We had a great time participating in this year’s #AskACurator Day on Twitter! On Wednesday, September 17, four members of our Curatorial and Collections teams stepped up to answer questions tagged with the #AskACurator hashtag using our handle @TheJewishMuseum. We were asked everything from what newly acquired collection objects we’re excited about, to how our curators got started, to how historic exhibitions such as Primary Structures have influenced the Museum.
While the fast-paced day is still fresh in our minds, we wanted to take the opportunity to answer a few outstanding questions with the help of our wider team. Enjoy the replies after the jump; we’ll see you for the next #AskACurator Day on September 16, 2015!
What is the most unusual “everyday” item you have in your collection? #AskACurator
— Will Robinson (@wrobin5626) September 17, 2014
We have a mezuzah in our collection that has been to space!
The astronaut Jeffrey A. Hoffman commissioned Marsha Penzer to create this mezuzah (pictured at left), which he then carried on a mission in space in 1984.
The Hebrew inscription reads: “When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You set in place…” [Psalms 8:4]
The object was a gift of the astronaut and his wife, donated in 1987.
@TheJewishMuseum Do you have memorabilia or holdings from NYC/NJ/nearby synagogues that closed? On the lookout for “lost synagogue” material
— EllenLevitt (@EllenLevittEL) September 17, 2014
We do have some works from synagogues in the New York area that have closed. For example, we were given a group of 12 Torah ornaments and other silver objects by the Congregation Sheerith Israel of Janina, Bronx, which was transplanted from Greece. Among them is a unique Greek ceremonial object called a Shaddai, a silver dedication plaque that was hung in the synagogue, possibly on the Torah ark curtain. We also have a silver filigree Hanukkah lamp from the Brooklyn Jewish Center, which closed in 1983. In addition to works from synagogues that have closed, we acquired this synagogue wall sculpture by Ibram Lassaw from the Port Chester, New York, synagogue when they renovated. It is currently on view in the Jewish Museum permanent collection exhibition Culture and Continuity: The Jewish Journey.
The Jewish Museum does not develop our exhibition programming from unsolicited submissions. However, if you are an independent curator interested in proposing an exhibition, or a contemporary artist who would like to introduce the Museum to your work, please visit our FAQs and follow the guidelines detailed there.
Sometimes during live Twitter chats, our best guess doesn’t quite do the question justice. In the case of Fiber Art Now’s question about the oldest and “youngest” textile/fiber art items in our collection, in addition to the Italian Renaissance Torah Binder that we noted last week, our collection also contains three fragments from a Coptic textile, probably from Egypt and dating to the 5th century or later.
Have more questions for our curators about how exhibitions are produced? Then be sure to attend one of our upcoming This Is How We Do It programs. These conversations with Museum curators on the process of developing shows are free with admission.