Posted on March 11th, 2016 by Rachel
Three years, eight months and twelve days (but who’s counting?)
This week marks the culmination of a major JMM initiative, the opening of Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America. The exhibition was conceived soon after the arrival of our (then) new executive director, Marvin Pinkert, in June 2012. As we brainstormed ideas for a new exhibit, one idea stood out from the others tossed around, an exploration of Jewish connections to medicine. However, it was clear from the beginning that we were not just looking to create a hall of fame-style exhibit honoring the Jewish heroes of medicine but rather to flesh out an answer to the question that gets asked so often “Just what is it about Jews and medicine?”
Sneak a peek…
As is so often the case with exhibition planning, defining the exhibition concept (along with the title) took a while. From “My Son the Doctor” to “Foreign Bodies” to “Jews, Health and Healing” and finally “Beyond Chicken Soup” our discussions began focusing on the dual notions of how medicine has influenced Jewish identity and conversely how Jewish culture, tradition and religion has impacted the field of medicine.
As we settled on our overarching concept, work on the exhibit intensified on all fronts. Our team of research assistants, interns, volunteers and scholars researched the topic from a wide variety of sources and perspectives. Time spent conducting oral history interviews with local medical practitioners as well as digging through archives at medical research institutes and libraries – including our own collections – proved valuable. Concurrently, we also conducted focus groups and visitor surveys to determine what topics would be of most interest to museum visitors. As we began working with exhibit designer Steve Feldman and media producer Rick Pedolsky, of Amuze Interactives, the exhibit took on a new life, and we began visualizing what it would look like in the Feldman Gallery.
…at our newest exhibit…
With a companion catalog, website, educational curriculum and public program series, Beyond Chicken Soup has been a highly collaborative project that has involved the entire JMM staff as well as an army of consultants and volunteers.
Here’s a look at Beyond Chicken Soup by the numbers:
*Number of lenders to the exhibit: 70
*Number of objects on display: 225
*Farthest distance of travel for loaned objects: Israel (manuscripts collected by Dr. Harry Friedenwald from the National Library of Israel)
*Largest object on display: the back end of a 1970s ambulance (lights flashing!)
*Number of scholar consultants: 4
*Amount of money raised: $824,000
*Number of donors: 27
*Number of project interns: 10
*Number of focus group conversations: 30
*Number of people on the installation crew: 14
*Feet of walls built in the interior of the gallery: 242
…and don’t miss opening weekend!
But the best number we can think of for this exhibit is one! Just one more day before you can experience what we’ve been working on for the last three years.
Can’t wait to see you!
Posted on March 9th, 2016 by Rachel
When Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America opens, I will have been with the Museum for 10 months and three weeks.
I started on the day of the April board meeting last year, and even on that, my very first day, I was already hearing about this amazing health exhibit we had coming. I learned quickly that we’d won two prestigious and competitive grants from the Federal government; that the fundraising goals and achievements for the exhibit had blown all previous records out of the water; that we’d been working on this ambitious project already for nearly three years.
When we say immersive environments, we really mean it!
Fast forward several months, and I was delighted to accept the challenge when Marvin and Deborah asked if I’d take the baton from Deborah as project manager once we transitioned into the fabrication stage of the project.
I had no idea what I was getting into!
I have considerable experience project managing the creation of physical deliverables, but the largest deliverable I’ve ever managed was about the size of a magazine.
Yup, that’s a REAL ambulance (well, the back of one anyway).
Beyond Chicken Soup boasts the last five inches of an ambulance, an almost-full-sized pharmacy entrance, and recreated gymnastic wall bars, just to name three bigger-than-a-breadbox deliverables. It has literally hundreds of components that had to be designed and printed or configured and programmed or fabricated and painted. And that doesn’t even account for all of the artifacts!
This really is a remarkably ambitious undertaking. It forced me to stretch my project-management muscles, and required the assistance of the extended Museum team, from my colleagues on staff to our partners at The Associated to our wonderful vendors, too numerous to mention.
Anyone have these in their childhood school gyms?
I really enjoy project management. I find it remarkably satisfying to look at a finished project and say “I helped make that happen.” That satisfaction is immeasurably more intense when that final product is interesting, smart, funny, or in some way arresting. Lucky for all of us, Beyond Chicken Soup is all those things and more. It tells a fascinating story that resonates with issues that remain key issues in American culture. I am gratified to no end to see this huge undertaking—one I’ve been imagining since my first day on the job—coming together in this last week before the opening.
Make sure to take (and share!) your own #ChickenSoupSelfie when you visit.
I hope you’ll join us this weekend to see for yourself!
A blog post by Associate Director Tracie Guy-Decker. Read more posts from Tracie by clicking HERE.
Posted on February 22nd, 2016 by Rachel
In its natural state, the Feldman Gallery is a nice big open space, with high walls and a wide expanse of floor – but of course the point of an exhibit gallery is to show off the contents, not admire the walls, and every exhibition fills the room a little differently. With each exhibit we get used to that particular configuration, the feel of the space, the color scheme and the visual focal points: The gallery looks like this. Then that exhibit closes and the cases and temporary walls are removed, and we think, “Oh, wow! What a nice big open space!”
Deinstalling Cinema Judaica, fall 2015. So much space!
Soon enough, though, it’s time to put up the next exhibit. The gallery’s open floor plan is versatile, but almost always requires some additional structures to create more vertical space. In the case of our upcoming Beyond Chicken Soup: Jews and Medicine in America exhibition (opening March 13), we need a LOT of additional vertical space. Thanks to the exhibit fabrication team at Precision Plastics, the Feldman Gallery is being transformed into a series of small galleries, each custom-designed to highlight a particular aspect of the exhibit’s theme through images, documents, and a variety of artifacts. And every day, at least one staff member sneaks into the room (careful not to disturb the people doing the work) to admire the progress.
Framing out the new walls.
Plywood and drywall – these walls mean business.
Some finishing touches: baseboards and paint.
Not all the walls are purely functional; here’s the pharmacy window, almost finished (with the movie screen from Paul Simon: Words and Music behind it, waiting to be painted).
The view from the top. Goodbye, one-giant-room: Welcome Beyond Chicken Soup!
Once the walls are ready, it’ll be time for the installation of cases, furniture, and graphics – and then my favorite part, the artifacts. Then the transformation of the Feldman Gallery will be complete!
A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.