Performance Counts, May 2015

Posted on May 8th, 2015 by

So how are our volunteers doing?

Just in case anyone reading this newsletter is unfamiliar with the role of volunteers at JMM we offer this helpful guide:

Volunteers are a treasured JMM resource.  Our volunteers play an important role in helping the Museum fulfill its mission.  They provide many valuable services that supplement the basic essential functions of the staff.  We utilize volunteers in two distinct areas – the front of the museum and the back of the museum.  The volunteers in the front of the museum have direct contact with our visitors. The remaining volunteers work in the back of the museum and can generally be found in the library.  Complete training is offered for all of our volunteer positions.

At the front desk

At the front desk

Front Desk Reception

The front desk reception volunteers provide an invaluable service to the Museum by maintaining a warm and welcome atmosphere for Museum guests.  They serve as the Museum’s customer service representatives while orienting visitors to the Museum complex.  By informing visitors about tour times, current and upcoming exhibitions, and programs, they provide information about all services that the Museum offers.  Other tasks include processing admission fees for groups and individuals, answering the telephone, and maintaining an accurate daily count of visitors.

Museum Docents

Museum docents possess an interest in history and enjoy sharing their knowledge with others.  They perform an essential duty by leading tours and by interpreting the history of the Museum’s two historic synagogues and exhibitions for adults, families, and school groups of all ages.  A series of training sessions is offered to those interested in joining our docent corps and focuses on the history of Baltimore’s Jewish community.

Museum Gift Shop

The Museum’s gift shop, filled with beautiful Judaica, Museum catalogs, and exhibition related merchandise, is a destination for Museum visitors.  Gift shop volunteers assist guests with purchases, process cash and credit card payments, arrange merchandise on shelves and in windows, and assist the shop manager with ordering merchandise and conducting store inventory.

Special Events

Throughout the year, the Museum holds many programs and special events.  Programs include exhibition openings, family holiday programs, lectures, film series, and theatrical and musical performances.  Special event volunteers provide much needed assistance with these events by greeting visitors, processing admission fees, maintaining an accurate count of visitors, helping with refreshments, selling memberships, and facilitating art projects. 

Working in the archives department

Working in the archives department

Archives

The Library and Archives of the JMM offers a variety of volunteer opportunities.  Projects include organizing archival collections, preparing collections for proper storage, creating documents to assist researchers, and digital imaging.  Archives projects are conducive to long term or temporary volunteering.  Typing and computer skills are preferred, but not always required.  All new volunteers will be given an orientation to the care and handling of archival objects.

 Collections

Volunteers in the collections department will work on a variety of projects.  These include writing catalog records for objects, taking digital photographs of objects (camera provided, or you can use your own),  organizing collection records, sorting incoming artifacts, helping to store and pack artifacts, and preparing objects in the collection for exhibition.  Temporary assignments are available.  Experience in the handling of fragile items is desired, but not required.

Genealogy

Volunteers use their expertise to assist researchers in The Robert L. Weinberg Family History Center.  They offer support with the interpretation of the many resources available for pursuing family history and genealogical research. This includes providing lookups, searching out tombstones, and much more.  Experience in genealogical research is required.

The Bottom Line

All told our volunteers contribute over 7,000 hours annually.  This number also includes members of our Board of Directors and our Summer Interns. The Independent Sector values an hour of volunteer time in the state of Maryland at $26.41.  That calculates to a contribution of almost $185,000.00 to the JMM in the last year.  We welcome new volunteers to the JMM year round and appreciate our volunteers dearly. Please contact Volunteer Coordinator, Ilene Cohen at 410-732-6400 x217.

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Performance Counts: April 2015

Posted on April 10th, 2015 by

On Monday, March 30, 25 JMM trustees gathered at the home of Ira and Shelley Malis for a board retreat. The afternoon was designed to foster conversation, brainstorming and strategic thinking about the JMM’s future. Since the Nominating Committee had completed its slate for FY ’16, we were able to include new Board candidates as well as veterans in this three hour event.  Judging from breakout activity results and participant feedback we are pleased with the retreat’s successful outcome.

Retreat chair, Toby Gordon, kicked off the event with a creative opening activity that made use of innovative technology and tested trustee knowledge about the JMM. Sample questions included “What has been the JMM’s most popular program this year?” (Most were surprised to hear it was the children’s concert by Joannie Leeds) and “What’s the earliest recorded donation to the JMM collections?” (A genealogy chart for Elkins Myers). Participants were able to answer questions using a polling device that allowed everyone to see the answers on a screen which made the exercise even more entertaining and educational.

Our Joanie Leeds Chanukah Concert was the surprise success of the season.

Our Joanie Leeds Chanukah Concert was the surprise success of the season.

Following the opening exercise, we broke into smaller groups for a breakout activity that asked each person to think about “JMM dream projects”. Groups spent time together brainstorming ideas that could help the Museum accomplish its goals of becoming a destination and site for documentation, discourse and discovery. Ideas generated from the breakout groups ranged from focusing on creating a downtown cultural center through performances, film festivals and more to opening a kosher restaurant, opening on Saturdays and developing more kid-centered programs such as camps.

After a break for dinner, the group re-convened for presentations from Marvin Pinkert, Robert Keehn, Ira Papel and Duke Zimmerman that focused on future directions of the Museum. A presentation by Tom McGilloway of Mahan Rykiel, an architectural firm hired to head the community master planning effort, inspired much discussion and reflection about what kinds of changes are needed in Historic Jonestown that can help pave the way for the JMM’s future expansion. Marvin also laid out a five-year plan that maps out important initiatives – including expansion, exhibitions, education and programs – we plan on undertaking over the next several years.

Historic Jonestown

Historic Jonestown

The retreat concluded with a discussion of how trustees can become more personally involved in the JMM’s future success. Robert Keehn shared some examples of how individual efforts have aided the Museum’s fundraising efforts. Each trustee was asked to turn in a board pledge listing the various ways that they plan on becoming more engaged in the year ahead by attending meetings and programs, bringing friends to the Museum and pitching membership and by assisting with solicitations. We appreciate the thoughtful responses we received to this request which included: helping to connect the Museum to young adults, serving as JMM ambassadors in other regions of the state and assisting with outreach efforts in the non-Jewish community.

We were delighted by the feedback we received from participants who enjoyed the opportunity to mingle and network with one another in such a beautiful and informal setting. We also plan on using the ideas generated from breakout groups and discussion as a springboard for future planning efforts. Thanks to our wonderful board members for making this event such a positive experience!

 

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Performance Counts: March 2015

Posted on March 13th, 2015 by

Have you been keeping up with the Museum’s blog? If not, hopefully this month’s Performance Counts will convince you it’s a must read. I’ve asked Rachel Kassman, the Museum’s marketing manager and self-appointed “social media maven”  to share with you what makes our blog special and to give you some behind the scenes data.

~Marvin

A (Very) Little History
The JMM blog was born in the summer of 2008 as a way to follow along with the restoration of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. However it didn’t take us long to realize the blog could be so much more – a way to share all kinds of stories about the Museum, its projects, and its people. It’s also been a great way to make information easily accessible for a wide audience- for instance, did you know that each issue of Museum Matters, Performance Counts and JMM Insights is posted on the blog?

Since its birth in 2008 we’ve posted 1,300 blog posts, which averages to a post every other day.  Our longest running regular feature is the weekly “Once Upon a Time” series, which illustrates our partnership with the Baltimore Jewish Times in an effort to identify people in photographs that are part of our collection (there are 282 posts in this series – and we’re about 8 months behind the in-print version). Another regular feature is the monthly “Volunteer Spotlight” series, written by Volunteer Coordinator Ilene Cohen and usually posted on the first Monday of each month – we’re up to 15 so far and hope to eventually highlight all of our wonderful volunteers in this manner. A newer feature is the post-programs wrap up – while the posting dates for this feature are irregular we try to get them up within a few days of a public program, to give readers a feel for what they missed if they couldn’t make the program. We’ve even started recording select programs for later listening! (You can check out our very first program recording here.) These posts are also shared on the Museum’s social media platforms and selected posts are highlighted on the homepage of the JMM website to increase the potential audience.

Who’s Writing This Stuff?
Our prime blog contributors are museum staff – every month I send out a call, asking folks to sign up for an open date. Opening up blog authorship to the entire staff keeps the blog’s “voice” diverse and helps make sure we highlight and share stories and information from all areas of the Museum. I’m incredibly proud of the interesting, well-thought out content my colleagues provide every month. We also ask our interns and volunteers to join us in our blogging efforts, providing another set of perspectives on what goes on here at the JMM. Summer is an especially active time for our blog because we host anywhere from five to a dozen interns for ten full weeks, which provides plenty of opportunities for blog fodder (including intern field trips, workshops, and project updates).

Navigating The Blog
Let’s talk about tags – those are the lists of words at the bottom of every blog post:

Tags are a way to organize the content on a blog. In our case we use the tags to help identify the author and some of the main subjects included in the post. For instance, let’s say you were reading a really great post, like “Mazel Cufflinks” by Collections Manager Joanna Church. If you get to the end of the post and think, hey, this Joanna character is a really fun writer, I wonder what else she’s done…all you have to do is click on her name in the tags and you’ll find all the posts she’s written for the blog! Or maybe you caught Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon’s latest post “A Little Kindness…” which documents a surprise visit by 84 high school students and you wanted to know more about all the exciting things the education staff gets up to. Just click on “education” in the tags and you’ll get a plethora of related posts. If you’ve got a hankering for intriguing history, you should definitely explore Marvin’s tag – start with his recent President’s Day post and work your way back!

Highlights and Favorites
To round out this month’s Performance Counts I informally polled the staff for their favorite posts from the blog – and got some interesting results!

Both Assistant Director Deborah Cardin and Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon cited the Volunteer Spotlight series as their favorite feature. Deborah loves “learning interesting tidbits about our volunteers. They are an impressive bunch!” and Ilene thinks its great to see another side of them.

Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik picked “Buried Alive: Eighteenth Century Terror and a “Superstar” Jewish Doctor”, a particularly ghoulish post from Curator Karen Falk, inspired by her research for our upcoming Jews and Medicine exhibit. Programs Associate Carolyn Bevans’ pick also took a slightly macabre turn with “An Engagement Ring of a Different Color,” Collections Manager Joanna Church’s Halloween-inspired collection blog.

Joanna herself went a very different direction with her favorite. She says “Before my interview I read Deborah’s awesome post about Flat Mendes on her family vacation, and I thought, Yes, I can work there.”

Curator Karen Falk, funnily enough, found her favorite blog post through a different website entirely: Wikipedia! That’s right, in the course of doing research on Read’s Pharmacy she found a reference to Dr. Deb Weiner’s post “Read’s Drug Store: The Jewish Connection” on the Read’s Wikipedia page and followed it right back to our blog.

When I asked Marvin for his “best picks” he went above and beyond with a full Oscar-style slate! Here are his award-winning posts (from the last 6 months!):

Best comedy:  Yet More Responses from the Mendes Questions Box by Abby Krolik
Best history story: Buried Alive: Eighteenth Century Terror and a “Superstar” Jewish Doctor by Karen Falk
Best event report: Sephardic lecture by Carolyn Bevans
Best photo documentary: The Making of an Exhibit: Mendes Arrives by Deborah Cardin
Best reason to visit our website: Appreciate a Dragon Day by Rachel Kassman
Best travelogue: A European Adventure by Abby Krolik
Best biography: Volunteer Spotlight on Marty Buckman by Ilene Cohen
Best blog by an intern:  Maimonides by Barbara Israelson
Best Blog of FY ’15 (so far): It’s a tie between National Umbrella Day and National Handwriting Day, both by Joanna Church

My favorites? How can I pick – as the blog maven I feel like all the posts are special to me in their own way and I wouldn’t want to play favorites among my lovely contributors. But I will tell you my favorite post that I’ve ever written – “Appreciate a Dragon Day!” I had so much fun putting that post together that I still smile every time I look at it. I hope you’ll click on some of the links I’ve shared here and spend a little time exploring the wild and wonderful world of the JMM blog!

~Rachel Kassman, Development and Marketing Manager (aka Social Media Maven)

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