Museums and Society
Earlier this week I hosted a group of students from Johns Hopkins University who are taking a class exploring the theme of Museums and Social Responsibility. In addition to coursework and lectures, during which students discuss and debate the extent to which museums serve as vehicles for social change, students also participate in field trips to several museums where they have the opportunity to learn about the many different ways in which museums engage with their communities. Students are also expected to work with a museum of their choice to help design a project that helps a museum respond to a specific challenge.
During their visit to the JMM, eight students toured our Voices of Lombard Street exhibit as well as the Lloyd Street Synagogue.
We then spent the remainder of our time together in the Lloyd Street Synagogue (LSS) where we talked about how our Museum approaches community engagement through public and educational programs. Students were especially interested in learning about how even though the JMM mainly serves a Jewish audience (and our history and mission are directly tied to providing opportunities for Jewish visitors to connect to their heritage), we also are deeply committed to serving non-Jewish audiences and to providing a venue for discourse and discovery for visitors of diverse backgrounds.
When asked about a challenge that the JMM faces, we talked about how our staff has been searching for ways to animate the LSS beyond our regular public tours. For the past few months, staff has been in conversation with one another as well as with our colleagues at other historic sites and museums in an effort to reexamine our preconceived notions about what attracts visitors to visit and how we can conduct small scale programmatic experiments to help us engage new audiences. Students were interested in hearing about these conversations as they asked terrific questions and offered suggestions for new ideas.
We look forward to working with several of the students in the months ahead and to seeing what exciting new ideas they come up with!
A blog post by Deputy Director Deborah Cardin. To read more posts from Deborah click HERE.