Teddy bear that belonged to Ilse Jacobson (1920-2007), textile, straw, glass, ca. 1920 to 1930, in our online collection
56,250. This is the number that comes up when I search our collection’s database for its complete holdings. 56,250 data sets describing, for the most part, individual objects, and occasionally entire mixed lots. You can now see 6,300 of these objects online. Releasing this information to the public provokes mixed feelings on the part of museum staff: we have a lot to say about many of these objects. Many of them don’t speak for themselves. You can’t tell, for instance, that this teddy bear belonged to a child leaving Germany on a Kindertransport. The meaning of many documents and photographs lies likewise to a large extent in their biographical or political history. They require sufficient detail and well-chosen catchwords to help visitors find other objects related to the same topic.
With this project, we have to proceed pragmatically. 15-30 minutes of working time per object is a lot if you have to inventory a mixed lot with 250 units. We verify everything, including things that occur to us as we’re working. We are aware that there’s more to write about – and there would be more to correct, – if we had the time for more thorough research. Yet we can only make forays into the library or even into the archive for special projects or particularly important objects. And so we rely to a great extent on digital sources. → continue reading
Walter Brill on a bull in the town of Herzebrock, ca. 1913
© Jewish Museum Berlin, courtesy of Brill Family Archives
I first met Ralph Brill at the Jewish Museum Berlin in 2009. He was accompanying a donor, and it was only incidentally that I learned of his own interesting family history. Some months later he sent me copies of family photographs and documents, and I immediately realized that this impressive material was of historical importance. We were in frequent contact since then. In early 2013 Ralph Brill decided to donate all of his family holdings to the Jewish Museum Berlin. It was a most memorable day in May, when he visited Berlin with his children, Micah, Loren and Wade. The three young Brills had just obtained German citizenship, in addition to their American nationality. Present legislation assures this option to all, whose lives were affected by National Socialist persecution, as well as their descendants. The trip to Berlin was motivated by Micah, Loren and Wade’s interest in learning about their ancestors. It was the first time any of the three had set foot on German soil. → continue reading
Since the end of August visitors to the permanent exhibition have been able to purchase small artworks from an ‘art vending machine.’ The artworks have been created by Jewish artists living and working in Berlin.
Paper mezuzah with pull-out comic strip by Zara Verity Morris
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe
Today we present one of the artists: Zara Verity Morris from London. Morris is currently studying for her Masters degree at the “Institute for Art in Context,” at the Berlin University of the Arts. For the art vending machine she has created a comic strip called “The Mezuzah” on a pull-out paper scroll. (A mezuzah is a small case, which is attached to the door posts of Jewish households. Inside is a handwritten parchment scroll with the Hebrew prayer “Shema Yisrael” (“Hear O Israel”).
Christiane Bauer: Zara, can you for starters briefly explain to me why you produced this particular object for the art vending machine?
Zara Verity Morris: I found it an interesting challenge to play with the limited space of the art vending machine, and wanted to make something that could be unfolded once it has been taken out. The long paper roll was inspired by the formal connection between the Torah and a mezuzah.
When I was a young child, I found a few mezuzot in a drawer in varying conditions. A few had open cases. I was surprised to discover a paper scroll lying inside one of them with Hebrew writing on it. I was excited, and thought it was like a toy Torah. As a child, one of my favourite parts of being at a service at synagogue was the heavy Torah being ‘undressed’ by two people; getting its velvet cover and decorations taken off to reveal the plain paper scroll underneath. I decided to turn these childhood memories into a comic.
How does “The Mezuzah” fit into your previous work? → continue reading