Shaping Exhibition Development Around Community Perspectives

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Presentation from “Shaping Exhibition Development Around Community Perspectives” paper presented on panel “Reaching Deeper - Artists, Curators, and Educators Engaging Communities” at the 2013 Council of American Jewish Museum’s Conference, New York, New York, February 2013.

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  • Introduction: We decided to do an exhibition about the topic of the eruv….
  • Introduction: We decided to do an exhibition about the topic of the eruv….
  • We assembled a panel of scholars and eruv experts to discuss how to approach the topic.The discussion yielded several conclusions / directions
  • The conclusions brought the idea of the community to the center of how we thought about this topic.
  • The conclusions brought the idea of the community to the center of how we thought about this topic.
  • Schools: fit the the interpretative framework, narrative, and programs to schools’ interests Synagogue communities: Spread word about the exhibition and the museum; learn about people involved in eruvs in the areaEruv Builders: Understand the technical and administrative issues around eruvs, and acquire artifacts
  • Schools: fit the the interpretative framework, narrative, and programs to schools’ interests Synagogue communities: Spread word about the exhibition and the museum; learn about people involved in eruvs in the areaEruv Builders: Understand the technical and administrative issues around eruvs, and acquire artifacts
  • Shaping Exhibition Development Around Community Perspectives

    1. 1. ShapingExhibitionDevelopmentZachary Paul Levine,Curator at Yeshiva University MuseumArtists, Curators, andEducators EngagingCommunitiesAroundCommunityPerspectivesReachingDeeper –
    2. 2. Why the Eruv?(or What the heck is an Eruv and who cares?)• An eruv is a ritual enclosure for the Sabbath• Integrate religious and technical creativity•Eruv history closely tied to Jewish history• Gaining academic interest• Artists working around the concept of eruv
    3. 3. Get Your A-TeamAssembled an Advisory Board ofScholars• Confounds the most knowledgeable• Controversial, especially in New York• Hundreds of thousands of Jews rely oncommunity eruvsThe Panel’s Conclusions:• Growing interest popularly
    4. 4. At the CenterThese issues are especially important toOrthodox Jews in particular• Nobody else uses an eruv (nokidding!)• NOT A LOOPHOLE! Illiteracyaround Eruv in Jewish legaltradition• Recent data on composition ofOrthodox Jewish community• Gender dynamics• Field of Analysis: NYC
    5. 5. On a (Kashered) Silver Platter• Defined the focus: Eruv and Jewish Community in NewYorkIn other Words … here’s your audience:• Defined the Audience: Several Hundred ThousandOrthodox Jews
    6. 6. Primary Targeted Communities:• Eruv Enthusiasts (and builders)• Jewish Schools• Synagogue CommunitiesTarget: Big AppleOrthodox Jews
    7. 7. Primary Targeted Communities:• Eruv Enthusiasts (and builders)• Jewish Schools• Synagogue Communities• Cultivate awareness about theexhibition• Enhance the museum’s profile• Acquire a working database ofcommunity contactsEarly Outreach GoalsTarget: Big AppleOrthodox Jews
    8. 8. Museum Educators• Know who to call in the schools• Align exhibition with school needs• Generate buzz about the exhibition among educatorsPutting Out the Call
    9. 9. Education’s RoleContact Influential Educators and Rabbis• Consultations• Program Design and Planning• Networking
    10. 10. Contact Influential Educators and Rabbis• Consultations• Program Design and Planning• NetworkingInterpret Communal Needs• Identify objects• Highlight objects• Identify Essential LessonsEducation’s Role
    11. 11. Putting Out the Call• Knows people who make eruvs• Understand the historical and practical dimensions• Make ConnectionsEruv Scholars (Rabbis, Enthusiasts, Others)
    12. 12. • What do people know and not know?• Life before eruvs• Impact on women, children, and the infirmGathering InformationGetting Communal Voices - Survey• Stories
    13. 13. • Interviews with eruv creators• Stories about controversies• Maintaining eruvsLeaders – Films• Finding objects• What do people know and not know?• Life before eruvs• Impact on women, children, and the infirmGathering InformationGetting Communal Voices - Survey• Stories
    14. 14. • Discovered stories about eruv history inNYC• Uncovered objects (eruv gates on telephonepoles)• Made connections with leaders and theircommunitiesGathering InformationEffects
    15. 15. • On the eruv in general (usinglasers!)• Eruv history in NYC (Thousands ofstrings)• Eruv present in NYCThe ArtistsArt Pieces on the Eruv
    16. 16. Meeting Expectations?• Greater relevance for schools• Better alignment with programs (youth and adult)• Education brought into interpretative planningEducation Department’s Role – Success• Initially, attracted students• Art pieces enhanced didactic quality
    17. 17. Meeting Expectations?• Added community voices into theexhibition• Tightened the narrative’s argument from the beginning• Placed the narrative in the NYC area (artifacts andinteractive content)Community Awareness – Success
    18. 18. Meeting Expectations?• Community buzz – Did not appear to last• Community ambassadors (synagogues, experts) – Did notadvocate• Limited press attentionUnfulfilled Expectations – Limited Press andFew Visitors• External factors
    19. 19. Meeting Expectations?• Hurricane Sandy• Bus Strike• Maybe too Jewish?Caveat – External Factors
    20. 20. And Beyond…• Benefits of cooperation between curatorial and educationdepartments• Value of applying community input to interpretative planningLessons Learned• Challenging to expect participants to act as ambassadors

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