Thursday, November 17, 2011

Emma Lazarus, Behind-the-Scenes with the Curator


Now that Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles is up and running, we took the time to catch up with the exhibit's curator, the intrepid Melissa Martens, who answered some of our Emma-related questions.

Q: What first interested you in Emma Lazarus?

A: Emma Lazarus is one of the most famous women in American-Jewish history, yet most people only know her for her few lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free . . . .” Her complex body of work and her life story encompass so much more.


Q: How long did you work on the exhibition?


A: The exhibition took about fourteen months to bring to life. Much of that work was in assembling the greatest constellation of artifacts ever brought together on Emma Lazarus and her influences.


Q: What do you wish most people knew about Emma?

A: That she was a deep and thoughtful writer, and that her vision was inspired by Sephardic-American Jewry, German-Jewish immigrants, Eastern-European immigrants, and other newcomers to America.


Q: What was the most surprising thing you learned through researching Emma’s life?

A: That she was mentored by Ralph Waldo Emerson, and was influenced by artists such as William Morris.


Q: What is your favorite artifact in the exhibition?


A: A manuscript of the Sonnet, penned by Emma Lazarus before her untimely death.



Q: What do you hope visitors will take away from Emma Lazarus: Poet of Exiles?


A: That freedom and liberty are not just gifts we have inherited, but contemporary challenges for us to live up to.

Photo: Melissa at the exhibition opening. Photo by Melanie Einzig.

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