JMM Insights: Wrapping Up Jews in Space

This week’s edition of JMM Insights comes from Visitor Services Coordinator, Talia Makowsky

Houston, we had a few problems.

Our plans for Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit went through many changes, as we faced new obstacles in the pandemic and through other challenges. Despite these setbacks, our team came together and created, not only a beautiful exhibit but so many digital programs and experiences that had never been done at JMM before. This week, we want to share some of the behind-the-scenes stories of all the work that went into making an onsite exhibit into a multi-layered digital experience to reach thousands of people.

Joanna Church, Director of Collections and Exhibits, shares the experience of actually putting together this exhibit onsite.

Jews! In! Space! It was such a joy to be able to install this exhibit last fall and feel like maybe, just maybe, the museum world could return to having visitors once more. Taking advantage of the time provided by our necessarily delayed opening, our designer Danielle Nekimken worked hard to tweak the floorplan to allow more social distancing opportunities, and the whole JMM exhibit team collaborated to make the interactives less touchable (the opposite of the usual interactive goal). Trillion Attwood, Director of Programs and Visitor Services, came up with the idea to add a theremin, a space-age-sounding musical instrument that – ideally for these times! – requires no actual contact to play.

Guests trying out the theremin in the exhibit. You can play the theremin just by waving your hands over the machineTheremin donated by Moog Music, Inc.

Because JMM had already reopened to the public on a limited basis in July for one last look at Scrap Yard, we had our pandemic protocols under control: masks required, hand sanitizer stations at the ready, cleaning regimen in place, and the minimum number of people allowed in the gallery at any one time. Nevertheless, a major exhibit like this one can’t be installed by just one or two people, so I’d like to take this opportunity to extend my thanks once again to my JMM teammates who provided invaluable assistance – masks and all – to get Jews in Space installed and ready, both in the gallery and online. We are also particularly grateful to the exhibit’s creator and primary lenders, the Center for Jewish History and its partner agencies, for working with us (while almost entirely remote themselves) to approve the Maryland-related additions and prepare the loaned books and artifacts for shipment. P&M Exhibits did a fantastic job, as always, in prepping the Feldman Gallery, fabricating the interactives and decorative elements, and installing the technology to perfection. 

Two of our young artists pointing to their contributions to “what would you bring to space?” December 2020.

While I wish very much that this wonderful exhibit had been on view during ‘normal’ times, so that the maximum number of people could have seen it, I’m proud of this team’s hard work and our ability to present it to our audiences in spite of these many challenges.  

– Joanna

The Programs Team shares their reflections on pivoting from onsite programs to digital experiences.

The programs team was excited to deliver a packed calendar of virtual events to accompany Jews In Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit. Though the idea of delivering the entire calendar online was a little worrying initially, on reflection it feels quite fitting. Due to Covid, we started to deliver space-inspired programs well before the exhibit opened, allowing us to mark the anniversary of the moon landing. That approach really helped us to build a strong audience of regular program attendees.

We delivered a host of programs from lectures, discussions, films, and family programs. We worked with an amazing team of speakers from across the country including Dr. Marc Okrand, the inventor of Klingon, Dr. Jeffrey Hoffman, the astronaut featured in the exhibit, and Dr. Nancy Levenson, the deputy director of Space Telescope Science Institute. We are so thankful to the amazing team of partners we have been able to work with over the last year including, The Stoop Storytelling Series, NASA Goddard Visitor Center, the Yiddish Book Center, and the Enoch Pratt Free Library. Thanks to the new, slightly space-age technology, we have all embraced we have made available recordings of almost all our virtual presentations, which you can enjoy here.

– Trillion Attwood, Director of Programs and Visitor Services

As the Visitor Services Coordinator, I’ve given quite a few tours onsite. As we prepared for Jews in Space to land at our Museum I started reading through the very early script, envisioning our next onsite adult group tour. However, it soon became clear that these tours wouldn’t be available for a long time, as we settled into our digital lives during the pandemic. Instead, I had to figure out a way to deliver tours online, over Zoom. And I’m proud to say, I think I’ve been pretty successful in doing just that.

Luckily, I had a bit of experience under my belt with our Scrap Yard digital tour, though that really functioned as an adaptation of our onsite tour. I basically took the script I had already written and made it into a PowerPoint. With Jews in Space, I was starting digitally first, with this new way to explore and share our stories with groups all over the world.

While it was certainly a challenge to translate a physical exhibit into a digital presentation, especially when I didn’t have a lot of time to actually look at the onsite exhibit, the end product turned out to be a fun, fact-filled, and interactive experience that drew many to the Museum, some groups who had never visited us before! Here are some highlights from my digital tours of Jews in Space.

Since the start of our digital tours, in September 2020, I’ve had over 1,000 adult participants in my private tours for groups. These groups ranged from our usual suspects in Maryland, such as Chizuk Amuno, Baltimore Hebrew, and Myberberg Center. In addition to these groups, we also had groups from out of state, including Temple Israel of Sharon, MA, Etz Hayim Congregation from VA, and even Westchester Reform Temple from NY. There are more groups that we engaged with through this year of Space tours, and it’s been amazing to reach new audiences who may have never heard of the Museum before!

I’m so pleased with the response from our Jews in Space tour, and I look forward to the other ways JMM can and will reach even further and deeper, in order to share our stories.

– Talia

Register for our free weekly journaling sessions here:

The Associated Annual Meeting: Looking Back and Looking Forward
Wednesday, June 16th, at 5:00 PM

Let’s come together to acknowledge a year of shared loss and triumph.

Join us for the 101st Annual Meeting to celebrate the tremendous efforts of our entire Associated network. Let’s look toward a bright and hopeful future, as we say “Hineni – Here I am” for all of Jewish Baltimore.

Featuring a special tribute to the dedicated professionals whose passion and efforts are the backbone of The Associated network.

Register for free here.

JMM Annual Meeting: Building the Participatory Museum – Recording

Did you miss our live Annual Meeting? The recording of this event is now available on our website!

At the Annual Meeting, we reflected upon how the Jewish Museum of Maryland has adapted to our new world over the last year and demonstrated some of the ways we plan to translate the lessons learned into museum practice in the future.

We enacted the qualities of a participatory museum as we explored stories gathered in various media from members of our community. The stories shared ranged from insights into the lives of ancestors to our collective current experiences of the present and visions for the future. Throughout the evening we paused together for moments of reflection accompanied by live music.

The recording is available here.

Esther’s Place Online: New Spring Bundle

Check out the latest bundle available exclusively through the online shop. 

This collection of items is a perfect way to celebrate the spring season

Exhibits Museum Stories News Programs and Events

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