Thursday, August 4, 2011

Behind the Scenes

Today’s blog comes from Assistant Curator Nadine Shatzkes who has taken time out of her busy day to describe her work and how artifacts make their way to the galleries.


The Museum’s Core Exhibition opened to the public September 15, 1997. Repeat visitors are often surprised to see artifacts on display that they had not seen previously. While the main themes of the exhibit remain the same, the artifacts on display throughout the Core “rotate” on and off exhibit, allowing us to showcase new acquisitions and to present as many personal experiences as possible with stories from across the Jewish world. It also preserves fragile paper and textile artifacts, limiting their exposure to light and to the pull of gravity when exhibited upright.

As assistant curator, I work closely with other members of the Collections and Exhibitions Department to plan and orchestrate the rotations. The Senior Curator and I carefully select and research the material that fit the case’s theme, and we write the accompanying labels. The Museum registrars check the physical condition of the chosen artifacts and give their permission and instructions for their display. The preparator mounts the artifacts and installs them during the rotation.

On Tuesday, August 2, we rotated the Opportunity and Opposition gallery at the end of the first floor of the Core. This section features several examples of anti-Semitic and philo-Semitic material from around the world from the late 19th to early 20th centuries.

Returning to display is the 1899 poster called “The Rat Catcher,” which depicts Jews as vermin and an economic threat to the German people. It is a particularly interesting teaching tool and a favorite of Gallery Educators. This was one of the more difficult rotations to plan and install, due to the structure of the cases. Special thanks to building engineers Frank Camporeale and John Gallagher, and to our fearless Austrian intern Andreas Eymannsberger, who helped with the (very) heavy lifting.

Photo of the Rat Catcher from our online collection, which is also managed by Nadine.

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