PERFORMANCE COUNTS: APRIL 2014

Posted on April 11th, 2014 by

READY FOR OUR CLOSE UP

Some of you may have been pleasantly surprised last Sunday morning as the JMM made its (very short) debut on national television with CBS Sunday Morning. You can view their “Mah Jongg Madness” piece online here. Pay close attention just before the 2:00 minute mark for our on-screen appearance! Successful marketing and publicity is a combination of hard work, inspiration and, honestly, luck. With CBS Sunday Morning and Project Mah Jongg, luck was certainly on our side, but it’s the hard work that’s brought us such a great crop of local publicity.

Leisure-class ladies playing a floating game of mah jongg, 1924. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Leisure-class ladies playing a floating game of mah jongg, 1924.
Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Many thanks go to Rochelle Eisenberg, the public relations manager we work with at The Associated. Her efforts on our behalf are unparalleled – maybe you saw us on the front page of The Baltimore Sun’s Arts & Entertainment section on Sunday (who can resist our pool-playing mah jongg mavens?). The lovely article by Mary Carole McCauley, which you can read here, wouldn’t have come about without Rochelle’s tireless work.

Perhaps you saw the wonderful cover story by Heather Norris in the Baltimore Jewish Times, which you can also read here. That story has been shared with the Washington Jewish Week and will be run in Pittsburgh’s Jewish Chronicle! The Baltimore Beacon also ran a lovely exhibit preview in March.

If that’s not enough Project Mah Jongg reading for you, Marvin has also written a great post on Mah Jongg and Cultural Adaptation, currently published on The Associated’s blog. UMBC, home of the exhibit’s sound designer, Tim Nohe, has also been calling attention to the exhibit. Then there’s the post over on AsAmNews, What’s a mah jong exhibit doing at a Jewish Museum? It seems lots of folks are just as excited as we are about Project Mah Jongg!

Our next Mah Jongg program is Sunday, April 20th: Family Game Day!

Our next Mah Jongg program is Sunday, April 20th: Family Game Day!

But we’re not resting on our laurels! Capitalizing on the interest in the exhibit we’ve arranged an aggressive marketing campaign. In the week leading up to the opening (and with some helpful bonus spots – thanks to our account agent over at WMAR), we ran ads on ABC2 morning programs to reach out to our local audience. And in addition to our normal membership mailing, we sent postcard invitations to the Jewish population of Northwest Baltimore and Owings Mills.

Now that the exhibit has opened we are keeping the momentum going. If you attend any upcoming shows at Centerstage, the Hippodrome, Everyman Theater or the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, keep an eye out for our ads in the program! And of course we are publicizing the exhibit and its related programming through our Facebook pages, twitter feed, website and emails like these – so be sure you’ve “liked” us and followed us and share our events and emails with anyone you think would enjoy Project Mah Jongg. And, in our opinion, everyone will enjoy this delightful exhibit!

Rachel KThis month’s Performance Counts was written by Rachel Kassman, Marketing Manager (and web maven!)

 

 

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Performance Counts March 2014: Declaring Victory

Posted on March 14th, 2014 by

The gallery has cleared.  The artifacts are on their way home.  Now we can assess the impact of Passages Through the Fire:  Jews and the Civil War.  How shall we measure the value of these last eighteen weeks?

Cutting a fine figure on the dance floor at our Farewell Cotillion.

Cutting a fine figure on the dance floor at our Farewell Cotillion.

One is always tempted to start with attendance.  More than 4700 visitors came to the exhibition.  This is a pace consistent with the museum’s strongest previous exhibition, despite the fact that nearly half the run of the exhibit took place in January and February (we suspect you will recall that the weather made outings more challenging in those months).  The category showing the biggest year-over-year increase was “walk-in” visitors, people coming just to see the exhibit numbered more than 1000 during the period.  Right behind, at 967, were visitors coming to our Sunday and evening programs.

Of course, attendance numbers aren’t the whole measure.  We received both formal and anecdotal feedback to the exhibit and associated education programs.  We had some very positive responses, ranging from one of the exhibit’s creators in New York praising our additions to the project, to reenactors appreciating our offering of an unusual chapter of Civil War history, to a young visitor whose mother told me he couldn’t stop talking about the 1861 tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.

Students from John Ruarah explore our photography interactive station.

Students from John Ruarah explore our photography interactive station.

As a manager, I feel obliged to mention that the exhibit was delivered on time and on budget.  We have many people to thank for that but special kudos go to curator Karen Falk and researcher Todd Neeson who burned the midnight oil to prepare a quality product.  I also think its remarkable that we reached our fundraising goal in spite of a late start, raising over $108,000 in just six months.  Former Board president Barbara Katz and our development team (Clair Segal, Susan Press, Rachel Kassman and Deborah Cardin) deserve a lot of credit here.

A visit with Mr. Lincoln

A visit with Mr. Lincoln

And I would be remiss if I didn’t single out programs as a special area of achievement.  Newcomer Trillion Attwood presented 22 programs between October and February, 15 of these on the Civil War itself.  These demonstrated an enormous range of subjects – from photography to woman’s history, and wide variety of formats – living history, family days, author lectures and even dance!  The strength of these offerings showed how many dimensions of discourse we could find in one exhibit’s content.

Curator Karen Falk removes wall text in preparation for our next exhibit - Project Mah Jongg!

Curator Karen Falk removes wall text in preparation for our next exhibit – Project Mah Jongg!

So on the whole, I would say we won the battle… but the war to take JMM to the next level continues and with many fields of combat ahead (Mah Jongg tables, pickle barrels and puzzle mazes among them) we will continue the fight.  With your help, victory will be ours.

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Performance Counts: February 2014 A Valentine For Volunteers

Posted on February 14th, 2014 by

A Valentine for Volunteers

ilene cohenThis week in Performance Counts we wanted to speak to an aspect of our performance that is measured not only in numbers but in heart.  On behalf of the whole staff, Ilene Cohen, our volunteer coordinator (who is herself a volunteer), has composed this essay.

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I recently learned that the word “bénévolat,”  the French translation of the English term “volunteering” is derived from the association of “bien” and “vouloir,” translated as “well-being” and “desire” in English. And, the French term “bénévole” (from the Latin “benevolus”) is synonymous with the English “benevolent.”  From this etymological derivation, it can be said that to be a volunteer is the desire to act for the well-being of others; it is to accomplish work on a voluntary basis, freely and without remuneration. Being a volunteer is to be motivated by the satisfaction of helping to advance a cause we hold close to our hearts.

Did you know our entire Board of Trustees are volunteers?

Did you know our entire Board of Trustees are volunteers?

It seems all too often that we have the tendency to lessen the importance of actions that are not directly focused on results. Sometimes institutions take for granted those who give freely, passing over in silence and even forgetting their immense significance. But, we at the JMM endeavor to continually recognize that volunteers offer key support that enhances our mission.  We are indebted to our wonderful volunteers.   For this reason, on Valentine’s Day, we have committed ourselves to paying a special tribute to all of our volunteers.

Volunteers work with collections

Volunteers work with collections

What generosity and devotion! And also, what an immense debt of gratitude we owe to our volunteers. We acknowledge these extraordinary women and men who are as talented as they are giving.  In all the years, their commitment has never failed.  They continue to assist us as researchers, docents, receptionists, shop attendants and more.  I must also emphasize the essential contribution of the members of the Board of Directors. Plus, the generosity of all the members of our committees and working groups who contribute their time, energy and knowledge as consultants is indispensible as well. I doubt that any of our volunteers count either the number of hours or all the many and varied efforts they have contributed to the success of the JMM. We certainly do.  In the last year, our volunteers clocked 7,000 hours!  What would we have done without them?

They learn to give tours of our exhibits

They learn to give tours of our exhibits

Thankfully, our volunteers do reap some benefits, although not financial.  On a recent tour, a docent led a Muslim woman through the synagogues.  Not only did the visitor learn about Judaism, the docent learned about Islam and the many similarities between the two.  She was able to enjoy a personal connection with a newfound acquaintance.  On another tour, a South African visitor surprised the docent when, standing in front of the picture of Rabbi Abraham Nachman Schwartz, she stated that he was her great grandfather.  The woman went on to explain that the rabbi’s son, her grandfather, was also a rabbi, plus an artist.  After talking further, they realized together that there is a strong possibility that he participated in painting the murals that once graced the ceiling of the Lloyd Street Synagogue.  Helping people explore their family’s history and solving some of the mysteries about their family’s roots is a real life detective story for our genealogy volunteers.  One family wanted to confirm the story passed down that their great grandfather was born in Europe and fought against Napoleon in the battle of Waterloo before coming to the U.S., and living to the age of 117!  Unfortunately we do not have access to foreign documents so the story could not be validated.  These are just a few examples of how our volunteers provide a valuable contribution to our mission, while making connections and forming friendships that bring a deeper sense of meaning to their own lives.

And even help with research for exhibitions and programs.

And even help with research for exhibitions and programs.

I am convinced that with the continued “benevolent” support of our volunteers, the JMM will maintain success. We take off our hats for the hard work and generosity of all of our volunteers.

These final words come from the bottom of my heart.  Thank you.

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