This case study examines the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s efforts to attract larger numbers of families with young children. It is the product of multiple interviews with key staff and analysis of program elements, budgets, and planning documents.
How can a museum expand its reach and impact? For the Contemporary Jewish Museum (CJM) in San Francisco the answer was to attract a new audience—families of all backgrounds—and build the next generation of museum supporters. This case study explores how the CJM successfully achieved its goal.
The article is part of a set of case studies and reports looking at the efforts of arts organizations that received Wallace Excellence Awards to reach new audiences and deepen relationships with current ones. The pieces examine projects at 10 of the 54 organizations that received WEA grants between 2006 and 2014.
A 2019 update looks at the Jewish Museum’s continued efforts to attract larger numbers of families with young children.
Started in 1984, the museum had long operated in a 2,500-square-foot space in the lobby of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco’s office building. But in 2008, it moved into a new, 63,000-square foot facility. With the move, the staff sought to target a larger audience.
Attracting families, both Jewish and non-Jewish, would accomplish two goals: First, it would help boost attendance. But also it could infuse the organization with the vibrancy and curiosity of intergenerational conversation.
After leading focus groups to better understand the needs of families with young children, museum staff developed a multi-part strategy. That included:
At the same time, staff didn’t want the institution to become solely a children’s museum. With that in mind, they took extra efforts to balance the needs and interests of children and adults. For example, they:
The CJM’s ambitious agenda to serve a wider audience succeeded. Its efforts brought in consistently large audiences—nearly 10 times the size of the museum’s audience in its first facility.
It was essential that the trustees supported this vision and commitment to family programs so that it was never in jeopardy and was seen as a core function of the museum.— Connie Wolf, then-director and CEO of the Contemporary Jewish Museum