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Intern Weekly Responses: Trendswatch 2019

Posted on July 11th, 2019 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week we asked them to choose one of four articles from the Center for the Future of Museums Trendswatch 2019!  To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

~From Intern Hannah Balik: Give Me Shelter: Everyone deserves a place to live

Homelessness is an issue that disproportionately affects already marginalized populations including disabled persons, formerly incarcerated individuals, the elderly, people of color, and people in the LGBT community. Baltimore has a large homeless population, with a report by the federal Department of Housing stating that on any given night in 2017, there were 2,669 individuals experiencing homelessness. However, that number is not the full story. That number only counted people in certain shelters that participated in the study, and not those on the streets or in programs who were not counted. The true number is much higher and continues to grow. One quarter of Baltimore residents live at or below the federal poverty live, with half of poor residents living in deep poverty, meaning they live at or below 50% of the poverty line. It’s easy to feel helpless when confronted with a large systemic issue such as homelessness. However, there are certain things we can do to alleviate as much of the burden that we can in a museum context.

From the Museum of Homelessness: Snapshot of poem ‘What is Homelessness’ by Steph Evans.

First, we can make sure our museum’s doors are truly open to all. This means keeping our courtyard available for anyone to sit or rest in, and our restrooms available for anyone to use. We already let the public use our courtyard and restrooms during museum hours, but we could make that more known or provide care packages in the restroom for those in need. We can talk to some of our Jonestown neighbors, such as the delis on Lombard Street to donate some food or give us some vouchers to include in these packages. Besides that, accessibility is one of the main things that a museum can do for its community. Making sure we are available to all of those who want to learn, not just those who have the means to make donations. Free admission, or a sliding scale admission for those who are experiencing financial insecurity is a great option. We have a wealth of knowledge inside these walls, and it is our responsibility to share it, especially to those who cannot afford museum admission or would not normally seek it out. The museum could also facilitate more free public programs aimed for a wider audience. These events could include things like free food and personal items along with the educational experience that comes with museums. The JMM also has a large network of members, volunteers, and staff. We can coordinate a clothing drive or send out email-blasts with ways that they can help their community, including organizations that they can donate both their money and time to.

The issue of homelessness is systematic and cannot be solved by one group of people. However, we can do certain things as a community to uplift those who need assistance in our own community. Museums can help facilitate donations and educational opportunities for those in need. We can also give people who have experienced homelessness themselves jobs at the museum to help create an environment at the museum that is as welcoming and accessible as possible. We can also do our best as a cultural institution to uplift the voices of those who call Jonestown home, however that looks for them at that moment. We can listen to the stories that these individuals have to tell and celebrate them by including them in our exhibits in some way. Our permanent exhibit, Voices of Lombard Street, is a great place to show these stories. Museum across the country and world have done similar programs in the past, such as the Portland Art Museum and the Museum of Street Culture. In the UK, there is even a Museum of Homelessness which aims to tell these stories and educate the public and hopefully make change through research, public events, and exhibitions. We could easily follow in these footsteps and show off the community the museum sits in, while offering a way for these often-silenced voices to be heard.

A man walks past a boarded-up row of houses in Baltimore, April 22, 2012. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Some of the Museum’s neighbors are already doing a lot in the community in terms of helping those who are homelessness. Around the corner from the museum sits Helping Up Mission, an overnight shelter that also has a long term recovery program for addiction aimed at those experiencing homelessness. The museum donates leftover food from programs and events to the Mission, but we could work more closely with them. Also in our neighborhood is the headquarters for HealthCare for the Homeless, which helps provide necessary medical services and housing for those in need. We, as a museum, can help support our neighbors who are already doing great work in our community. Beyond monetary and personal care item donations, we could help coordinate events together that provide basic needs but also educational and culturally enriching experiences for the men in their programs. We could put a donation box in the front of the museum, where the money goes to Helping Up and HCH. It is not enough to sit silently while systematic injustices are happening. Even though we cannot fix homelessness, we can aid and uplift those in need in our community the best that we can.

Please consider giving a donation to the amazing people at both HealthCare for the Homeless MD and Helping Up Mission.

~From Intern Elana Neher

This week, I chose to read Take Care: building resilience and sustainable practice from the Center for the Future of Museums Trendswatch 2019. When I saw the title, I assumed that the article would be discussing sustainability from an environmental standpoint but boy was I wrong. The article does not address taking care of the earth, but about taking care of oneself. It starts by defining “self-care,” what it has meant in the past and what it means today.

The beginning of the article explains that self-care has been used throughout the past to “affirm the self-worth of marginalized people and foster the physical and psychological resilience they need to assert their rights” (41). The idea that caring for oneself could be political was a thought that had never crossed my mind before. I had always assumed self-care was just “broadly synonymous with personal wellness and healthy living” (42-43) and, in recent years, seen it associated with mental health as a way to cope with the increasingly stressful world that we live in. The article opened my eyes to how self-care can be highly individualized. For example, I had often seen self-care as stepping away from the hyperconnectivity of technology, but the article explains that self-care can also be using technology to access a community of support.

After all of this definition and explanation of societal trends, I was confused about how this relates to museums and, again, the article threw me for another loop. In the museum world, we so often get attached to the idea of how to best serve the public and I assumed that this is where the article was heading, using the museum as a space to allow the public to foster self-care. However, as museum staff, we often forget about ourselves in serving the public. The article addressed this and discussed self-care for museum staff. It explained some of the stresses put on museum staff and concluded by urging museums to “attentive to and flexible about individual needs” of their staff (45).

This article broke every expectation that I had for it going in and forced me to reevaluate myself and how museums operate. It resonated with me highly as I do see museum staff forgetting themselves as a part of who the museum should be serving. I think every museum, even the JMM, can consider how they are both serving and stressing their staff and see how they can better inspire staff to care for themselves. Directors, administration, and human resources staff can assess where their support for the self-care of their staff is lacking and attempt to address it as best they can. A “quality of life” survey, as the article suggested, might be a good way to start, but I believe that listening to employees and caring about their individual needs would be the best way.

~From Intern Ariella Shua

Every year, the American Alliance of Museums (AAM) puts out its TrendsWatch report. The report tracks trends and changes relevant to the museum field. Some of these developments seem more obvious than others. I was expecting to find pieces in TrendsWatch 2019 that discussed the problems museums face when it comes to keeping the public happy. I was not expecting to read a report that criticized museums themselves: apparently, museums don’t often do enough to keep their staff happy.

In TrendsWatch 2019, I was most interested by the report on self-care. Titled “Take Care: building resilience and sustainable practice,” the article takes the reader through the history of personal restoration. It begins with an analysis of the term “self-care.” Apparently, the phrase used to signify the act of marginalized communities empowering themselves. Self-care was largely political: the claim that every group deserved baseline resources, regardless of sex, religion, race, sexual orientation, etc. These movements continue today. But in modern times, the article points out, “self-care” is more likely to refer to personal wellness initiatives. TrendsWatch 2019 explains that non-profits, including museums, struggle with providing adequate self-care, and employees suffer burnout as a result.

The report made me consider the JMM’s work environment. From my perspective, it is definitely a positive atmosphere. Individual employee needs are given attention. At the same time, it’s always clear that visitors come first- and this is typical of any non-profit.

The JMM does everything it can to make everyone who walks through the doors feel welcome. This goes for visitors, volunteers, and staff members. Little things in JMM make it a pleasant place for employees. I can say that I definitely take advantage of the free coffee and the candy bowl, for example.

A break room at a Cisco Systems office. The open layout and removed atmosphere resembles employee lounge areas offered by other tech and business companies.

At the same time, there are areas where the JMM can improve. For example, the JMM has no traditional break room, seen in many office buildings. While volunteers are waiting for their shifts to begin, there isn’t any one space for them to stay. The library and the kitchen are the only options. But these aren’t the same as a typical office employee lounge.

One of the ways to provide self-care, without changing the building’s current layout, is to escape the confines of the actual building. As interns, we go on field trips to other local museums. These trips are a nice break from the typical daily structure. Plus, there’s the great bonus that the visits are often behind-the-scenes tours. Perhaps the JMM can offer these trips to the entire staff (I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that they already are).

Other museums work around or within the physical space that they offer. TrendsWatch 2019 mentions the Museum of Science in Boston, for example, which offers employees calming tours of the Museum’s own planetarium. Bringing in speakers or wellness experts are other ways that the JMM, or any institution, can offer employees an experience focused solely on them.

The Charles Hayden Planetarium at the Museum of Science in Boston. The Museum occasionally offers quiet break sessions in the Planetarium for staff, a smart use of their existing space.

The most important point TrendsWatch 2019 makes comes towards the end of the article. It explains, “Rather than obsessing about applying one set of policies ‘fairly’ across the board, many organizational experts recommend focusing on what an individual needs to get done, and what support they need in order to do a good job.” Museums already do this when it comes to taking care of the need of every visitor. They must put an equal effort into doing so for the self-care of their employees.

~From Intern Mallory Connaughton

The article I looked at from Trendswatch 2019 was “Give Me Shelter: Everyone Deserves A Place To Live”. The article discusses homelessness and housing insecurity not only in America, but also globally. Before this article I knew that homelessness was an issue. But the article gave direct statistics for the population of the world as to the amount of homeless and how difficult it is to obtain a stable housing type.

While I myself have never experienced anything similar to homelessness, I understand the stresses of finding a home that one can afford; having been with family and friends when they move. I understand that affording reasonably priced housing can be challenging, and that it’s something that many people struggle with.

From Google – MuseumNext.

While reading through the article, one thing that struck me as odd was that it mentions how museums aren’t considered welcoming and inclusive; “Museums are not commonly treated as safe spaces by large portions of their communities, including people experiencing homelessness and housing insecurities”. This took me off guard, as I had never thought of that. I always loved visiting museums; I still do. But I never really thought of them from others’ perspectives. I had always viewed museums as places for everyone, to learn new things and look at artefacts and be with friends. But, as the articles pointed out, museums are viewed as a part of Maslow’s hierarchy, residing at the top – and that “Museums need to serve not just people who have reached the ‘tip of the pyramid’ but those who are not yet adequately housed, fed, or safe”.

This got me thinking of different ways that museums could open more to their communities – all aspects of the community. The end of the article does a great job highlighting actions museums can make, although a few stood out to me as things that all museums should be doing. The first is educating not just the staff but also the visitors about homelessness and housing insecurity, the second is sharing stories of those who have/are experiencing homelessness and housing insecurities. These two are easy steps to take, educating the public and providing insight to these communities who may not be able to tell their stories in a common setting, raising awareness.

From Google – Career and Recovery Resources, Inc.

Within my past few weeks at JMM, I’ve experienced several programs where people told their stories, one being two classes from a local middle school and elementary school, the other being a second-generation Holocaust survivor. Sharing our stories is a strong part of the museum, even the permanent exhibit, The Voices of Lombard Street, does it. At JMM we can share stories in an inclusive and welcoming way, starting to create the welcoming and inclusive environment that some people don’t see at museums. It may be just a start, as there are many factors that go into fully welcoming a community into a shared space, but it would be a great start that could progress into something amazing.

~From Intern Megan Orbach

In an effort to investigate certain trends and data and their relation to museums, I read an article titled, “Give Me Shelter: Everyone deserves a place to live”. This article tackled the issue of homelessness and what museums can do to help.

I agree with the article’s claims that museums can make a great impact on the homeless community and the greater community in general by being accessible to everyone and by making sure staff understand how to be inclusive and resourceful.

“The Museum of Street Culture employs clients of the Stewpot, an organization providing a safe haven for homeless and at-risk individuals of Dallas, as docents and tour guides. Photograph by Alan Govenar, courtesy of Documentary Arts.” Via.

The JMM specifically can apply the issue of the lack of home security to its goals and mission. For one, JMM already does programming with students of diverse socioeconomic, race and gender backgrounds and can continue to do so in order to make sure that it is maintaining its inclusive status. Further, the museum, along with all other museums can provide multiple ways for people to process information from exhibits. This could be through digital exhibits, for example, or audio learning, which JMM is already working towards. Audio based learning does not just serve the visually impaired community, however, it also serves people who may not be able to read. I do also agree it is part of a museum’s duty to serve its surrounding community and not just serve the elite.

Even though museums may not directly be able to give individuals homes, they can allow homeless individuals a chance at forming a network and a chance to learn more about their community. This in turn, will likely make them feel less isolated and more able to get support.

““Looking for Home” at the Museum of Street Culture in Dallas features the photographs of Mary Ellen Marks documenting the life of Erin Blackwell Charles (a.k.a. Tiny). Photograph by Alan Govenar, courtesy of Documentary Arts.” Via.

Prior to really being immersed in a museum and learning a lot about museums and their functionality, I did not realize just how much of an impact they can make on their communities. The issue of homelessness and isolation is not one with no relevance to museums; in fact, museums have great power in their respective communities and they must come up with effective ways to positively impact their cities.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Intern Weekly Response: Midterm Check In!

Posted on July 5th, 2019 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week, which represents the halfway point in their internships, we asked them to reflect on the work and learning they’ve done thus far, and what theyre looking forward to in the weeks ahead. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

~From Intern Hannah

I recently wrote a post on my experience in this first month of this internship. I’ve had a really great time this summer and I have learned a lot so far. Obviously, what I’ve learned hasn’t changed much since my check in last week, but I have made some progress on the projects I discussed in that post. In my last post, I mentioned that I created an educational game to increase engagement in the bottom floor of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. Since that post, I had the opportunity to test my game on museum visitors. This past Tuesday, we had a visit from the summer camp at the McKim Center, one of the museum’s neighbors.  We taught the kids, ages five to eleven, about the history of the Jonestown neighborhood. Many of the campers are from this neighborhood, so it was great to see them connecting in a new way with their own home.

I created a game to increase engagement with one of the educational tools that are often underused when groups are given tours around the Synagogue. The Museum has these flash cards with Catholic and Jewish ritual items and other objects on it, along with definitions of these items. Right now, these cards live in the bottom floor of the Synagogue but are not engaged with often or integrated into a concrete activity. I devised a way to use these cards in group tours that engage the kids and help them to learn about the different religious communities who called Lloyd Street home. It was very interesting to see a game that I worked so hard on in real life. It really gave me a reality check as to what is age appropriate for certain groups, and what makes sense to fit in a small-time frame. It did not go exactly as I had planned, but that is not a bad thing.

Playing my game with campers from the McKim Center on Tuesday.

After running the game twice with the McKim campers, I now have a better understanding on how to perfect it, and it will hopefully be used in more group tours to come. I had not created an educational activity from scratch like that before, and it felt great to see all the kids have fun learning about Christian and Jewish items and their similarities. Through the de-brief with the rest of the education team afterwards, I was able to hear the educator’s opinions on the activity, which was very rewarding and gave me great ideas for the improvement of this activity. I am looking forward to the opportunity to not only refine my game and create a formal lesson plan, but to perhaps try it again with another group of campers over the course of the summer.

In my blog post last week, I also mentioned the work I’ve been doing for upcoming programs focusing on future exhibits, especially Scrap Yard and Jews in Space. I’ve continued this programming and have been given other projects to work on related to programming that doesn’t connect to a certain exhibit. I have been researching movies to show on move nights (which means lots of movie trailers!) and searching for good lecturers to come visit the JMM. This has been really exiting as I feel I have a real part in the planning of JMM events.

I have had the ability to sit in on meetings about Scrap Yard and other upcoming exhibits, I am so excited to see the exhibit come to life before me. I am honored to have played a small role in the creation of educational materials and programs associated with these programs. Even though the internship will be over when all of these exhibits open, I am looking forward to coming back to see them. It is so satisfying to see programs and other projects you work on come to fruition, which I have realized even more so after piloting my game, so I cannot wait to see more of my summer work come to the public.

I am excited to see all the things that I have been working on thorough the summer come to fruition. I am looking forward to playing my game with more school and camp groups to come. I am also looking forward to more museum trips and workshops led by JMM staff members. In the upcoming weeks, we will have workshops on planning public programs, museum ethics, and project management. We will be visiting the Reginald F. Lewis museum, one of our neighbors here in Jonestown. We will also be making a group field trip to Washington DC next week, which is very exciting. I will also have to opportunity to survey museum visitors on their experience to better understand what visitors want, so that the museum can best plan exhibits and programs in the future. I can’t wait to see where the last five weeks of this internship takes me.

~From Intern Elana

Throughout my college career, I’ve spent a lot of time in museums. However, my internship so far at the Jewish Museum of Maryland has been completely new and exciting. At the halfway point of my time here, I would like to reflect on how this internship has been so different than my museum experiences of the past.

Before my internship at JMM, I had never worked in an identity museum or a historical museum. Thus, the material that I have been able to work with this summer is unlike any of the material I have worked with in the past. In my courses and in other museums, I’ve worked with textiles, stone, and pottery, but here, I’ve worked with photographs and documents. Outside of the collections world, that may not sound like the most dramatic difference, but knowing how to handle, organize, and care for documents and photographs is incredibly different than caring for ceramics or lithics. Over the past five weeks, I’ve learned how to best work with historical and archival materials and gained valuable collections management experience.

In working with the JMM’s collections, I’ve had the opportunity to learn a great amount about the Jewish community in Maryland throughout history. Before working here, I had no idea that Jews in Baltimore date back so early in Jewish American history and as a Jew from New Jersey, I knew very little about the Baltimore Jewish community. As I have explored the collection, I have been able to see how similar the community I grew up in and the Jewish community in Baltimore were. I have also been about to see the nuances that make the Jewish community in Baltimore so special and unique.

Har Sinai Synagogue on Park Heights Avenue, c.1980s. JMM 1987.173.45.

One of the projects I have found to be the most enlightening on the Jewish community in Baltimore has been the research my fellow intern Mallory and I are currently working on. These past few days, Mallory and I have been going through the entire Har Sinai Congregation collection and optimizing its organization. Despite how daunting the task seemed, we took it on enthusiastically. At times, going through each and every file and document seems tedious, but reflecting upon the work we have done, I realize how much we learned about the synagogue, the congregation, the individuals who made up the Har Sinai community, and the time that these each of these individuals lived in. In looking through the collection, I have seen trends in writing, technology, synagogue function, gender roles, the Jewish community, and more.

Confirmation Service at Har Sinai Temple Program, June 3, 1900. JMM 1993.156.3.

So far, my time at the JMM has provided me with experiences that I’ve never had before. From my work with the collections to the workshops led by the incredibly knowledgeable staff, the time I’ve spent at the JMM has taught me so much about the museum world that I never knew before and I look forward to learning even more as the summer continues.

~From Intern Ariella

It’s been five weeks. That’s pretty hard to believe- it seems like just a few days ago I was taking my first tour of the Lloyd Street Synagogue and walking through Stitching History from the Holocaust and Fashion Statement.

Going back to the Synagogue and the exhibits, though, I realize that I know a lot more about them now than I used to. Because I’m working with the Education department, I’ve been on many more tours of the Lloyd Street Synagogue. On my first day, I was fascinated by the story of the three groups of people that made the building their space over the years. A few days ago, I was able to watch as kids experienced the Synagogue for themselves. I always smile when they shout “Shabbat Shalom” as they’re leaving the building, proud of the Hebrew letters that they learned.

I’ve grown familiar with Stitching and Fashion, too. When school and camp groups visit the exhibits, they often choose to see these two. Stitching tells the story of a Czech dress maker and her husband, who both perished in the Holocaust. Fashion’s got a focus on clothing as a means for personal expression. I’m always struck by the concepts that excite the kids. They look at both exhibits very differently than I do – perhaps that’s to be expected, but it always takes me by surprise.

The Lloyd Street Synagogue is a permanent fixture of the JMM (and I hope to start leading tours there at some point – fingers crossed). Stitching and Fashion, though, will be replaced in time with new exhibits. Scrap Yard: Innovators of Recycling is debuting in October, while Jews in Space is arriving late next spring.

Collecting reusable junk and giving it to scrappers was patriotic in the 40s– it went to the war effort. And Jewish families ran the majority of the industry. Who knew?

If you want to get excited about Scrap Yard but have no idea how garbage can be interesting, don’t worry! I, a young adult with no connection to the scrap industry, was fascinated while reading the script for the exhibit. I’ve learned more than I ever thought I would about the history of junk yards and why they matter today. It’s actually really cool stuff- and there’s lots of people who grew up surrounded by scrapping, or who made a career in learning more about it. As part of my work with the Public Programs department, I’ve been searching for people who can speak about their scrapping passion. I’ve also helped plan out related programs and workshops for kids.

One of the most fascinating things I learned during Jews in Space research was that astrology has popped up in Jewish history in several ways. Apparently, Ibn Ezra was a big fan.

Jews in Space is a long way away, but the preparation has already begun. Hannah and I wrote an Educator’s Guide to the exhibit, designed for teachers. There’s one for Jewish day schools and one for secular schools. The Guide preps the kids for the exhibit, provides glossaries of terms, and includes post-visit activities to reinforce what was learned. I’m looking forward to planning public programs for Jews in Space as well.

I also really enjoy the workshops we have. About once a week, a different staff member leads a session for the interns to learn about a different topic in museum work. Some of them, such as the workshop on museum evaluation, have follow up assignments – my evaluation task is coming up in a few weeks.

If you come by the Museum, there’s a chance that you’ll see me. I’ve been trained to work the front desk and the gift shop as well. I had to learn how to use Altru, a membership and data software. It’s been nice to use it, as it’s a completely new software to me, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.

That’s a pretty solid summary of what I’ve been working on. The next five weeks are sure to bring a lot more to learn.

~From Intern Mallory

It’s surreal that it’s only been five weeks, it feels like the internship just started. And while I’ve had experiences in archives and worked with collections before, the experiences I’ve gained from these past few weeks at JMM have been amazing and like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

Within the JMM archives.

My past internships have been focused on a specific set of collections, which I loved. But I only learned and experiences the stories from that specific collection, not getting to fully explore all the options presented in the different archives. Which is something I love about my time thus far at JMM, I’ve worked with several different collections and interacted with new methods that I hadn’t used before.

As I talked about in a previous blog post, I love hearing other’s stories, learning about their lives, what they went through, how they are doing; and how their story connects to a larger interconnected community. It’s something that’s always inspired me since I was a child. And being able to work with all of these different collections has allowed me to learn more about individuals, and the community as a whole.

Archival collections, retrieved from the New Brunswick Museum website (under collections).

As a collections intern I work with the collections; photographs, objects, artworks, and archival records – amongst others. Within the past few weeks I’ve work with artworks and inventory, with manuscript collections and with general processing of items within the collections. While I knew how to generally process collections, I learned how to work with manuscript collections – something I didn’t know before. I’ve been able to work with two different manuscript collections: The Hutzler Brothers Company collection and, more recently, the Har Sinai collection. I was also able to work with a variety of other files, from a variety of collections – going through and filling in more information about various items after going through the collections and archives to pull out what I needed.

Going forward, with half the summer still ahead, I’d love to continue to explore the skills I’ve learned within the past half of my internship. I also cannot wait to learn more, both about this community and more skills. Only halfway through and I’ve already learned so much and cannot wait to learn more.

~From Intern Megan

It is hard to believe that I am already at the halfway point of my internship at the JMM; time really does fly. I feel that I have learned a great deal so far and am confident that I will continue to do so throughout the entirety of the internship.

As the development intern, I have been tasked with grant-based research which includes finding potential grants, researching previous donors and learning all about the programming that happens at the museum.

I have also been able to practice my writing skills by learning how to write appeal and follow up letters. Further, part of my research allowed me to learn more about how to captivate an audience in writing and specifically in fundraising letters. I feel this is a great and very applicable skill to have. I have also had the privilege of joining board and grant meetings that have taught me a ton about how the museum functions. Additionally, I have had the wonderful opportunity to sit down with my supervisors and ask about different roles within the museum and how they differ from one another.

I’m looking forward to further practicing my writing and research skills.

Both are extremely relevant and important skills to have as they can be used at almost any job. I am also particularly excited to attend and help at two upcoming fundraising events to see how these events are programmed.

Overall, I feel that I am having a great experience that allows me to improve established skills and to gain new ones. I am also extremely thankful to have two very supportive supervisors who have taught me a lot.


Posted in jewish museum of maryland

Intern Weekly Response: Evaluating Success

Posted on June 27th, 2019 by

Every week we’re asking our summer interns to share some thoughts and responses to various experiences and readings. This week, following a professional workshop on museum evaluation, led by JMM School Program Manager Paige Woodhouse we asked them to find an additional recent article on the subject to suipplement their workshop materials and relate what they have learned to the article. To read more posts from JMM interns, past and present, click here.

~Intern Hannah Balik:

Last week, us interns had the opportunity to learn about the different types of museum evaluations from JMM School Program Coordinator Paige Woodhouse. There are four types of evaluation that a museum do, in the four different stages of putting up an exhibit or executing a program. First, there is front-end evaluation, which takes place in the beginning stages of planning, and serves to evaluate the labor and monetary investment needed to complete the project. Through the use of focus groups and street interviews, museum professionals can get an understanding on visitor interest in a certain exhibit. The second type of evaluation, formative, takes place during the design and development of the project. Often in this stage, museums will prototype information panels or interactive learning objects in existing exhibits or neutral spaces. Users can then give feedback on their experience, informing the museum on the general reaction to the exhibit. Remedial evaluations happen after exhibits have opened. They give staff an opportunity to critically look at recently opened exhibits and change any small mistakes or other things that are not working for the exhibit. This can include spelling errors on information panels and other small errors. Visitor tracking is helpful in this stage, to help staff understand what parts of the exhibit need re-vamping, and which parts are working great. The final type of evaluation is summative, which takes place at the end of an exhibit, once it closes. This is the time for museum staff to look at the project as a whole and decide what worked, what didn’t, and discuss the outcomes of the project, expected and unexpected. This type of evaluation serves as an accumulation of all the data in the previous evaluations, while looking to the future and how to improve in the next exhibit. It surprised me how many types of evaluation there are, as well as all the different ways you can record and evaluate visitor experience.

Formative Evaluation at work. Visitor responses are very important when it comes to creating new exhibits or updating current ones. Source.

I decided to read the article “Prototyping AR in a University Museum: How User Tests Informed an Accessibility Plan Including and Beyond the Museum” by Max Evjen. This article discusses how Michigan State University Museum in 2017 decided to launch an augmented reality pilot addition to one of their exhibits on animal diversity in Michigan. Users were able to augment the existing exhibit by seeing animated animals and text appear on tablets when pointed to a mural the museum had in the exhibit. According to Evjen, who works at the Michigan State University Museum, “The Hall of Animal Diversity is a gallery with taxidermied birds, mammals, and insects arranged by theme, for instance, animals of mid-Michigan, camouflage, etc. There is a large brown bear … a couple of simple activity stations, an interactive video of different bird sounds, and the Michigan wetland mural, created by a local artist, that includes a key at the bottom for identifying animals featured in the wetland scene.” This mural was a cold spot, meaning visitors often walked right past it, or didn’t engage with it as heavily as they did with other parts of the exhibit. In order to increase interaction with this area of the museum, museum staff decided to add AR, in the form of 10 Samsung Nexus tablets. Looking back on evaluation data from other institutions, they decided to use tablets instead of an app users can download on their own devices, as they thought users would be more likely to use an already set up tablet than wait to download an app, that they know visitors will likely never use again once exiting the museum.

An example of the new Augmented Reality at work at the Michigan State University Museum. Source.

This endeavor shows examples of remedial and formative evaluations. Some of the museum’s galleries date back to the 1960s and have few, if any, interactive elements. Through visitor evaluations and watching what visitors interacted with most, the museum found that this mural in the Hall of Animal Diversity was rarely viewed by visitors. The use of AR through tablets would allow for an update to the exhibit without changing the exhibit itself and encouraged close looking at an often-overlooked part of their museum. Also, through the use of evaluations from other museums who created interactives that needed a downloadable app, they realized that would not be the best option for them, because most people did not download the app or ever open it again after the visit. They instead decided to use tablets ready for visitor use.

After testing the AR, the museum already has ideas for its improvement. Through the use of questionnaires and behavior sampling, museum staff were able to get a better idea of what visitors thought about the Visitors said they would like to see more audio and interactive capabilities in the software, which the MSU Museum staff have taken note of.  This project shows the power of evaluation – finding the shortfalls in current exhibits, and allowing for new ones to take shape, in a controlled, visitor approved manner.

~Intern Elana Neher

Before the workshop we had last Wednesday, I had only vaguely heard of museum evaluation. I had seen survey areas and visitor satisfaction boxes at the end of exhibits in museums before, but I had not thought about how important they are to museums. After our workshop, I came to understand that if no evaluation is done, there is no way to know whether the exhibits, programs, or any aspect of the museum is achieving its goals effectively and there would be no way to know how to change in order to achieve these goals better.

As museums move into the future and integrate technologies such as virtual reality, apps, and touch screens into their exhibits, it is important to know how effective these new interactives are in engaging visitors and achieving learning goals. Recently, the Cleveland Museum of Art released the results of a two-year study into whether their ARTLENS gallery, an experiential space that allows visitors to engage with artworks in a variety of ways through technology, is actually effective or just a gimmick.

With these new forms of technology, not only did the questions asked in the evaluation have to change, but the evaluation method itself had to change. They completed a variety of surveys to look at different age groups, visitor experience enhancement, and engagement with other parts of the museum. Surveying like this will become crucial as museums add more technological interactives to see if they are truly worth the expense.

Like any other kind of surveying, prototyping, or analysis, museum evaluation has its issues. The limited amount of questions that one can ask in a survey can limit the amount of information the museum gains and can leave valuable information out. Additionally, no matter how much time or money is spent on evaluation, if the museum does not use the results of the evaluation to change, then completing evaluation is useless. These are only two of the many issues that can come up with museum evaluation. Despite these difficulties, evaluation is crucial to museums in understanding how effectively they are achieving their goals and how they can change in the future to better achieve these goals.

Additional article: Why Evaluation Doesn’t Measure Up.

~Intern Megan Orbach

Last week, along with the other interns, I attended an evaluation workshop with Paige Woodhouse. As someone who has not been previously introduced to museum evaluation methods and after reading another article about it online, I was surprised to learn that most museums employ similar guidelines for evaluating their exhibits. The commonalities between the guidelines used seem to be four main steps: front end evaluation, formative evaluation remedial evaluation and summative evaluation.

One person cannot evaluate by themselves; it takes a lot of people together! Source.

We were able to learn, in this workshop, just how important evaluations of exhibits are for future applications. Firstly, some of the statistics involved in evaluation show who the visitors are, what they thought about the exhibit, feedback, general visitor experience and more. This kind of information is useful because it can help to improve the existing exhibit, or it can give pointers for the next one. It is also helpful because it can show how much visitors learned from visiting the museum and if there are better or different ways to present information.

Some challenges I envision when it comes to museum evaluations are what methods to use in order to gain the most information on the visitor experience. For example, some questions on surveys work better than others and this is sometimes not found out until after both types are tested. Other times, I would think that feedback is not always constructive and the path to improvement is not always clear.

Evaluations should include constructive feedback and employ thoughtful methods! Source.

The article I read discussed the four different types of evaluation, just as Paige did in the workshop. It outlined to me, as mentioned above, that many different types of museums can use similar evaluating guidelines.

Overall, I was very interested in the workshop and I feel that I learned a lot about project evaluation in general. A lot of the methods used can be used outside of museums as well and as a way to analyze various types of work. It emphasizes the importance of constructive feedback which is extremely important for growth and progress. The workshop and article also taught me that it is important to consider who the intended audience is before beginning a project; the work should and can be completely different depending on who is supposed to be viewing it. Lastly, I learned that it takes a decent number of people or visitors to form a good evaluation.

~Intern Ariella Shua

Last week, we learned about different methods of museum evaluation. One of the main ways evaluation takes place is by checking to make sure that the museum actually accomplished the tasks at hand. One of these factors is keeping visitors interested and pleased with their experiences. Visitors are often quick to point out if they’re unsatisfied. If something is broken, or if they simply aren’t impressed, they’ll remember that they were unhappy.

As we learned in our workshop, museums want this kind of feedback. Without it, they wouldn’t be able to plan future exhibits. And they wouldn’t be able to fix the exhibits that are already standing. Because at the end of the day, museums want to entertain and educate their visitors. That doesn’t happen effectively if the exhibits aren’t up to par. Museums that want to impress their visitors, and draw new ones, are willing to make changes. Fortunately for locals, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) is one of these museums.

The Baltimore Museum of Art, located in the Charles Village neighborhood.

It’s not often that museums decide to put food and art right near each other. I can’t remember the last time I was able to bring anything edible into a gallery. It’s basically a museum taboo. But the BMA, in an announcement on Tuesday, revealed that they’re hoping to engage new visitors by appealing to those who prioritize food. They’re opening a new exhibit space downtown, at Lexington Market. Lexington Market is the oldest American marketplace, and it’s still open. The crab cakes there are rumored to be delicious, though I can’t back that claim up myself.

But art? That’s not what most people head to Lexington Market for.

Now, the BMA hopes to change that. With the opening of BMA Lexington Market, they’re aiming to draw new audiences. The first exhibit in the new space will feature photography, perfect to casually stroll by while eating a marketplace meal. The opening is a clever one. Customers at Lexington Market don’t anticipate seeing art. But if they like the exhibit, they may be intrigued to visit the main BMA. It’s been done before- the BMA has tested five other satellite locations over the years. In this case, it’s a change, but also a reliance on what has worked before. Almost a two-pronged evaluation: taking an effective method, and repurposing it for future visitors.

Some of the photographs on display at Lexington Market, part of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s new expansion.

As Dave Eassa, manager of community engagement at the BMA explained in an email to the Baltimore Sun, “It’s for people who have never set foot in the BMA and folks who come to the BMA all the time to meet, create, and share.” Hopefully, the prediction is right. I, at least, may soon use the pretense of viewing photography to arrange a trip to score a good meal.

~Intern Mallory Connaughton

Last week we had a workshop where we discussed and learned about museum evaluation.

Personally, I didn’t know much before going into the workshop. I had always connected evaluations to the end of a project. But we also discussed other types of evaluations, ones that can be done at the start of planning and during. And we discussed the various methods of conducting evaluations.

One thing that caught my attention during the workshop was when we talked about journey maps, which are maps drawn by the conductor of the evaluation. These maps catalogue a visitor’s trip through the exhibits, tracking time and attention. This is used during the exhibit and can show what points attract attention and the retention time at the various sections. It not only provides an insight into the visitor’s interests and wants from the various points of the exhibit but can also be used to evaluate the set up of the exhibit, to see if the flow of the floor is good.

Looking more into journey maps I found an article, “Visitor Journey Mapping in Museums”. This article discusses journey maps, specifically the exploration of uses and conduct in a workshop run by Allegra Burnette at the Pratt Institute School of Science. The article discusses that the journey maps can be used to look at the different personas that may be visiting the museum and see how the exhibit impacts then directly. The article explains that detailed journey maps can track not only visitor’s movements and retention times but also their emotions as they move through the exhibit, any questions they may pose, and so on.

These journey maps, both the heavily detailed and the simpler ones, can both be implemented to track retention time which can aide in exhibit set-up. This information can be used to directly change a current exhibit or can be used to positively impact the following exhibit. Before this, I hadn’t known about journey maps, and I found these to be very interesting. It is a very dynamic way to evaluate museum exhibits.

Outside of the more hands-on evaluation that journey maps are we also discussed direct communication with guests; surveys, interviews and interactive exhibits. We also briefly talked about newer technology-based methods of conducting evaluations. From a quick search there are cites which comp0ile lists of evaluation methods and research, one of these being connected to the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Evaluations can be in the form of a short survey, first collection basic demographic information then asking two to three questions to gauge how an exhibit sites with the various demographics visiting the museum. Or there could be an interactive within the museum that guests can partake in, which the data can be interpreted for an evaluation, like walls that guests can write on (giant sticky pads that are strategically placed to draw attention and that ask for guest feedback).

These ways of interacting with customers, either active or passive, are vital in preforming museum evaluations. They can be seen in some form at all museums and are imperative to exhibit creation. I think that, especially with the modern uses of technology, there will be more evaluation methods coming out surrounding technology, and direct interactives for the guests to partake in.


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