Performance Counts May 2014: Planning Ahead

Posted on May 16th, 2014 by

In the past few months you have read quite a bit about our current and upcoming exhibits:  Project Mah Jongg, the Electrified Pickle, The A-Mazing Mendes Cohen and Jews, Health and Healing.  We also are preparing for some wonderful events including the 8th Annual Herbert H. and Irma B. Risch program this Sunday, featuring Rabbi Marvin Tokayer and our June 1 Annual Meeting with Dr. Len Saxe.

Yet even as we busily engage in the business of creating, funding and presenting these exciting current projects, we still keep one eye focused on the road ahead.  You will recall that in the fall of 2012 the Board’s ad hoc “Futures Committee” produced a new vision document for the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  The vision reinforced our focus on some of the attributes that make a museum successful, the so-called “four Ds”:  destination, documentation, discourse and discovery.  This vision has guided us in much of what’s been accomplished in the last eighteen months – the doubling of our public hours, the dramatic growth in our attendance, the strengthened relationship with The Associated, our reaccreditation by the American Alliance of Museums and even the painful decisions that have led us to a balanced budget in FY ’14.

This summer we will enter into a second phase of institutional planning.  A new ad hoc “Planning Committee” will be formed with the goal of diving into the next level of the question “What is the Jewish Museum of Maryland?”.  The concept is to build on the work from 2012.  For example, we have made the commitment to focus on becoming a destination – now we’ll ask the question, “what are the distinguishing features of that destination?”.  How are we similar or different from other Jewish museums?  from other Baltimore museums?  How do we make the most of our unique assets?  This stage of planning will be critical as we look ahead to the way we develop our core environment, the historic synagogues and our permanent or signature exhibit.

Simultaneously with this search for “who we are?”, we are launching a second planning process this summer that seeks to answer the question “how do we fit in?”.  This neighborhood vision/plan is being conducted in partnership with The Associated and in conjunction with the Jonestown Planning Council.  As an anchor institution of historic Jonestown, JMM is a key stakeholder in the future development of our community.  The success of the museum is ultimately dependent on what is built around us, not just on what we build.  JMM has contracted with the firm of Mahan Rykiel to serve as our consultant for a planning process that will attempt to understand the needs and interests of current residents and businesses, the downtown Jewish community, and the potential museum audience to craft a compelling vision of what this area might become.  Mahan Rykiel will also work with JMM, The Associated and the community to give some thought to the “branding” of Jonestown and its identity as a great place to live, work, play and visit.

Both planning processes are open to your thoughts.  We will speak to many people over the next few months, but you don’t have to wait for us to call, you can hit the “reply” button to share your ideas.

Marvin Pinkert

This month’s Performance Counts was written by Executive Director Marvin Pinkert. To read more posts by Marvin, click here. To read past issues of Performance Counts, click here.

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Posted on April 11th, 2014 by


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!)



Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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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