Jews In Space – and on Zoom

From Visitor Services Coordinator Talia Makowsky. To read more posts from Talia, click here.

Since the launch of our newest exhibit, Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit, I’ve had over 200 participants join me for a digital tour of the exhibit! I definitely miss our in-person tours quite a bit, being able to show guests all the interesting parts of our physical exhibits, seeing people learning in real time. However, our digital tours have become an opportunity to bring people “into” the exhibit, who may have never been able to visit the Museum before!

Additionally, bringing this exhibit into people’s homes may allow participants to better connect with the stories and ideas. The information isn’t confined to the panels and walls within the exhibit, but accessible from home, maybe while in cozy pajamas and with a cup of tea. Making it easier to “visit” our Museum may help people like they can personally see the threads between their own lives and those of the astronomers, writers, and astronauts in our exhibit.

A black rectangle with stars on it, with the words “Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit” in yellow text. The words “Exhibit created by YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, and Center for Jewish History, Presented by Jewish Museum of Maryland, Presenter: Talia Makowsky, Visitor Services Coordinator” in white text.
Our digital tours are available for groups and as public programs for individuals to join. Ask Talia Makowsky, Visitor Services Coordinator, how to book!

Of course, taking a full, physical exhibit and squeezing it into a digital program is no small task. When visiting in person, guests can take their time, reading panels and viewing objects. They can linger over the stories that interest them, skip over parts that aren’t as compelling. In the exhibit, guests have the opportunity to try out our calendar wheel, use a theremin, and see objects up close. A digital tour cannot replace these hands-on elements, and I only have a limited about of time to share the digital tour with guests.

A circular hands-on activity in our Jews in Space exhibit. The words “Moonwalk Through Your Days” are in yellow at the top of the wheel. There are knobs you can spin to change the dates in the window on the wheel.
Our calendar wheel hands-on activity allows guests to compare secular dates to Jewish calendar dates. Check out Marisa Shultz’s blog post to learn more about how it came together.

With an exhibit with so many people and stories, much like our Scrap Yard exhibit and digital tour, I had to carefully choose and edit which stories to share in each section of my tour, which closely follow the four sections of the exhibit. I wanted participants to be able to get a full picture of each section, Astronomy and Jews, Science Fiction, Jewish Astronauts, and Maryland connections to space, while making sure the tour moved smoothly through each section, and giving time for engagement and discussion.

Both Timelines – A side by side of the digital tour timeline and the in-exhibit timeline of Jewish space accomplishments. As you can see, I’ve had to edit down elements of the exhibit to fit into the space of a PowerPoint and Zoom presentation. But I’ve worked to include original elements, such as our timeline design.

That’s the biggest difference between my digital tour and our public programs about Jews in Space. Our public programs are most often webinars, both for the ability for our program team to run the full program with multiple speakers, presentations, and videos, but also for the security of our programs we keep all guests as attendees. While many of our programs do provide the opportunity to ask questions of our speakers, the digital tours are a more intimate opportunity to create discussion and dialogue.

With a limit of only 25 devices that can connect at one time, I have created the space and bandwidth to connect with my participants, asking questions to encourage folks to put themselves in the shoes (or spacesuits) of those featured in our exhibit. I also take the time to answer questions throughout the tour, creating a truly interactive experience with guests, allowing them to guide the trajectory of the tour based on the group’s interests.

Of course, our public programs are full of amazing people and storytellers and are definitely worth checking out. I recommend our recording of our Stoop Stories, “Head in the Stars” that features many interesting people speaking on their connection to space, including former astronaut Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman!

A screenshot of the digital Jews in Space tour, showing the slide that features Jeffrey Hoffman. There is a color-photograph of him in the slide, as well as a video screen and a quote.
Not only do I feature Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman in my presentation, including his video of spinning a dreidel in space, but he also told our audience that story, during our public program!

The best part of these tours is being able to offer them for groups who may not be able to access the Museum, whether for safety, because of distance, or personal accessibility. I’m pleased to offer this tour to groups all over the country, and even outside the US if you happen to have some interest in Jewish space travel.

To find out more on how to book, contact me at tmakowsky@jewishmuseummd.org.

You can also fill out our online booking form here if you already know when you want me to take you to outer space!

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