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H4 yoram shamir_holon_notes


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2014 EVA/Minerva Jerusalem International Conference on Digitisation of Cultural Heritage

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  • Shalom Yoram, I read your report with great interest and also it is nice to find the beautiful photo of Gavriel and Maxim. Miriam Katin (Tobias) who worked in the studio from 1958-1960
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H4 yoram shamir_holon_notes

  1. 1. Yoram E. Shamir Remarks at the Conference on Digitalization of Heritage Jerualem 11.11.14 Let me begin with a personal story. I have a heritage of my own: the artistic creations of the brothers Gabriel and Maxim Shamir – my father and uncle. When my father died in 1992, I was forced to decide what to do with his artistic estate. He left several hundred works in his home in Givatayim. Givatayim’s climate is similar to that of Tel Aviv: devastating to paper works. It was clear to me that I must store these works in a climate-controlled place. But which place? In any event, my brother and I had hoped to make the collection accessible to the public. After I made the rounds of
  2. 2. museums and archives, we chose the Central Zionist Archives and Eretz Yisrael Museum. When we handed over the Shamir Brothers’ works to the Central Zionist Archives, we made a surprising discovery. My father had not saved all of his works. We gave more than 110 posters to the Archives. They already had 40 Shamir posters in their collection which had not been found in my father’s home. My uncle, who had died two years before my father, had saved only their philatelic works—stamps, souvenir sheets, and first-day covers. His son did manage to find an old suitcase that my uncle had stored in the garden shed underneath a rusty lawnmower, and inside it were several other works of Shamir graphics.
  3. 3. At that time, I was employed at Tel Aviv University. I didn’t work 24/7, but close to 12/6 on an average. I vowed that the day I’d leave the university, I would launch a search for the original works of the Shamir Brothers. That day occurred almost exactly one decade ago: November 1, 2004. The first leg of my journey took me on a round of archives. Back in 2004, you had to physically travel to an archive in order to put in a request for a particular file. Sometimes my request was granted on the spot, and sometimes I was asked to wait several hours. In the Labor Party Archive, I found photos of Shamir works pasted in family albums, but then the Archive began the process to register the listings on computer. When I offered to assist them – pro bono – they replied, “Just don’t expect to be given special treatment when you
  4. 4. request posters by Shamir.” I accepted that condition, and began to work there. From the start, I did not accept the approach of many archives to list only the data that appears on the poster. In every case where a significant detail was lacking, I did my best to track it down and add this to the listing. The greatest such problems were missing dates, or lack of information as to the identity of the advertiser. At that same time, a digital graphic archive was created at Shenkar Institute. Ruben Cohen asked to incorporate the Shamir Brothers collection within this archive. He opened negotiations with the Central Zionist Archives in order to obtain scans of the works of the Shamir Brothers. These negotiations continued for over three years, and only through the intervention of Violet Gilboa did they come to a successful resolution. (I nominate
  5. 5. Violet to replace John Kerry in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations). One day Cohen informed me, “We have 2000 postage stamps of Shamir, 150 posters, and 85 medals, but very few newspaper advertisements.” Thus began the search for Shamir advertisements in the Lavon Institute and the central library of Bar Ilan University. I combed the Davar newspaper, Ha’aretz, and the Palestine Post (later to become the Jerusalem Post) from November 1934 till the end of 1970: every single day’s editions. In the midst of this effort, a digital miracle occurred. The Israel National Library and Tel Aviv University launched an Internet site called the “Historical Jewish Press.” From that point on, I could survey the vast majority of newspapers from the comfort of my own home, with no regard for the opening hours of archives and libraries.
  6. 6. In 2009, I paid a visit to the Israeli Museum of Cartoon in Holon. I was standing with a friend and viewing the permanent exhibition on the history of cartooning. Along the timeline were the names of the great artists. “That’s interesting,” I commented to my friend. “Daumier’s picture is missing.” “Actually he appears here in the exhibition,” said a female voice behind us. And that’s how I met Galit Gaon, the director of the museum. A short time later, I suggested that she mount an exhibition of cartoons which use the Israeli State emblem (not a surprising suggestion from the descendant of the designers of the emblem – the Shamir Brothers.) Following the acceptance of my suggestion by the Exhibition Committee, Galit assigned Daniella
  7. 7. Gardosh-Santo, a department head at Israel Television and the daughter of the famous cartoonist Dosh, to work with me. I’m sure that Galit was waiting to see what would transpire when “the son of” started working with “the daughter of.” Over the next two years, I descended to the basement. That’s where the Museum Archives, directed by Hila Zahavi, is located. The late Yaakov Horowitz, a member of Kibbutz Beit Hashita, had donated his collection of cartoons that had appeared in daily newspapers. A truck arrived carrying hundreds of cardboard cartons. The collection had neither been scanned nor catalogued. Each carton contained one month’s worth of press cuttings. Fortunately, Horowitz had taken pains to list the date of each cartoon, as well as an explanation of the political or social background behind the subject.
  8. 8. During this project, I made the acquaintance of Avihu Egozi, a cartoon book collector who volunteered his services at the museum, primarily in acquiring new collections. His enthusiasm was contagious, thus I too joined “Hila’s Volunteers.” I could not have imagined that Egozi would pass away within two years and I would take part in handling the intake of his marvelous book collection to the Museum’s Archives. At the weekly meetings we held, I heard of Hila’s vision to create a digital archive of cartoon collections, which would be accessible to researchers, curators and students. That vision is engraved in my mind. In the summer of 2010, I travelled with my son Opher to visit the Judaica Collection at Harvard University. There, Dr. Charles Berlin and Violet Radnofsky gave us an
  9. 9. intensive briefing regarding the objectives of the collection, the methods of the collecting and retrieval. Violet told us of their projects in Israel: the IDF Archive, the Zionist Archive, the Israel Broadcasting Authority, and many, many more. Both Opher and I were astonished by the scope and the depth of this initiative. I remained in contact with Violet. I began sending her presentations made by amateur enthusiasts on Jewish and Israeli matters, and I continue to do so till today. Prior to her visit to Israel last November, I suggested that she allot time for a visit to the archives of the Cartoon Museum. I told her, “You absolutely must see the original drawings of Ze’ev (Yaakov Farkash), Fridel Stern, and other outstanding cartoonists. It is essential to scan and catalogue these works.”
  10. 10. Violet came and saw, and she was hooked. An amazing chemistry sparked between Violet and Hila, and between Hila and Shmuelik from Dantec. All of the volunteers, myself included, were enlisted to lay the groundwork for the project. For me, this was an outstanding opportunity to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the works of Fridel and of Ze’ev and to appreciate the enormity of their talents. Two years ago, I curated an exhibition of humoristic portraits of musicians drawn by the artist Joseph Ross, from the founding of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra in 1935 until Ross’s death in 1991. I convinced his son Gideon Ross to transfer the political cartoons to the museum for professional scanning (and I also convinced him to cover the expenses incurred).
  11. 11. The thousands of portraits which Joseph Ross drew in Israel and abroad aren’t applicable for the Comics Museum. I suggested to Violet to come to the storage room on Floor Minus Two in the building where I live and take a look at Ross’s collection with her own eyes. Who didn’t Ross draw? All government leaders, judges, scientists, rabbis, businessmen, theatrical performers, and diplomats. Shmuelik estimates the collection contains some 30,000 works. Ross’s work alone could serve as the basis for opening a national portrait gallery. If I tell you that at the end of October, Shmuelik took away the first container, you will understand that the National Digital Portrait Gallery is currently being established in Harvard's Judaica Collection. As a curator of exhibitions, I can testify to the significance of the digitalization process for researchers
  12. 12. and curators. I’m now in the midst of preparing an exhibition of anti-British cartoons from the Mandate Period, drawn by Joseph Ross. The exhibition is for an online gallery which I am creating for the Jabotinsky Institute in Israel. These cartoons are particularly biting. Four have never been published after being banned by the British censors. I go down to the archives of the Cartoon Museum, sit for 4-5 hours in front of a computer monitor and select the appropriate works. Then I stay for another two hours to add the commentary I wrote along with two colleagues for each image. When I finish the exhibition, I’ll forward its contents to a historian for his expert opinion. He has already asked permission to correct historical facts while reading the material. The online exhibition will feature links to the Institute’s Online Shop in order to facilitate
  13. 13. book purchases. When you look at a cartoon on the British suppression of Aliyah (immigration to Israel), you’ll be able to see the books on the topic of illegal immigration which are for sale at the shop. The term “miracle” has lost its meaning as we face new, amazing inventions on a daily basis. But as we sit each day before our computer screens, it’s worthwhile to acknowledge that we are very fortunate indeed to live in this era. Thank you very much.