Quantitatively and Qualitatively Measuring the Museum

Posted on December 15th, 2017 by

This edition of Performance Counts is brought to you by JMM Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE. Read past editions of Performance Counts by clicking HERE.


This question has become a driver at decision points for organizations and individuals. It is an important question, and also one that is not always as straightforward as the asker might assume. Simply counting your steps gives you data, but not a complete picture. How do your step counts compare to other people’s? Where did your steps take you? If 60% of them led to the freezer for more ice cream, surely they are not the same health value as non-ice-cream-related steps, right?

Still, data has a lot to teach us, and finding ways to measure ourselves—whether as individuals or as organizations—is both a challenge and an opportunity. At JMM we have been digging into that opportunity in recent weeks and months. For this Performance Counts, I’d like to share with you some of the story our data is revealing, as well as some of our ongoing opportunities and challenges in data collection.


The first and most obvious measure of the Museum’s performance is our visitor attendance numbers. They are the building blocks of our health as an institution. Recently, I’ve been looking more closely at our attendance numbers, over the past several fiscal years. Our highest-attendance month was March of 2017 when we opened Remembering Auschwitz. We welcomed more than 1600 visitors that month. Our lowest attendance month in the past 3 fiscal years was September, 2015, with only 113 visitors. Not only was the decline in tourism after the Uprising still in effect, our changing gallery was closed as we de-installed Cinema Judaica and installed Paul Simon. September 2015 also contained Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, so we also had fewer days open to the public than the average month.

In terms of trends, the numbers more-or-less confirm what we suspected (see the graph below for a visual representation):

>Attendance is dependent upon the exhibit we have on view in the changing gallery, with all of our lowest-attendance months corresponding to months the gallery was in transition and therefore closed to the public.

>Some exhibits are more popular than others (up to 230% in a given month, year over year)

>When an exhibit starts with low attendance, it is difficult to increase momentum.

Attendance by Month

In addition to actual visitor attendance, we count virtual visits. Did you know you can search the collections from our website? Not everything is available through the online search, but a whole lot is, and thanks to the work of our dedicated volunteers, we’re constantly adding new items to what is searchable. (This morning I searched for “Baltimore” and received 20709 results!) On average, 188 people search the collections online in a given month, and they spend an average of 8.51 minutes per session with our collections. Nine minutes may not sound very long, but according to google, the average session duration for traffic coming from Google organic search is around 50 seconds.


Attendance numbers alone can’t show the quality of the experience of the people who do attend, whether 113 of them or more than 1600. To attempt to measure that experience, we have or are embarking on several studies. Starting with Remembering Auschwitz we administer surveys to visitors to our public programs. So far we’re seeing positive numbers. For programs associated with Remembering Auschwitz, 82% of those surveyed agreed that they “learned something new” from their visit, and 83% told us “my appreciation for the topic increased.”  We continue to administer the survey to visitors who are willing to take it.

Additionally, we always survey educators when they bring field trips to our museum. Educators consistently score us 5 out 5 on several quality measures, including quality of program and staff. The one place we aren’t consistently receiving perfect scores is for our pre- and post-visit materials. To address it, we’re hoping to develop a new survey that will help us understand what improvements we can make to better serve our colleagues in the classroom.


Another measure of the quality of a museum visit is its memorability. Marvin often tells the story of museum guru, John Falk, who was challenged at a lecture by a  teacher that field trips were too expensive and simply didn’t provide enough return on investment. John invited this colleague to remember a museum field trip that he had taken as a child. The teacher provided a detailed description of a grade school trip to the Museum of Science and Industry (another of Marvin’s alma maters), and his journey into the Coal Mine exhibit there. John then asked what the man had learned in school the day after the field trip, or the next week?, or that month? As you might imagine, the story of classroom learning was not nearly as forthcoming.

Marvin’s qualitative anecdote is something we’re hoping to capture quantitatively with a memorability study. We’re collecting visitor contacts, and then surveying them about their experience here at least three months later. We’ll be asking questions like: “as a result of your visit to JMM, do you remember…having a conversation about what you saw? …searching for information on the internet? …thinking about what you saw after the date of the visit?” The first wave of surveys is scheduled to start this week, and we are currently collecting contact information for a second wave to happen in March. I, for one, am excited to have some quantitative data about our qualitative effect!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Museum School Partnerships!

Posted on November 10th, 2017 by

Performance Counts: November 2017

A blog post by Education Director Ilene Dackman-Alon. To read more posts by Ilene click HERE.

A museum educator facilitates Hanukkah activities with students at one of our partner schools.

One of the JMM’s education department signature achievements has been its successful museum-school partnership program launched twelve years ago. The JMM piloted the program and worked with four partner Baltimore City schools with great success. The hope of the initiative was to move beyond a one-time annual field trip and one-time classroom activity. The Museum would provide 4-8 programs over the course of the year, in an effort to work more holistically with the school community so that different grades would have access to a variety of our education programs that meet curricular standards.

In each partnership, the JMM’s education staff meets with school teachers and administrators during the first weeks of school to discuss upcoming JMM exhibitions and plan educational programming for the year. The education program is individualized for each school based on the needs of the school. Our education staff strives to create resources and education programs that support the State’s focus on the College and Career Ready Standards in Social Studies and Language Arts along with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) goals for student achievement. Independent evaluations, anecdotal and participant-observer reports, direct testing of knowledge, all support the value and productivity of these engagements between the Museum, the school, and the students.

Some of the educational programs that we provide to our partner schools include:

>Dramatic Living History Presentations on the subject of immigration history, American history, Jewish history and culture.

>Student Storytelling Program featuring facilitated storytelling on key themes.

>Resource and Discovery Kits with historical facsimiles and hands-on materials.

>Archival explorations using primary source materials from the JMM collections.

>JMM’s Voice of Lombard Street exhibition on East Baltimore history.

>Hanukkah Activities

>Preschool Immigrant’s Trunk

>Resource sheets relating to changing JMM exhibitions

>Age appropriate guided tours to our historic synagogues

>Joint Field Trip Opportunities with Partner Institutions

>Neighborhood walking tours

During the 2016-2017 academic school year, we provided educational opportunities to more than 1100 students and teachers in our five museum partner schools. These schools include Patterson Park Public Charter School, City Springs Elementary/Middle School, John Ruhrah Elementary /Middle School, Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School and Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle School.

For the 2017-2018 academic year, we are working with the same schools except for Windsor Hills. The principal of Windsor Hills has switched to a new school this year- – and he requested if the JMM could continue the partnership with his new school, Francis Scott Key Elementary/ Middle School. We have also had successful meetings with the Liberty Elementary School and the Baltimore International Academy and we hope to include them as partner schools for the next year.

City Springs students tour Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage

So far this year, the education department has served over 450 students and teachers in our partner schools. These education programs took place at the museum but also offsite in the classroom.  This year, Baltimore City Public schools is encouraging middle schoolers to participate in National History Day competitions throughout the city that take place in early 2018. In preparation for the projects, students have to research, analyze documents and primary sources, and use critical thinking skills to reflect their knowledge on the topic that is being researched. For many students, this is the first time they have ever done a research paper.

A popular program for our middle schools has been our Lives Lost: Lives Found: Baltimore’s German Jewish Refugees 1939-1945 archival exploration. Students interpret primary sources by studying immigration history of German Jewish refugees that represented a new wave of Jewish immigration in Baltimore during WWII. Students are encouraged to think about the universal conditions of refugees by making connections between US immigration policies in the 1930s and current events. The program was designed to give teachers more resources in Holocaust education.

We have developed new education programs this year that we are piloting with our partner schools.  The Baltimore Book, is a curriculum for 3rd grades designed to teach key civic education concepts and moments from Baltimore history in age appropriate terms and illustrations.  The hope of the book is to get students to begin thinking about Baltimore’s rich history; and that this new knowledge will empower students to take ownership of their city and begin to make it better for themselves, their families, and their community.  Over 150 third graders from John Ruhrah Elementary and Liberty Elementary visited the Lloyd Street Synagogue, Maryland’s first synagogue,  and the Star Spangled Banner Flag House to learn about the rich history of Baltimore and their community.

We recently received funding from the Wells Fargo Excellence Grant to pilot a new education initiative with 8th graders from Morrell Park Elementary/Middle School. Our proposed pilot project, Morrell Park: PROJECTED is a collaborative effort between the JMM and Morrell Park that is intended to provide students with opportunities to learn about sharing their family histories in meaningful ways. With the assistance of J. Scott Fuqua, an award winning young adult author, and Johns Hopkins University film students, our year-long project will teach participating 8th grade students how to interview family members and then develop and share their personal stories with a broader community.

Author J. Scott Fuqua speaks with Morrell Park students.

Students will take part in activities that will help them understand that everyone has a story that can be valued and appreciated. By interviewing family and community members, the students will gain insight into their personal family stories. Classroom study will be enriched as the students learn valuable techniques for conducting oral history interviews and film making. They will learn to tell their own stories and create short film clips using their smartphones. The hope is that at the conclusion of the project, students will gain a better sense of their place within their family and community and feel more rooted in their daily lives.

Two final films will be developed as a conclusion to the pilot program.   One film with showcase the short stories and interviews that the students edited on their smart phones.  A second film will be the actual documentation of working with the students throughout the year in the classroom and in the Morrell Park community.  The films will be screened as a way of celebrating the diversity, culture and roots of the Morrell Park community.  Join us for the premiere screening of MORRELL PARK: PROJECTED  that will  take place on Thursday evening, March 22nd at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  Mark your calendars so that you reserve a seat to meet these 8th grade students and celebrate their family stories and the community of Morrell Park.

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Performances Counts: We Missed You at Lunch

Posted on September 15th, 2017 by

Most of us reading this month’s newsletter were not at today’s “Get Discovered” volunteer recruitment lunch (but we’ve managed to discover you anyway!)

While it’s too late to send you a tuna sandwich, it’s not too late to think about how you (or your friends) can become engaged in one of the most exciting volunteer opportunities in Baltimore.

Leading a school group through Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust Humanity

Leading a school group through Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust Humanity

Since this is “Performance Counts”, let me share just a few stats.  Our volunteers last year included 7 front desk aides, 23 docents, 7 shop assistants, 13 library and archives aides, 28 special projects volunteers and 28 JMM Board members.  These 106 volunteers worked a total of 7557 hours.

>Front desk volunteers meet and greet visitors—including hundreds of teachers and chaperones on field trips to the JMM as they pass by on their way to Esther’s Place, the exhibit galleries and our historic synagogues.

>Docents conducted over 350 synagogue tours last year.

>Library and Archival volunteers scanned and uploaded more than 7,000 photos from the Baltimore Jewish Times, wrote folder lists for 24  boxes, just over 4,000 folders, in JMM’s institutional archives and processed two major new archival accessions, cataloguing them and creating finding aids.

>Other volunteers worked with Holocaust survivors or their families on 91 collages created for the Remembering Auschwitz exhibit.

>Still even more volunteers judged 93 projects for the My Family Story competition.

Even with these impressive stats, we still can do better and that’s why we held a lunch today to let new prospects learn more about the work we have available.

Welcome Wendy!

Welcome Wendy!

It was also a chance to introduce folks to our Volunteer Coordinator, Wendy Davis!  So since most of us weren’t there today, I’m going to let Wendy introduce herself:

I am excited and honored to be the new volunteer coordinator at the Jewish Museum of Maryland.  My awareness of the Lloyd Street synagogue began way back in the 1960s.  As a teenager, I went with a group of fellow teens to see the synagogue at the beginning of the renovation process. And my father, Gordon Salganik, has been supportive of the Museum almost since its inception.  Now it is my turn to support the JMM.

For the past four years I have thoroughly enjoyed being a volunteer docent at JMM. Before my retirement and volunteering at JMM, I was a speech language pathologist in Baltimore City Public Schools. Now, I have a long wish list of things I would like to accomplish as the volunteer coordinator beyond monthly scheduling of the volunteers.  Establishing a lending library for the volunteers, improving our knowledge of the museum’s neighbors, dealing with fellow volunteers’ concerns and addressing their wish lists, and increasing our volunteer corps are at the top of my list!  The best way all this can be accomplished is with the collaboration and support of the wonderful JMM staff and volunteers that are my privilege to call colleagues.

I invite you to drop by to welcome Wendy.  Better yet, make her day by asking her how you can become a colleague at JMM.  Get discovered.


Testing out educational activities for the upcoming Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage exhibit!

Testing out educational activities for the upcoming Discovery and Recovery: Preserving Iraqi Jewish Heritage exhibit!

Posted in jewish museum of maryland

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