Jewish souvenirs in Trani, Italy

Jewish souvenirs in Trani, Italy


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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Berlin -- Jewish Museum to Expand

This news dates from a couple weeks ago, but I am just catching up -- the Jewish Museum in Berlin has announced it will expand its space considerably, taking over space across the street where the Central Flower Market is currently located to provide space for educational programs, and the archive, library and research facilities. The Market Hall, dating from the 1960s, will not be demolished, but it will be modified to suit the Museum's needs.

Here's the full press release, from April 29:

A hope the Jewish Museum Berlin has had for some time is now to be realized: The Museum will be granted its much-needed expansion into the area on the opposite side of the road which currently houses Berlin's Central Flower Market. The space provided by expansion into the market hall will satisfy the Museum's urgent need for additional room for educational programs, the archive, the library, and research. André Schmitz, State Secretary for Cultural Affairs in Berlin, has approved the project, ensuring that the state of Berlin will hand over the use and management of the whole hall to the Jewish Museum Berlin. The Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg District Authority is seeing to the alteration of the land-use plan for the area between Lindenstrasse and Friedrichstrasse, in which the Central Flower Market premises are currently a designated “mixed-use” area. This will enable the hall to be used as a cultural center in future.

Hall Conversion Financed Through the Generous Support of the State and Private SponsorsThe building planned by the architect Bruno Grimmek between 1962 and 1965 will not be demolished, but merely modified to suit the requirements of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Construction work can begin in 2010 when the approximately 6,000 m² hall will be vacated by the Berlin Central Market, which will move to the Beusselstrasse. The costs are estimated at 10 million euros, of which the state – under the direction of Bernd Neumann, Minister of State for Cultural and Media Affairs – will cover 6 million. The remaining 4 million euros will be raised by the Jewish Museum Berlin through sponsors. Amongst the Museum's supporters are a generous sponsor from the US and the American Friends of the Jewish Museum Berlin: Their gift to the Museum is the design for the hall's modification, for which it is hoped the Daniel Libeskind Studio can be won. Berlin's Kreuzberg district would thus gain a further architectural attraction, which alongside the Libeskind Building and Libeskind-inspired Glass Courtyard would complete the Lindenstrasse ensemble – without burdening public coffers with the expense of a star architect's design.

Education and Research Will be Under One RoofThe expansion has become necessary due to the growth of the education and research areas at the Jewish Museum Berlin. The new building is to bring the education department, the archive, and the library under one roof, thus creating synergies between scientific research and educational work. Direct access to information, a clearer overview of what is on offer, and more room for exchange, transfer of knowledge, and encounters – the new location will ensure all these. The objective is to establish in the Lindenstrasse in Berlin one of the most important research and education centers on the history and culture of German-speaking Jewry.

Increasing Demand for the JMB's Educational ProgramsSince the opening of the Jewish Museum Berlin in 2001, its educational work has more than doubled. In addition to the roughly 7,000 guided tours each year, the Museum holds around 300 educational events such as training courses, seminars for students, vacation programs, workshops on special exhibitions and Jewish festivals, workshops about the archive featuring talks with witnesses, theater workshops, programs against antisemitism, project days, and training courses for teachers. Over 100,000 visitors per year come to these events. Furthermore, at least 10 times a year the Jewish Museum Berlin hosts large-scale educational events with up to 300 school pupils, for example as part of international youth meetings or commemoration days for schools such as the Anne Frank School.

This diverse range of activities and the increase in demand, particularly where whole-day activities are concerned, has resulted in a space shortage that will be solved with the expansion into the Central Flower Market hall. It will enable more events to be held at the same time and a clearer representation of findings. More space will also be available for educational work on a theme the Museum intends to bring into sharper focus: Integration, understanding, and tolerance in a multiethnic society. Moreover, the spatial proximity of the archives, library, seminar rooms, workshops, and multimedia activities will ensure more efficient logistics in the organization of events. Last but not least, it will take the pressure off the flow of visitors into the Old Building and the Libeskind Building, which are frequented by more than 750,000 people a year visiting the permanent and special exhibitions.

Growing Archives and Intensification of Scientific ResearchThe archival holdings of the Jewish Museum Berlin have likewise more than doubled since its opening. Further growth is expected in the near and mid-term future, since the last generation of Holocaust survivors is passing away. The Jewish Museum Berlin (JMB) has the task of conserving this heritage by continuously adding to its collections. Furthermore, the archive would like to expand its holdings on postwar history of Jews in Germany.

In addition, there are the dependencies of important archives on German-speaking Jewry housed at the JMB: The holdings of the dependency there of the Leo Baeck Institute New York Archive have quadrupled since 2001. The Jewish Museum Berlin opened a dependency of the Wiener Library London in 2008. In cooperation with the British partners, the holdings, which have so far not been inventoried, are to be made accessible at the JMB.

The number of users has also risen appreciably: The holdings of the Jewish Museum Berlin, the Leo Baeck Archive, and the Wiener Library are in international demand. Inquiries from researchers come not only from Europe, but also from other parts of the world such as Israel, the USA, and Canada. The extension will not only ensure improved conditions for using the materials, but will also provide more space for collaboration with universities and other scientific institutions – an area that is to receive sharper focus. Alongside a fellowship program, more scientific events such as conferences, meetings, and lectures are planned.

Library Expansion and Improved Conditions for UsersThe library at the Jewish Museum Berlin will also move into the extension. Initially planned as a reference library for employees, it originally housed around 70,000 media and has been used as a specialist reference library since 2001. The holdings have trebled in the past 10 years. As well as literature on German-Jewish history, culture, literature, music, art, and other humanistic sections, it also boasts a historical collection whose oldest book dates back to the 14th century. In 2005, the library began to collect audiovisual materials and thus became a media center.

Hidden away at the back of the Libeskind Building, the current library is not in a part of the Museum to which the public has free access. Therefore prior notification is required of its visitors, who are then accompanied by staff to and from the reading room. In the new building on the opposite side of the Lindenstrasse, the library rooms will be freely accessible making use of them easier and thus more attractive.

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