A Whirlwind Tour

Seven Exhibits at Four Museums in Six and a Half Hours

A blog post by Collections Manager Joanna Church. To read more posts by Joanna click HERE.

Oh, the trials of museum work, when you HAVE to go see an exhibit! When someone on staff needed to head to New York City to check out a few exhibitions, I nobly sacrificed myself – and, in this case, my mom as well – for the cause.  Dutifully, last Thursday we took the train up to NYC to see as many of the exhibits on my list as possible before taking an evening train home.

Every museum field trip day should begin with a Leonard Nimoy inspirational quote. This one is featured in “Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit,” 2018.

First up: “Jews in Space:  Members of the Tribe in Orbit,” at the Center for Jewish History. Melanie Meyers, one of the curators, gave us a one-on-one tour of this exhibit, which may come to the JMM sometime in the future.  It covers a fascinating variety of themes under the banner “space,” looking at Jewish contributions to everything from astronomy and space travel to science fiction and popular culture. Objects and books came from private collectors, such as astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman (who did the first Torah reading in space) and the collections of the CJH’s partner institutions, including the Leo Baeck Institute and YIVO.

An 18th century printing of a 14th century astronomy text by Isaac ben Joseph Israeli, LBI collections, on display in “Jews in Space: Members of the Tribe in Orbit,” 2018.

Altogether this is a delightful look at a topic about which I knew very little, my dad’s Isaac Asimov collection notwithstanding. I particularly enjoyed the ritual objects loaned by Hoffman, which he adapted for space travel: a velcroed mezuzah for his bunk, a traveling menorah (no candles, of course). The first attempt at a dreidel game in space was captured by NASA, complete with an earth-bound voice on the radio asking Hoffman to explain Chanukah for “all of America.”

“Starlight: Hanging Grid II” by Cooper Joseph Studio in the Rotunda of the Museum of the City of New York.

After a quick lunch, it was off to the Museum of the City of New York, where I wanted to check out “Mod New York” and “New York at its Core” as comparative research when planning our own upcoming fashion and core exhibits. We also took in quick trips through the galleries of “New York Silver” and “Beyond Suffrage,” though to be honest we didn’t really do justice to any of these exhibits; time was passing, and the final museum was calling us.

Our last stop for the day was the Jewish Museum. “Veiled Meanings: Fashioning Jewish Dress, From the Collection of the Israel Museum, Jerusalem” was, along with “Jews in Space,” my main reason for the day trip; several of our volunteers had praised it, and as a textile show it was even more relevant, in many ways, to our upcoming “Fashion Statement” exhibition than “Mod New York.” It was also just about to close – sorry, if you haven’t seen it already, the last day was March 18th! – so there was no time to waste.

My volunteers were right; it was a wonderful exhibit. So wonderful that I didn’t take any photos (though I doubt they were allowed, to be honest) because I was too busy looking. If I give in and buy the hefty catalog, you’ll have to make an appointment to visit the JMM Library to take a look.

I find myself always looking for the lions. Left: detail of a menorah, for which I neglected to get the info, but which I couldn’t resist including; right, birds and lions and sunflowers adorning an ark from Sioux City, Iowa, hand-carved in 1899 by Abraham Shulkin. (Note the bonus, and accidental, call-back to Leonard Nimoy.) Collections of the Jewish Museum.

Finally, we took in the new “Scenes from the Collection,” which was equally wonderful, and almost made up for the fact that I misread the café’s closing time so we ended up bagel-less. Noshing aside, the exhibit is a showcase of the broad scope of the museum’s collecting interests, from a variety of eras, places, and artforms. Judaica, stereograph photos, and textiles rub shoulders with modern art and “Orange is the New Black” clips. As I walked through the portrait section, I found old friends like Cindy Sherman and Kehinde Wiley, and new friends like this fine fellow:

Self-portrait by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, 1814-1816. Would that we could all paint ourselves this confidently in our mid-teens! Collections of the Jewish Museum.

Ending our day on this high note, my mom and I made our way back to Penn Station for a noisy dinner in an Irish pub, and then a quiet train ride home. Our exhibit to-do list: Fully checked off, and then some. Sadly, it may be someone else’s turn next time such a monumental busman’s-holiday sacrifice is required, but I’m sure my time will come around again soon.

 

SPACE! My attempt at a space-y pose failed miserably.
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jewish museum of maryland Museum Stories World of Museums

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