stood out from the others tossed around, an exploration of Jewish connections to medicine. However, it was clear from the beginning that we were not just looking to create a hall of fame-style exhibit honoring the Jewish heroes of medicine but rather to flesh out an answer to the question that gets asked so often “Just what is it about Jews and medicine?”

Sneak a peek

Sneak a peek…

As is so often the case with exhibition planning, defining the exhibition concept (along with the title) took a while. From “My Son the Doctor” to “Foreign Bodies” to “Jews, Health and Healing” and finally “Beyond Chicken Soup” our discussions began focusing on the dual notions of how medicine has influenced Jewish identity and conversely how Jewish culture, tradition and religion has impacted the field of medicine.

As we settled on our overarching concept, work on the exhibit intensified on all fronts. Our team of research assistants, interns, volunteers and scholars researched the topic from a wide variety of sources and perspectives. Time spent conducting oral history interviews with local medical practitioners as well as digging through archives at medical research institutes and libraries – including our own collections – proved valuable. Concurrently, we also conducted focus groups and visitor surveys to determine what topics would be of most interest to museum visitors. As we began working with exhibit designer Steve Feldman and media producer Rick Pedolsky, of Amuze Interactives, the exhibit took on a new life, and we began visualizing what it would look like in the Feldman Gallery.

at our newest exhibit

…at our newest exhibit…

With a companion catalog, website, educational curriculum and public program series, Beyond Chicken Soup has been a highly collaborative project that has involved the entire JMM staff as well as an army of consultants and volunteers.

Here’s a look at Beyond Chicken Soup by the numbers:

*Number of lenders to the exhibit: 70

*Number of objects on display: 225

*Farthest distance of travel for loaned objects: Israel (manuscripts collected by Dr. Harry Friedenwald from the National Library of Israel)

*Largest object on display: the back end of a 1970s ambulance (lights flashing!)

*Number of scholar consultants: 4

*Amount of money raised: $824,000

*Number of donors: 27

*Number of project interns: 10

*Number of focus group conversations: 30

*Number of people on the installation crew: 14

*Feet of walls built in the interior of the gallery: 242

...and don't miss  opening weekend!

…and don’t miss opening weekend!

But the best number we can think of for this exhibit is one!  Just one more day before you can experience what we’ve been working on for the last three years.

Can't wait to see you!

Can’t wait to see you!

 

 

 

Posted in jewish museum of maryland




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