The AEJM’s very first network meeting dealing with communications at Jewish museums in Europe took place in Amsterdam in February. The meeting, “Jewish Museums Today: Public & Space”, was a part of the AEJM’s new initiative to provide professional development opportunities beyond the existing programmes for educators and curators. 25 museum professionals from all over Europe attended the programme, which was hosted by the Jewish Cultural Quarter (JCK) in Amsterdam.

The institutions represented at the meeting work with communications and marketing in very different ways – some have large communications departments, whereas others have no full time staff in this area. social media campaign to unexpected pop-up events to travelling museum to media coverage

Those who arrived on Sunday were given a tour of the Jewish Cultural Quarter, which includes the Jewish Historical Museum, the JHM Children’s Museum, the Portuguese Synagogue, the National Holocaust Memorial Hollandsche Schouwburg and the new National Holocaust Museum.

The extended programme also included study visits to the Hermitage Amsterdam and the photography museum FOAM, where the heads of marketing and communications gave the participants insight into their projects and strategies.

To open the official programme, Prof Dr Emile Schrijver, director of the JCK, welcomed the group, and Dr Dos Elshaut (University of Amsterdam) gave a talk about the professionalization of museum communication and marketing in the Netherlands.

Then, participants were given the chance to discuss and define their museums’ particular challenges in museums communication, which in turn would shape and focus the discussions over the two days of the network meeting. Topics included defining a target audience, changing people’s preconceptions about Jewish museums, and how to run good PR campaigns with limited resources.

The afternoon programme dealt with how big changes can offer opportunities for new communication strategies – such as when the Jewish Historical Museum went through the Jewish Cultural Quarter rebrand, or the Jewish museums of Belgium and Frankfurt had to think outside of the box (and the museum) during construction and renovation.

Rounding off the first day, the JCK treated the group to a canal cruise, giving the participants a chance to see Amsterdam from the water and carry on the day’s discussions in a social setting.

Day 2 dealt with breaking the barriers – how do we reach those who are not coming to our museums? Siebe Weide (NL), Director of the Netherlands Museums Association and Board Member of the Network of European Museum Organisations (NEMO) shared experiences with the Dutch Museum Card and gave fascinating insights into the statistics of Dutch museum visits.

Hanno Loewy (Jewish Museum Hohenems) and Tomasz Kuncewicz (Auschwitz Jewish Center) discussed how to operate as a Jewish museum outside of urban areas, and Hannah Talbot (Jewish Museum London) led a workshop on how to reach new audiences and inspire visitors to return.

In the final museum focus session, the participants were divided into groups and presented with three “cases” – communication challenges that three of the museums are facing at the moment. Using their own experience, and input from the previous two days, the groups provided new ideas and best practice recommendations.

Wrapping up, the group circled back to the initial session on challenges in museum communication and discussed how the conversations during the seminar had addressed these topics. The participants concluded that bringing together communication and marketing staff from European Jewish museums had created useful connections, sparked relevant discussions, and inspired new ideas.