Monday, May 04, 2009

New Article in Today's NYTimes about the Jewish Museum, New York



Ed Rothstein's done it again, by way of paying tribute to the work we all do in museums and by way of thorough honest and throught provoking analysis of something happening in a museum -- in this case the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

His review is pretty scathing. Overall, I agree. But that's not really the point, more Rothstein's a teacher.

I've been lucky enough to go to Berlin within the last several years and see the things he writes about, the Eisenman-designed memorial, the Neue Synagogue and the Bibliotek memorial.

Basically, Rothstein says the museum sucks and that there are better sites in Berlin that serve as memorials, such as the site-specific Memorial for the Burning of the Books. Read this:

  • ...the potency of the underground “Bibliotek” memorial built in the mid-1990s on the Bebelplatz, where the Nazis held a book burning in 1933, consigning thousands of volumes to the flames. The memorial’s creator, Micha Ullman, knew he couldn’t reproduce the magnitude of the event or its destructiveness. So instead, he put a transparent window in the ground of the plaza, under which you can see an illuminated array of empty white bookshelves. “Where books are burned,” a bronze plaque simply reads, quoting the poet Heinrich Heine from 1820, “in the end people will burn.”

    It's how Rothstein cinches up the article. It's more than a zinger...it is both profound and quotidian -- and all too real, like Kafka's "Like a dog, he said..."

    One of the lines that sticks with me, too, from Rothstein's piece is "Judaism here [at the Jewish Museum] seems like a religion whose main importance is sociological."

    But, I mean, how can it not seem like that, if this is a museum about a religion...I mean "a people"?

    How do we ask this same question -- how do we not give the impression that human importance is not just mainly sociological? -- for all the work we do in museums?

    As usual, his story is full of lessons. Read it here
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