A month after the move from Judah L. Magnes Museum‘s former home on Russell Street, and the creation of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at The Bancroft Library of the University of California, Berkeley, our staff is settled in its new quarters and is wasting no time in anticipation of the grand [...]
A “Torah binder” is a Jewish ceremonial textile used to keep a Torah scroll closed tightly when it is not being used for synagogue reading. In some Jewish communities in Germany and Eastern Europe, Torah binders were made from the linen or cotton cloth used to cover new-born males during the Circumcision ceremony (brit milah). The [...]
The modern cultural genre of the picture postcard, which is well represented in the Magnes collection (which includes over 3,000 postcards, and many greeting cards), is explored in a recent essay by Hebrew University’s Professor of Folklore and Professor of Hebrew Literature, Galit Hasan-Rokem. The article, which opens with quotations from Walter Benjamin and Susan [...]
At the center of a large architectural edifice, a man contemplates “the terrestrial globe bursting forth from the midst of clouds and receiving luminous emanations from the Most High.” Around this image is a fantastically elaborate array of niches containing narrative scenes, friezes and frames enclosing blocks of text, rows of figures, Kabbalistic symbols and programs, Zodiac signs, and divine names. Beneath, in Hebrew and English, is the title “Origin of the Rites and Worship of the Hebrews”. The work was reproduced and published for the American public in 1859 together with an “Explication”, a one hundred twelve page explanatory booklet translated from the original French, 3 by Max Wolff, rabbi of Ohabei Shalom Congregation in Boston, who later served as a cantor in San Francisco.
The Magnes’ magnificent red and gold Torah ark from India is now on display in the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s year-long exhibition “As it is Written.” It has not been exhibited since the museum’s Telling Time exhibit in 1999-2000 and the CJM show gives it a spectacular setting.
One of the best-known paintings in the Magnes Museum is “The Jewish Wedding,” signed in Cyrillic letters ‘A. Trankowski’. Museum records include some curious information about its provenance but the painting itself is even more of a mystery – who was the artist? When did he paint it? Why did it become so popular? And most of all – is it a forgery?
A stained and torn page was discovered up the Magnes ephemera collection – a copy of a poem hand-written on paper signed at the bottom by Meir Leibush Malbim, Chief Rabbi of Bucharest. But the poem is not a part of the regular Jewish liturgy found in ordinary prayer books – it is a prayer for the welfare of King Alexander Johann I of Romania. There’s no record of the donor of the piece or how it came into the collection. And there is no information about who might have copied it, or why…
In this group of Flickr “sets” the Magnes presents online for the first time a wide selection of digitized items from its Western Jewish Americana and Global Jewish Diaspora archival collections. The decision to give direct access to (often unprocessed) archival digital files reflects the attempt to integrate digitization technologies and social networking with traditional [...]
Theresa Ehrman (b. 1884-d. 1961) was a teenager when she travelled from San Francisco to Paris to live with Michael and Sarah Stein. She could hardly have imagined what would await her. The daughter of Jennie Rosenthal Ehrman and Herman Ehrman, Theresa grew up in San Francisco, where she nurtured her talent as a pianist. [...]
Since its inception in 1962, the Magnes has strived to represent the Jewish experience in all of its manifestations: material culture, the visual arts, music, historical documents, and of course text. This has resulted in a multi-faceted collection that provides a wide-angled perspective on culture and history in the Global Jewish Diaspora. This diversity of holdings also presents a challenge. How can materials traditionally stored in distinct repositories – Archives, Libraries and Museums – all coexist under the same roof? How can they best be preserved? And, most importantly, what kind of access can be provided to them?
Access to a collection is determined by how the collection itself is described to the public. The question, then, is how can archive, library and museum collections be described within one and the same context. In this post, I am sharing with our readers a series of thoughts that were debated over the last two years among the Magnes staff: in which “collections” do the holdings of the Magnes belong? And, more to the point, what constitutes a “collection”?