Steering Straight into the Future

By Georgina Kolber, Curator of Exhibits, Programs and Collections

Over the course of its 27 year history, the Mizel Museum has inhabited several different spaces, each one informing, to a certain extent, the museum’s identity. On the one hand, the museum’s identity in the community is inevitably shaped by the physical space in which its visitors gather. On the other hand, the museum’s identity is also characterized by the programming it presents beyond its walls and classrooms.

oil pressers by Zion Ozeri

Oil pressers, Alibag, India 2001

As curator of exhibitions, programs and collections, it is my job to ensure that the museum’s identity is clearly reflected in our on-site and off-site exhibitions and programs, and in the objects we collect. The museum’s first home was a minimal 1,000 square feet located within the BMH-BJ Congregation building. Because the gallery and display areas expanded into the public hallways, the museum’s programming was often created to be portable and deliverable to school groups via traveling trunks for presentation in off-site classrooms and auditoriums. When the museum merged with the Jewish Community Center in 2000, educational programs took place solely off-site to schools and other locations. The museum maximized its traveling exhibit and off-site program capabilities because of its strong desire to continue serving the community despite its undersized physical ‘body’. The museum moved into the current 400 South Kearney Street location in March 2004, just in time to market the first summer camp season. The staff now had the ability to spread out into a physical space with the potential for presenting programs and exhibits within the museum space.

In the past two years, the museum has extended two new branches — The CELL, which opened in the Winter of 2009 and Babi Yar Park, which is a major work in progress. With these two new thematically nuanced projects drawing much attention and buzz, it is increasingly important for the museum at Kearney Street to reflect a strong and consistent identity.

When I arrived at the Mizel Museum three years ago, it was unclear how long we could inhabit our current ‘body’. After curating several exhibitions, I decided that the Kearney Street location would better serve its audience and attract new visitors with a permanent, educational core exhibition. I developed a framework for a core exhibition in which I felt that the themes presented at The CELL and Babi Yar Park would be contextualized, and would allow our programming to evolve and incorporate contemporary developments in Jewish and global cultures.

In June, the staff began writing the script for the new exhibition and it is in development. The exhibition will highlight the resilience of the Jewish people throughout history, their crucial dedication to preserving and continuing their own culture, and their commitment to the betterment and progression of the entire world. We look forward to sharing this exhibition in early 2010! Stay tuned to our web and blog sites for updates.

Image: Zion Ozeri, “Oil Pressers”, Alibag, India, 2001

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