Posted on May 10th, 2013 by Rachel
The first step in improving performance is measuring progress. In this month’s edition of Performance Counts, Abby and Ilene talk about the processes we use to keep and analyze data on both our general visitors and our school groups.
Abby Krolik, Visitor Services Coordinator
We are delighted to report that visitation to the JMM has increased by more than 38% in the past few months (in comparison of a 14 week span, January- mid-April, to the same time period last year). In an effort to learn more about our visitors, in the past few months we have made a concerted effort to gather specific data about each individual who walk through our doors. We track information about our visitors in several ways. For walk-in visitors, that process begins at the door, where our front desk receptionist records in the admission log how many adults, seniors, children, etc. come in and at what time of day. We also use that first interaction with visitors at the front desk to ask them where they are from and how they heard about the museum. At the end of each month, I go through the daily attendance logs and tally how many visitors we had in total, and how the attendance statistics break down (member vs. non-member / senior vs. adult vs. child vs. student / how many guest passes were used for admission, etc.) I also am able to report where our visitors are from by tallying up zip codes and states as well as the many different factors that influenced their decision to visit the JMM.
It has been fascinating learning about the reasons why people visit the JMM. Comments include “relative of someone who worshipped at Lloyd St. Synagogue or B’nai Israel Synagogue,” or “Lives/used to live in the neighborhood and always wanted to visit the museum.” Mostly, however, the responses to “How did you hear about the JMM?” involve more expected sources, such as Google searches, listings and ads in local publications or information provided to tourists, and the Groupon and Living Social promotions we recently offered. Collecting this information is important for several reasons, especially in terms of helping us figure out which marketing strategies are the most effective. This data also helps inform program development as it helps us learn about what types of audiences we are already reaching and which groups require new marketing strategies.
Gathering and calculating visitor information for scheduled groups works a little differently. Generally, we have an idea of how many people to expect from because the groups’ organizers give us a headcount in advance. However, inevitably, the actual number of people who arrive on the day of the tour is somewhat different from the expected number. For that reason, we make sure to count how many are actually present on the tour and write it down in the admission log. We also distribute a brief evaluation form to teachers to fill out while they are at the museum with their school groups, so that we can collect accurate information about the group (are they a Title I school? Which school district are they from?), as well as receive immediate feedback on our own performance. All of this information is also totaled at the end of each month, along with the information about our walk-in visitors, program attendance, and outreach numbers. Gathering accurate information about our visitors and analyzing this data to discern specific trends about visitation to the JMM enables our staff to measure our success in fulfilling our mission. This information also helps us in our efforts to secure grant funding that, in turn, provides us with the necessary support to implement programs and exhibits that continue to draw in new audiences.
Tracking Success Through Our Educational Programs
Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education
The JMM’s educational enrichment programs offer students and teachers the chance to participate in hands-on active discovery and experiential learning activities that they would otherwise not be exposed to in their classrooms. The Museum’s education programs align with the Maryland State’s curriculum in social studies and English language arts goals and standards for students and teachers in grades K-12. The Museum closely tracks the annual attendance of students, parents and teachers taking part in our education programs both on and off-site. Our staff compiles reports that break down the visitation by grade level and school district. These reports serve as useful tools for learning the extent to which our educational resources are utilized. We also monitor which schools schedule repeat visits from year to year, another indicator of the positive impact of our school services.
The Museum performs evaluation based on outcome. The evaluation process is critical for Museum professionals and educators in order to evaluate the value of the Museum environment as a place of productive learning. We are specifically concerned that our school visitors gain a basic knowledge of fundamental Jewish traditions and values, a grounding in how Jewish history has evolved in the State of Maryland, and an appreciation of a minority experience within a multicultural context.
Systematic evaluation – a key component of all Museum programs, ensures that these outcomes are achieved. JMM staff solicits evaluation forms from all teachers who participate in on- and off-site programs. These evaluation forms provide critical feedback about the quality of the program, how well they align with curricular standards, and whether or not the programs meet intended objectives. The JMM staff also observes programs to evaluate their effectiveness. Programs are regularly refined based on the content of these evaluations and observations.
We are fortunate to receive grant support for many of our educational initiatives and we are committed to providing all donors with timely reports that summarize our progress on specific projects as well as evaluation data that we have gathered from surveys and meetings with teachers. We are proud to report on each year’s accomplishments as well as the lessons we have learned while implementing each initiative and how we plan on using evaluation results to improve our performance in the upcoming year.
We are pleased to report on just a few measures of success from this past year:
- We have served 600 more students and teachers through on-site school visits in comparison to a similar time period from last year (July 1-April 30).
- Our education staff has developed new educational resources and activities in connection with the exhibits, Zap, Pow Bam and The Synagogue Speaks!
- Our partnership initiative with Baltimore City schools continues to grow – we have added two new schools this year: Patterson Park Charter School and City Springs Elementary/Middle School.
- We have also developed a partnership with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum to provide joint field trip opportunities for visiting school groups.
We look forward to continue our efforts at tracking and reporting on future success of our educational programs.
Posted on April 15th, 2013 by Rachel
As part of our mission to preserve and interpret Maryland Jewish history, the JMM strives to promote research that sheds new light on the past. Our collections offer an important window into the Jewish experience and scholars from around the world come here to study them. In addition to making our materials available to others, we mount our own research projects and present the results to diverse audiences in ways that bring the past alive and help people discover new meanings and interpretations, through our exhibitions, programs, and publications.
In 2011, former director Avi Decter embarked on ambitious project to reexamine the history of the Baltimore Jewish community and publish a comprehensive, full-length study. Under the JMM’s sponsorship, Emory University Professor Eric Goldstein and JMM Research Historian Deborah Weiner are engaged in writing On Middle Ground: A History of the Jews of Baltimore, a work grounded in current scholarship that will be made accessible to a broad audience. In this issue of “Performance Counts,” we thought we’d share with you some of the exciting discoveries they’re making that give us new ways of looking at Maryland’s Jewish past.
Here’s an example. The “Jew Bill” is a well-known chapter in Maryland Jewish history. The story is typically told like this: in early Maryland, the Christian oath requirement for holding public office indicated the low status of Jews and prevented them from participating in civic life. Their champion, state legislator Thomas Kennedy, managed to win passage of the “Jew Bill” in 1826 after years of battling prejudice. The bill (which allowed Jews to swear a more general oath) enabled Jews to finally become full citizens.
The Jew Bill. 1987.82.1
The real story is both more complicated and more interesting, as our new research has helped uncover. Jews had in fact already been key participants in Baltimore civic life and had even held public office (without swearing a Christian oath). The oath requirement was just one of many archaic provisions in the state constitution that figured in a power struggle between Federalist and Republican legislators, and became a source of rivalry between rural and urban factions. In a nutshell, many rural legislators opposed the Jew Bill because they believed it was part of Baltimore’s attempt to gain greater influence over state affairs. Jews and most other Baltimoreans favored policies that benefited commerce, which agrarian interests found threatening. When changes in the voting laws expanded the electorate, more Republicans were elected to the legislature—among them, Thomas Kennedy. By 1826, Republican and urban forces had gained enough power to pass the Jew Bill, along with other measures.
This interpretation not only alters our view of the status of Jews during the era, it also sheds light on an important aspect of Maryland’s political history: the ongoing struggle for power between the city and the other sections of the state. And it shows how Jews were very much involved in that power struggle, as participants rather than simply as victims of prejudice.
Jumping 100 years to the 1930s, correspondence recently uncovered in our archives allows us to add to the factual knowledge about a contentious debate over the American Jewish community’s response to the rise of Nazi Germany. Some historians have charged that because of timidity, apathy, and disunity, American Jews didn’t do enough to pressure the U.S. government to oppose the Nazi regime or relax immigration restrictions before World War II. As a result, they say, American Jewry bears a share of responsibility for the Holocaust. Others contend that American Jews did as much as they could, but there was little scope for effective action given both public opinion in the U.S. and the determination of the Nazis to carry out their plans. The debate has focused on the actions of national organizations such as the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress.
What both sides lack is evidence on the local level of what Jewish communities around the nation were doing. The JMM’s Friedenwald collection begins to fill this gap. Harry Friedenwald and Simon Sobeloff, leaders of the Baltimore branch of the American Jewish Congress, were in constant communication with national leader Stephen S. Wise and gave him a running update of their campaign to unite the Baltimore Jewish community around a course of action. Their letters pulse with a sense of urgency and reveal an almost frantic flurry of activity as early as March of 1933, just after Hitler took power. We learn of their successes, frustrations, and strategies for overcoming obstacles that ranged from the “singularly silent” Baltimore newspapers to the passivity of influential Jewish leaders.
Harry Friedenwald from “Ten Jewish Leaders in America” by Samuel Strouse, 1968.1986.100.1
Among other things, the branch held rallies, convinced Baltimore newspapers to improve their coverage of the Nazis’ war on the Jews, and got prominent community figures to speak out. In 1934 they helped get Maryland’s U.S. Senator Millard Tydings to sponsor a resolution calling on Germany to stop persecuting its Jewish citizens. The Tydings Resolution would have been the first official U.S. statement on the matter—had it not languished in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. With supporting evidence from our research in the Baltimore Sun about the climate of opinion in the U.S. (did you know that a Nazi cruiser made a festive ten-day “good will” visit to Baltimore harbor in 1936 that included public tours of the ship, parties with public officials, and a soccer match against a local team in Gwynns Falls Park?), our interpretation will weigh in on the “did as much as they could” side of the argument.
These are just two examples of how our Baltimore Book Project is transforming our view of the past by bringing important stories to light. And because On Middle Ground will be the first comprehensive social history of an American Jewish community outside of New York, as well as of a Baltimore ethnic group, it will contribute considerably to the fields of American Jewish history and Maryland history.
The JMM is grateful to the following sponsors of On Middle Ground for their generous support of this project: Willard Hackerman, the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds, the Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Foundation, and Rosalee and Richard Davison.
We are delighted to report that an essay Dr. Eric Goldstein has written for the book, “How German Were ‘German’ Jews in America in the Nineteenth Century? A View from Baltimore,” has been awarded the 2012 Joseph L. Arnold prize for the best essay submission on Baltimore history. The award notification recognized Eric for writing “a nuanced investigation of the established interpretation that Jewish immigrants from German-speaking regions of Europe in the 19th century identified with German culture by exploring the complexities of German Jewish identity with Baltimore-based evidence regarding associational life, politics, and language preference.” This award sponsored by the Baltimore City Historical Society will be announced at a conference on Friday, May 3. We congratulate Eric on this achievement.
We are proud of the role that the JMM plays in preserving our local Jewish heritage and helping to connect visitors of all backgrounds to the past. Please check out this wonderful article from last Sunday’s New York Times travel section in which the reporter describes how a visit to the JMM helped her learn more about her family’s history: http:///nyti.ms/ZaRqdU
Posted on February 8th, 2013 by Rachel
Once a month we send out our “Performance Counts” newsletter to Museum insiders. In honor of Valentine’s Day, this month’s “Performance Counts” was all about the romance behind the numbers. I decided it was too cute not to share with all of you!
1. Come visit and bring a friend. Our on-site attendance in January moved from 356 in 2012 to 697 in 2013. Almost all of this gain came from families and individuals rather than groups. The word is out that Zap! Pow! Bam! is fun for the whole family. Call a neighbor and suggest a visit.
2. Pass along the message that membership counts. In January we sent out 581 membership renewal notices. These were the first notices for our new membership program – featuring new discounted memberships for students, teachers and seniors and premium memberships for those seeking an even closer connection to the Museum and its programs. When you talk with your friends and neighbors about your excitement about changes at the Museum, you may find yourself talking to a candidate for membership renewal – be our matchmaker and help us close the deal.
3. Like us. Well, I know you like us. But it would count even more if you “liked” us on Facebook. We have 987 “likes” on our Facebook page and your click would help raise our profile. And while you’re liking us, we will like you back with great content and information about upcoming programs and our collections.
4. Tweet us sweet nothings. We have 569 followers on Twitter. This quick, short communication gives us instant feedback on our postings and programs. It doesn’t have to be profound, it can just be engaged.
5. Find your loved ones through us. We may not run a dating service, but we did have 80 research requests in January and most of these concerned questions of genealogy. We are a premier resource for building family history within the Jewish community of Maryland, and we are a cheap date, you can find your connections for free.
6. Become an apple polisher – send us your teacher. We have developed not one, but two curriculum guides for the Zap! Pow! Bam! exhibit. One geared towards public schools and the other towards the special needs of Jewish day schools. While bookings for field trips are running strong (two are scheduled this Sunday!), we could still use your help in spreading the news about this exceptional learning opportunity.
7. Love among the stacks. In February “Jews on the Move” has packed its bags for the Enoch Pratt Public Library. Located in a prominent location near the front of the central library, we are expecting that more than 2,000 visitors will view the exhibit at this site. Expect more data in an upcoming issue of this newsletter.
8. Take a snapshot of your loved one (or beloved place). Someday that photo might qualify to become a part of our collection. In 2012 we added 3,059 new photo records and we scanned 6,257 photo images into our online database – a 8.8% growth with no increase in staff. Making the evidence of our past available through our online database is our Valentine’s gift to you.
9. Chocolates are always nice. I’ve just started browsing through the book On the Chocolate Trail by Rabbi Deborah Prinz now available in the JMM bookshop. The book is subtitled “A delicious adventure connecting Jews, religions, history, travel, rituals and recipes to the magic of cacao”. From the Inquisition to a box of Bartons, the author traces the love affair between Jews and Chocolate. What a great way to celebrate Valentine’s Day (and the number?, it’s in paperback for $18.99). Email Esther to reserve your copy! firstname.lastname@example.org
10. Our closest friends stay in touch. In January, we not only generated three newsletters but sixteen blog posts on our website drafted by nine different members of the staff. We’d like to increase our two-way communication. Write us, or tweet us, or comment on the blog posts so that we know how we can better serve you. When it comes right down to it, we want you to be our Valentine.