The Whole Truth: a Continuing Discussion

There are people who visit the special exhibition “The Whole Truth” not once or twice but a few dozen times: museum guides, those of us who accompany visitors through the exhibition. This time, though, our job isn’t to introduce the exhibits and their deeper meaning but instead to elicit commentary from this very real and tangible general public – and to moderate any discussion that follows. After all, the questions on which the exhibition is based also came from visitors. The museum reflects them in a great number of objects that the curators sought out.

Five pillars with the inscriptions: "business savy?", "fond of animals?", "influential?", "intelligent?", "beautiful?"

Barometer for the question “Are Jews particularly …?” in the exhibition “The Whole Truth”
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Linus Lintner

The exhibits are very various and consistently surprising; they strike a wide range of cadences as well. Most visitors are astounded and speechless at the chutzpah of some curatorial arrangements. But as soon as a group begins to move through the exhibition and to engage with its guide, the speechlessness transforms into eloquence.  continue reading


Alarm Clocks, Cell Phones, and Table with Nothing on it

Stories from the Student Exhibition “TimeThings”

The exhibition poster

Students exhibition “TimeThings”
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Ernst Fesseler

Some may ask themselves why, from May 29 to June 1 at the Jewish Museum Berlin, there was a little exhibition of students’ work that had nothing to do with ‘Jewish subjects.’ I would like to answer this question: since last summer, we have been working with three Berlin schools to reinforce positive ways to handle ‘diversity‘ as well as cultural heterogeneity. We advocate creative forms of work that offer the possibility for individual development. That is why we gave the schools an opportunity to conceive with their students of an exhibition that would actually be shown in the museum. As an open-ended, overarching theme we chose ‘Time,’ in order to leave the participants with a lot of latitude.

View of the exhibition room

Students exhibition “TimeThings”
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Ernst Fesseler

As the project leader I was only seldom directly involved in the implementation. I was thus surprised and impressed by the diversity of themes and objects on display. Two pieces struck me in particular and I would like to share their stories:  continue reading


From Wagner to the Weather

My Two Hours as a Living Exhibition Object in the Show “The Whole Truth

This was a truly extraordinary experience. The best moments were when the visitors started talking not just to me but to each other, and we wound up talking about Wagner and the weather rather than ‘just’ about growing up Jewish – or, more specifically, in my case as the daughter of a Jewish-American mother and a German, (formerly) Protestant father – in Germany and how odd it was to be sitting in a glass showcase in an exhibition.

A woman sitting on a bench in a vitreous showcase open at the front

Signe Rossbach in the exhibition “The Whole Truth”, April 8, 2013
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Michal Friedlander

I was reminded of the moment in 1998 when I returned to Germany from the U.S. (although I did not want to see it that way at the time). The German publisher I was working for in New York had just been appointed State Minister of Culture by Gerhard Schröder, and I continued working for him in the Federal Chancellery, first in Bonn, then in Berlin. Back in New York, an editor at Henry Holt said to me: “Well, well, isn’t that a great job for a good little Jewish girl, working in the German government?” I thought about it, and said: “Exactly.”

So, I guess this was what brought me to sit in a glass showcase in a show at the Jewish Museum Berlin, where I have been working for twelve years now, on a seemingly quiet Monday afternoon. In my two hours of being a living exhibition object, I …  continue reading