Posted on January 13th, 2014 by Rachel
Back in late November, I received an intriguing email from a history Phd candidate from Johns Hopkins University. She and another history grad student were putting together a mini course for JHU’s intercession, in which undergraduate students can take 3-week courses in a wide variety of topics that they wouldn’t necessarily get to explore in the normal semester. This particular mini course was to be about mapping Jewish community in Baltimore—and what better place to start then the Jewish Museum of Maryland?
The three of us and Ilene Dackman-Alon met to discuss the scope of the course and to see where we could help out. It was ultimately decided that the class would have their first meeting here at the museum, where they would tour the synagogues and exhibits, and later on, back in their classroom, our living history character, Ida Rehr (played by Katherine Lyons), would come visit them.
Voices of Lombard Street
Last Tuesday, the class arrived, eager to learn about the roots of Jewish Baltimore. Before beginning the tour, they took turns introducing themselves and explaining why they had signed up for the course. Many of the students came from mixed backgrounds—one Jewish parent—and so were curious about the history and culture from which they came. When the instructors—the grad students—introduced themselves, they talked about how their identities weren’t shaped just by their religion, but also by where in the country they grew up. One, who grew up in Viriginia, said she felt that she had the very specific identity of being a Southern Jew, while the other, who grew up in New York City, related strongly to the cultural identity of being a New York Jew. Listening to this conversation, Ilene and I couldn’t help but wish that the Chosen Food exhibit were still here!
LSS by Jono David
The students enjoyed seeing the two historic synagogues and learning about the migration of the Jewish community within Baltimore. It’s great to see so many people who are interested in learning about the Jewish American experience and identity and that the JMM is viewed as an invaluable resource for schools of all kinds!
A blog post by Visitor Services Coordinator Abby Krolik. To read more posts by Abby, click here.
Posted on May 29th, 2013 by Rachel
A blog post by Dr. Deb Weiner.
Our core exhibition “Voices of Lombard Street: A Century of Change in East Baltimore” has been on display in our Cardin Gallery since 2007. But I have a sneaking suspicion that not everyone in Baltimore has seen it. Right? So here’s a quick blast from the “Voices” comment book, with rave reviews from recent visitors. Don’t they make you want to come on down?
“Wonderful exhibit, so realistic and moving. As a new resident of Baltimore, it offered me a vibrant and informational view of Baltimore history.”
“Wonderful exhibit, compelling to read! Love the interactive scavenger hunt, even as a 30-year-old.”
1988.226.4a Courtesy of the Ross J. Kelbaugh Collection.
“I really ‘experienced’ the conditions immigrants lived in when they moved to America. I relate maybe because I myself am an immigrant.”
From a young person: “I loved it because you could do stuff with your hands and brain.”
I found this a bit hard to believe, but… “Drove all the way from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to see this and was not disappointed. Very well done.”
It’s always nice to get kudos from museum colleagues. A staff member of the Skirball museum (Los Angeles) wrote, “Very well done. I love how you used the oral histories to tell the story with the curatorial authority as only one voice. The mix of perspectives shines through and you didn’t hide the difficult stories, such as brothels and discrimination. Bravo!”
Couldn’t resist passing along this comment from a MICA student: “Absolutely loved this exhibit. The Maryland Historical Society could really use this as an example of a great exhibit on Baltimore history. Very dynamic.”
… As this is my last week at the museum, I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank my wonderful volunteers, my fellow JMM staff members, and other colleagues around Baltimore and beyond for a great eleven years. I’ve enjoyed working here immensely. See you around!
Posted on May 10th, 2013 by Rachel
The first step in improving performance is measuring progress. In this month’s edition of Performance Counts, Abby and Ilene talk about the processes we use to keep and analyze data on both our general visitors and our school groups.
Abby Krolik, Visitor Services Coordinator
We are delighted to report that visitation to the JMM has increased by more than 38% in the past few months (in comparison of a 14 week span, January- mid-April, to the same time period last year). In an effort to learn more about our visitors, in the past few months we have made a concerted effort to gather specific data about each individual who walk through our doors. We track information about our visitors in several ways. For walk-in visitors, that process begins at the door, where our front desk receptionist records in the admission log how many adults, seniors, children, etc. come in and at what time of day. We also use that first interaction with visitors at the front desk to ask them where they are from and how they heard about the museum. At the end of each month, I go through the daily attendance logs and tally how many visitors we had in total, and how the attendance statistics break down (member vs. non-member / senior vs. adult vs. child vs. student / how many guest passes were used for admission, etc.) I also am able to report where our visitors are from by tallying up zip codes and states as well as the many different factors that influenced their decision to visit the JMM.
It has been fascinating learning about the reasons why people visit the JMM. Comments include “relative of someone who worshipped at Lloyd St. Synagogue or B’nai Israel Synagogue,” or “Lives/used to live in the neighborhood and always wanted to visit the museum.” Mostly, however, the responses to “How did you hear about the JMM?” involve more expected sources, such as Google searches, listings and ads in local publications or information provided to tourists, and the Groupon and Living Social promotions we recently offered. Collecting this information is important for several reasons, especially in terms of helping us figure out which marketing strategies are the most effective. This data also helps inform program development as it helps us learn about what types of audiences we are already reaching and which groups require new marketing strategies.
Gathering and calculating visitor information for scheduled groups works a little differently. Generally, we have an idea of how many people to expect from because the groups’ organizers give us a headcount in advance. However, inevitably, the actual number of people who arrive on the day of the tour is somewhat different from the expected number. For that reason, we make sure to count how many are actually present on the tour and write it down in the admission log. We also distribute a brief evaluation form to teachers to fill out while they are at the museum with their school groups, so that we can collect accurate information about the group (are they a Title I school? Which school district are they from?), as well as receive immediate feedback on our own performance. All of this information is also totaled at the end of each month, along with the information about our walk-in visitors, program attendance, and outreach numbers. Gathering accurate information about our visitors and analyzing this data to discern specific trends about visitation to the JMM enables our staff to measure our success in fulfilling our mission. This information also helps us in our efforts to secure grant funding that, in turn, provides us with the necessary support to implement programs and exhibits that continue to draw in new audiences.
Tracking Success Through Our Educational Programs
Ilene Dackman-Alon, Director of Education
The JMM’s educational enrichment programs offer students and teachers the chance to participate in hands-on active discovery and experiential learning activities that they would otherwise not be exposed to in their classrooms. The Museum’s education programs align with the Maryland State’s curriculum in social studies and English language arts goals and standards for students and teachers in grades K-12. The Museum closely tracks the annual attendance of students, parents and teachers taking part in our education programs both on and off-site. Our staff compiles reports that break down the visitation by grade level and school district. These reports serve as useful tools for learning the extent to which our educational resources are utilized. We also monitor which schools schedule repeat visits from year to year, another indicator of the positive impact of our school services.
The Museum performs evaluation based on outcome. The evaluation process is critical for Museum professionals and educators in order to evaluate the value of the Museum environment as a place of productive learning. We are specifically concerned that our school visitors gain a basic knowledge of fundamental Jewish traditions and values, a grounding in how Jewish history has evolved in the State of Maryland, and an appreciation of a minority experience within a multicultural context.
Systematic evaluation – a key component of all Museum programs, ensures that these outcomes are achieved. JMM staff solicits evaluation forms from all teachers who participate in on- and off-site programs. These evaluation forms provide critical feedback about the quality of the program, how well they align with curricular standards, and whether or not the programs meet intended objectives. The JMM staff also observes programs to evaluate their effectiveness. Programs are regularly refined based on the content of these evaluations and observations.
We are fortunate to receive grant support for many of our educational initiatives and we are committed to providing all donors with timely reports that summarize our progress on specific projects as well as evaluation data that we have gathered from surveys and meetings with teachers. We are proud to report on each year’s accomplishments as well as the lessons we have learned while implementing each initiative and how we plan on using evaluation results to improve our performance in the upcoming year.
We are pleased to report on just a few measures of success from this past year:
- We have served 600 more students and teachers through on-site school visits in comparison to a similar time period from last year (July 1-April 30).
- Our education staff has developed new educational resources and activities in connection with the exhibits, Zap, Pow Bam and The Synagogue Speaks!
- Our partnership initiative with Baltimore City schools continues to grow – we have added two new schools this year: Patterson Park Charter School and City Springs Elementary/Middle School.
- We have also developed a partnership with the Reginald F. Lewis Museum to provide joint field trip opportunities for visiting school groups.
We look forward to continue our efforts at tracking and reporting on future success of our educational programs.