Happy Moments for a Curator
Ilse Bing’s Photograph “New York—The Elevated and Me”

A self-portrait shot by Ilse Bing on her first trip to New York in 1936 has been imprinted on my mind’s eye for a very long time. The image was up for sale only twice in the last twenty years. On the first occasion, in 2009, a vintage print went at auction for the princely sum of 25,000.00 EUR. Given its rarity and great market value, I imagined at the time that the enchanting image was unlikely ever to become a part of our collection. For me, it came to be the very epitome of wishful thinking.

black white photograph of the skyline New York with Ilse Bing in specular reflection

Ilse Bing, “New York—The Elevated and Me,” print from 1988 of the original negative from 1936. Jewish Museum Berlin © Estate of Ilse Bing

 

The photograph depicts a station on the Elevated (subway line) in New York and the reflection in a small round mirror of the photographer with her Leica. The title “New York—The Elevated and Me” underscores the hybridity here of cityscape and self-portrait.

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From the ceramic jug to the Pineapple Goblet: Working with archival items

photograph of the storage room of the Jewish Museum Berlin with an opened glass cabinet

View of Jewish Musem-Berlin storage,© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

It’s cold. The neon light casts a harsh glare. A gray cabinet stands next to another along white walls. The room feels sterile. The air conditioning hums. A gloomy place.

I put on blue, latex gloves, open one of the cabinets and take out a gray carton. Contours of an item shimmer from under layers of tissue paper. Carefully, I take the object out of the carton and free it from the paper; a microcosm of history presents itself, as if this gloomy place accentuates the aura of the item, the room itself taking a whole step back.  continue reading


Ich glaub’ nie mehr an eine Frau (Never Trust A Woman)—The Sound for the Film

There are films slumbering in an archive somewhere, waiting to be discovered. And there are films that have sunk into oblivion but then suddenly pop up again, in the form of a soundtrack.

packages of schellac records

The schellac records, as found © Jewish Museum Berlin, Photo: Regina Wellen

Recently, when stock was being moved to another depot, our colleague Regina Wellen looked over the collection of 78rpm schellac records with a view to devising a new way of storing them. She thereby came across eleven not yet inventoried records, much larger than the usual sort and with a label suggestive of some other purpose than easy listening on the home gramophone. Luckily for us, Regina was quickly able to establish that these were examples of the sound-on-disc recordings played in cinemas as an accompaniment to screenings of otherwise silent films—synchronously, thanks to the built-in start signal. One of the twenty numbered boxes on each label used to be checked after each screening, so as to ensure that a worn-out record would be replaced in good time. After Regina had dry-cleaned the records and prepared  continue reading