Posted on April 10th, 2015 by Rachel
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.
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.
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!
Posted on March 13th, 2015 by Rachel
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.
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)
Posted on February 13th, 2015 by Rachel
This month’s Performance Counts comes from Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik!
Today is Maryland’s “Tourism Day”—an event organized by the tourism industry to make the case to our state legislators that recreational and cultural attractions have an important impact on the economy and quality of life in Maryland. In keeping with the spirit of the day, we decided to take a look at who comes to the JMM and where they come from.
This is a more complicated question than you might think; there are countless ways to categorize our guests. We usually divide our on-site visitors into four main categories: general visitors, school groups (including summer camps), public program participants, and adult groups (e.g. mah jongg clubs or sisterhood visits that book in advance). School groups are traditionally the largest segment of our visitors, but in the last two years general visitors have been catching up and program visitors are not far behind.
John Ruarah Middle School students explore The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen exhibit.
School groups come to us in a handful of main categories—public/private/parochial/homeschool; Jewish/non-Jewish; and Day School/Hebrew School. Within these groups, our single largest draw is from Baltimore City public schools, but this year we’ve had increasing success in attracting the local Jewish schools (both Day Schools and Hebrew Schools). We’ve also expanded our educational outreach in Baltimore County, and we are making efforts to recruit more parochial schools. We have even received a grant from the Delaplaine Foundation to extend programming, outreach and onsite visits to Frederick County schools. Our programs are aligned with the Common Core standards, which helps to attract the interest of teachers and principals. While we work with students at all grade levels—from Pre-K to even college level—the average group that visits us is in middle school, particularly 7th grade (when all the city schools teach “The Diary of Anne Frank”).
City Springs Elementary School students in the Lloyd Street Synagogue.
General visitors can be subdivided in several ways as well. The most obvious is, of course, geography. We don’t have data on 100% of our visitors’ points of origins (not everyone chooses to leave us a zip code), but we have enough data to give us a pretty good sample. It is true that a lot of our visitors come from Northwest Baltimore and the immediate suburbs, but there is also a significant segment from downtown Baltimore as well as Columbia, Md. We can tell when we’ve received coverage in the Washington Post Weekend section because we can see the boost in visits from Montgomery County, DC and Northern Virginia.
Many of our visitors come from a much farther distance. I love telling people that we get visitors from pretty much everywhere in the world! Just over the last year we’ve hosted guests from such far-flung and exotic states as Alaska and Oklahoma, as well as visitors from at least one country per continent (not counting Antarctica), including—but certainly not limited to—El Salvador, Argentina, Italy, Rwanda, Japan, and Kyrgyzstan!
For our public program attendance numbers, we are careful to not double count program participants as general visitors. For example, our raw number for general attendance last December was 517, but to get the right number for “on-site attendance,” we subtracted the number of participants in our programs that took place during our normal open hours, which left us with 222 as the general attendance. Our #1 best attended program in 2014 was the Joanie Leeds Chanukah concert—we counted more than 175 guests (though a few of them were in strollers)! Program attendance is probably the category with the greatest variability. Not only is it affected by the attraction of the topic or speaker, but also by the weather and the Ravens’ game schedule. There’s just no competing with football in Ravens’ Nation!
Some spirited dancing at our Joanie Leeds Chanukah Concert!
In addition to our on-site data, we also try to track off-site contacts : how many students we reach in the schools, or how many people who come to see Mendes Cohen at an event or who come up to our booth at a festival. Still, our focus is on the JMM as a destination, and that is the data that we are monitoring most closely. It helps us make sure we spend our limited resources wisely, and it tells us something about the success of our initiatives.