Posted on January 12th, 2017 by Rachel
Enjoy our jaunty shot of the exhibit title!
Last week, thanks to tickets through the Greater Baltimore Cultural Alliance, Rachel and Joanna visited the Baltimore Museum of Art’s exhibit “Matisse/Diebenkorn,” which brings together the work of these two artists, Henri Matisse and Richard Diebenkorn, for the first time. As always when museum professionals visit other museums’ exhibits, we had Thoughts.
Alas, no photographs allowed in the exhibition.
I’m not an art historian by any means, but I did take a few classes in college – just enough knowledge to make me dangerous. For one thing, I thought I knew Diebenkorn’s work, but the first gallery showing his early abstract work confused me; thus my very first Thought was, ‘Oops, I was picturing someone else.’ Pro-tip: look at the exhibit website before visiting, instead of just thinking you know what’s going on. The BMA’s helpful list of things to know includes “[Diebenkorn] moved between abstraction and figuration,” which would been useful if I’d read it ahead of time. Thankfully for my ego, the third gallery included works that were more familiar.
I used to have a print of this painting hanging in my kitchen. I know art exhibits should not always be about familiarity and recognition, but it is still a pleasant feeling. Cityscape #1 (1963) via SFMOMA.
Having no background in art history, I tend to find the labels at art exhibitions a little too concise, containing little more than title, date, artist, and who owns the piece now. I was thrilled to find that BMA Senior Curator of European Paintings & Sculpture Katy Rothkopf, who curated the Baltimore-occurrence of this show chose to use meaty labels, often including contextual details about the techniques used, the artists’ lives during the period of the piece’s creation, and particularly helpful explanations of how one piece could have been inspired by another.
A perfect example – Joanna and I loved the label for Matisse’s Reclining nude with arm behind head (1937) which included a reference to a “stumping” and was immediately followed by an explanation of the technique and what it does for the piece!
I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of books from Diebenkorn’s own library, all focused on Matisse’s work. Not only did this help strengthen the exhibit’s argument – that Matisse was a heavy influence on Diebenkorn – but it also showed a willingness to break out of the traditional “art, and art only” style of exhibition and include supporting artifacts and documents, a willingness which I think many art museums have recently embraced.
I agree with Joanna! Including material beyond the artworks themselves really rounds out the experience for me. I would urge all art curators to go even further if possible – I love when there are multiple photos of the artist at work, images of the artist’s workspaces, even cases with their tools.
The BMA offered audio guides, which (at least when we were there) nearly every guest accepted. I am not personally a fan, though I know many people very much enjoy them, and they can be a useful tool for conveying additional information without overloading the walls with text. But one reason I don’t like them is that they discourage conversation. This type of exhibit, with labels asking visitors to actively look at each image and compare them to others in the gallery, seems particularly well-suited to dialogue… but everyone is just listening to their headsets. Rachel and I did not have headsets so we felt free to discuss (quietly, don’t worry), and I think that enhanced our experience. I did see at least one other pair of women braving the isolation of the headphones to talk about what they saw, which made me happy – especially because one of the women said to the other, as if continuing an earlier “Hmm, I’m not so into these” conversation, “Well, I would take a Diebenkorn if someone gave it to me.” Me too!
I will say that having everyone else in the gallery wearing headphones made me much more comfortable voicing all my thoughts and opinions to Joanna! I’m often worried about disturbing other visitors or making anyone feel judged (we don’t have to like the same art, after all), so on a (very) personal level the popularity of the audio tour worked out great for me. But I also know I would have enjoyed the experience much less without the ability to turn to Joanna and discuss.
If you’re hoping to see the exhibit yourself, make plans to go soon – the show closes on January 29th!
Posted on December 9th, 2016 by Rachel
There has been a lot of discussion in the news in the last few months about the way that new social media channels are changing our economy and politics. It seemed like a great time to talk about how JMM is using these channels to build community around the Museum, it’s artifacts and history. In this month’s Performance Counts Rachel Kassman, wearing her “marketing manager” hat, shares recent highlights platform by platform. Rachel does an amazing job of making us visible with very limited resources.
Facebook was the first social media platform the Museum dipped its toe in – we’ve had our page since February 20, 2008 (at least, that’s when we uploaded our first profile picture)! Over the past almost 8 years we’ve gained 2,270 “follows” and 2,384 page “likes.” Those follows are particularly important, as Facebook’s various algorithms use them to decide who is going to see our posts on their timeline. In many ways Facebook is the most encompassing of our social media platforms; it serves as a photo-sharing site, an events calendar (with built in invitation capabilities), and as a forum to share articles and ideas.
In the past year we’ve also started to dabble in Facebook advertising. If you have a Facebook page of your own, you may have seen some of our “boosted” events as we work to increase awareness of the Museum and the many exciting public programs we host.
The Confusingly Popular Post
Ever heard the phrase “going viral?” It refers to something online exploding beyond any expectation (and often for no discernible reason). We had a little taste of this ourselves over Thanksgiving, with what is our most “popular” post to-date! On Wednesday afternoon we shared this archaeological bit of news: 3,800-Year-Old Ancient ‘Thinking Person’ Statuette Unearthed from Huffington Post. Over the course of the next 24 hours this post received 91 comments, was shared 425 times, and reached 14,303 people via our page. To place this in context, our next most popular post since July 1, 2016 (the farthest back Facebook Insights will allow is 180 days) had a reach of 1,935, received 1 comment, and was shared 17 times. (For those interested, it was this article.) Even stranger, the original article itself only got 12 comments over at Huffington Post. Why this post? Why on Thanksgiving? We will probably never know.
Did you know our very first tweet went out on August 11, 2010? (In case you’re wondering, we tweeted about a job opening at the Museum.) Since then we’ve sent out 13,800 individual tweets to over 1,300 followers! That number represents a combination of “retweets” (that is, where we share tweets from other accounts that we think are interesting or important) and original tweets written by the Museum. These original tweets cover everything from public program announcements to behind-the-scenes photos. The vast majority of our top tweets are based on sharing materials from our collections – our top two tweets over the past three months (September – November) celebrated Rosh Hashanah and Mexican Independence Day.
Rosh Hashanah and Mexico
How do we decide what to share on Twitter? Hashtags. (What’s a hashtag? Here’s an article to explain.) Hashtags help identify topics followers might be interested in multiple ways. One is by checking trending hashtags, which show you what topics are being tweeted about by others in your geographic location –that’s how we decided to post the above tweet on the left for Mexican Independence Day. Another is “daily hashtags” like #TBT (also known as Throwback Thursday) and #MondayMugShots (which have been a great way to highlight some of our quirky gift shop items).
Pickles, buttons, and hiking
A third way is by connecting our collections to eccentric holidays like #NationalPickleDay, #NationalButtonDay, and #NationalTakeAHikeDay. These hashtags don’t just help us on Twitter, but carry over to all our other social media platforms as well, letting us get multiple bangs-for-our-buck. (So far we haven’t had any “retweets” from the incoming “tweeter-in-chief”, but who knows?)
Tumblr is a social media platform often referred to as a “microblogging” site – it lets users share links, photos, videos, and text posts easily. The Museum has been on Tumblr since January 16, 2015 (we debuted with a series of behind-the-scenes photos of the Museum by way of celebrating “Appreciate a Dragon Day”) and has gained 819 followers through 1,314 posts. Here’s a look at the activity on our Tumblr over the last seven days:
The last 7 days
As with Twitter our top posts on Tumblr often come from our collections!
Instagram is the newest platform we’re exploring, added to the Museum’s social media portfolio just three months ago (September 13, 2016 to be exact). We’ve already gained 84 followers and posted nearly 275 individual images in that time – and those images have garnered 875 “likes” between them! Collections related posts have already proven incredibly popular, as you can see from the top 3 posts by both likes and comments pictured below.
Check out Julia Friedman at the beach in the 1920s, which appears in both lists!
Remember those hashtags we talked about earlier? Instagram relies heavily on them – and we’ve got the graph to prove it! Over the past three months, after researching multiple articles on how best to use Instagram as an institution, we’ve been increasing the number of relevant hashtags used on each post. As you can see, this has had a direct correlation to the popularity of our account.
Look at that generous incline!
And because we’re nerds, here’s one more graph showing the most-likes-per-hashtag used on our account.
Managing It All
There’s a lot going on in social media for the Jewish Museum of Maryland – we do our best to provide fresh content throughout the day on all our platforms, not to mention updating the Museum blog (and of course, sharing those updates on social media!). One tool that helps us maintain a robust presence online with limited time is Hootesuite, which allows us to schedule tweets, facebook posts, and Instagram posts in advance. This has been a lifesaver as we work to increase our output.
Hootesuite is a great tool
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look “behind the social media curtain,” and if you have any questions about the Museum on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, or Instagram (or anywhere else for that matter), please send them to us!
Posted on August 12th, 2016 by Rachel
I’m so pleased to announce another successful summer of interns! The Museum welcomed ten new interns into our intense, ten-week internship program this year, spread across multiple Museum departments.
By the Numbers
10 interns from 10 different schools, half representing Maryland institutions like Salisbury University, Hood College, Johns Hopkins University, Towson University, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. But we also had interns from Brown University, University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, University of Rochester and the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This year the majority (8) of our interns grew up in Maryland!
Interns in DC
Interns participated in a combined 3,500 hours of work and learning over the course of their internships.
33 Blog Posts – In addition to the 2 individual blog posts we ask each intern to write over the course of the summer, this year we introduced the “Intern Thoughts: A Weekly Response” series. Each week (with one extra to cover our Summer Teachers Institute) interns were presented with a prompt, readings, or a set of questions to consider and respond to. You can check out all the entries in this series HERE. And to see all entries by (and about) our interns on the blog, check out the “intern” tag!
Workshopping with Karen
Staff donated their time and expertise, along with a few outside professionals, to offer 10 professional workshops throughout the summer!
Object Handling with collections manager Joanna Church
Introduction to Exhibitions and Oral History Training with curator Karen Falk
Exhibit Evaluation with Marianna Adams of Audience Focus, Inc
Holocaust Memory Art Workshop training with artist Lori Shocket
Grant Proposal Writing with deputy director Deborah Cardin
Museum Management with executive director Marvin Pinkert
Visitor Services with visitor services coordinator Graham Humphrey
Project Management with associate director Tracie Guy-Decker
Resumes & Cover Letters with development & marketing manager Rachel Kassman and Joanna Church
20 hours of museum shop inventory – The assistance of our summer interns meant we were able to complete this humble but incredibly important job in only a week!
Enjoying Flag Day festivities
Interns were able to participate in 4 fieldtrips over the course of the summer. On Flag Day they visited the Star-Spangled Banner Flag House & Museum – director Amanda Davis was kind enough to follow up their visit with a visit of her own to JMM, spending a brown-bag lunch with the interns and sharing the joys and challenges of her role at the Flag House. Interns were treated to an intimate tour of the Library of Congress, with a special stop at the Hebraic Collections reading room; they also got to meet the education staff of the Walters Art Museum and learn about their specialty “touch tours” for the visually impaired. Finally, interns were also able to visit the United States Holocaust Museum & Memorial during the Summer Teachers Institute.
A Quick Summary
Saralynn and Sheldon Glass Education Interns:
David Agronin, Anna Balfanz, Rachel Morin, Benjamin Snyder
This summer saw are largest class of education interns ever. Education director Ilene Dackman-Alon and programs manager Trillion Attwood worked with four interns this summer. All four worked together to create audio tours of the Lloyd Street Synagogue, staff the front desk, research our newest living history character, Henrietta Szold, and organize the Summer Teachers Institute. The education interns were instrumental in working with four summer school classes from Baltimore City Public schools and facilitated education programs in connection with Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in Baltimore; and Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews & Medicine in America.
Anna and Ben had the opportunity to work with students who have visual impairments from the National Foundation for the Blind- Braille Enrichment for Literacy and Learning Camp. Anna also planned a special Lloyd Street Synagogue Rosh Hashanah display, which we can’t wait for you to come see!
Rachel got to put her graphic designs skills to work and created a new interpretive brochure for the Lloyd Street Synagogue as well as fliers and even a program postcard for the Museum’s public events.
David, in addition to his education-related tasks, worked with executive director Marvin Pinkert on research for our upcoming exhibit American Alchemy, an exploration of the scrap and recycling industries.
Exploring Voices of Lombard Street
Saul L. Ewing, LLC in Memory of Robert L. Weinberg Collections and Exhibitions Interns:
Gina Crosby, Emilia Halvorsen, Becky Miller, Tamara Schlossenberg, Alice Wynd
Curator Karen Falk oversaw three interns this year: Alice, Becky, and Emilia. These three young women worked on a variety of tasks related to Belonging, the new core exhibit JMM is developing. They surveyed the collections for objects, images and ephemera that will illustrate a range of stories about being Jewish in Maryland.
In preparation for a grant proposal to be completed this winter, they reviewed the academic literature on Jewish identity and Jewish community, and contributed to the exhibit team’s thinking on themes and narratives for the exhibition. Since the exhibit is expected to include an interactive game as a major element, Becky reviewed the literature on the use of games in museum exhibitions. Emilia researched core exhibitions in other identity museums, in both America and abroad. All three interns worked on evaluating visitor response to the Beyond Chicken Soup exhibition, and all three also did some very valuable oral history transcription. When the summer began, Karen didn’t think they would even be able to complete a review of the collection, much less contribute to the museum in so many other ways – she is truly impressed!
Collections manager Joanna Chuch supervised two interns this year: Gina and Tamara. Together these interns assisted with turning the pages of the National Library of Israel manuscripts in Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. They also worked together on processing a large collection of blueprints.
Tamara has continued the semi-annual collections inventory begun last summer, including a thorough inventory and cataloging effort of 32 large flat file drawers, and inventories of both Voices of Lombard Street and Synagogue Speaks. She also created a finding aid for our large archaeological collections, both the material culture and the related paperwork, with details on the dates, locations, and work done – making this material much easier to use. She has also assisted with a few research requests and donation offers.
Gina has done intensive research into our oral history and memoir collections looking for information and stories relevant to next year’s Just Married! exhibition; many of these oral histories had not been transcribed or digitized previously. She has also worked with Joanna on formulating the overall narrative of the exhibit, and has attended meetings of the exhibit team as the planning process begins.
Visiting the Library of Congress
Jewish Museum of Maryland Digital Projects Intern: O. Cade Simon
This was an experimental internship I introduced this summer and Cade was a great candidate. He was flexible and game for whatever I wanted to try. Cade’s projects ranged from researching various geo-cached data applications to creating a stop-motion video to promote our upcoming Great Chicken Soup Cook-Off! Cade also photographed all the collages created during our Holocaust Remembrance workshops, so they can be turned into their final forms as “Holocaust Memory Reconstruction: A Sacred Culture Rebuilt,” which will be displayed as part of our Remembering Auschwitz: History, Holocaust, Humanity exhibition opening in March 2017.
This post is by Rachel Kassman, Development & Marketing Coordinator and JMM Intern Wrangler.