2011 Annual Conference
Our Stories, Our Museums: New Chapters in Jewish Culture
CAJM's 2011 conference convened in Philadelphia, PA from February 27-March 1, 2011.
It provided an opportunity to visit the spectacular new home
of the National Museum of American Jewish History, our host
institution. NMAJH's new building, designed by Polshek
Partnership Architects, with exhibitions by Gallagher &
Associates, occupies 100,000 square feet on five floors, just
steps from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
Attendees visited two other Philadelphia-area CAJM member institutions, the Rosenbach Museum & Library, the Philadelphia Museum of Jewish Art at Congregation Rodeph Shalom and the Temple Judea Museum at Congregation Keneseth Israel, as well as the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Beth Sholom Synagogue.
In addition, they visited three other exceptional cultural institutions. A Saturday night pre-conference reception took place at the Rosenbach Museum & Library (left). Its founders, brothers A.S.W. and Philip Rosenbach, were renowned dealers in books, manuscripts, and fine art, who played a central role in the development of private libraries that later became our country's most important public collections of rare books, such as the Huntington, Widener, and Folger Libraries.
Monday morning workshops took place at the National Constitution Center (right), which anchors one end of Independence Mall. Since its opening seven years ago, six million people have visited the Center, which is lauded for its interactive museum experience and its role as a forum for national dialogue. Conferees viewed an exciting multimedia performance and selected from concurrent workshops on Living News/Interactive Techniques, Engaging Visitors/Building Connections,and Educational Programming/New Learning Technologies.
On Tuesday, at the world-famous Philadelphia Museum of Art (left), attendees enjoyed a special preview of the exhibition Paris Through the Window: Marc Chagall and His Circle, presented by the museum in conjunction with the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. The exhibition illuminated the cross-fertilization that took place between the spirit of modernism and the cultural heritage of Chagall and his fellow émigrés.
Our Stories, Our Museums: New Chapters for Jewish Culture explored a theme that evokes the primacy of narrative in museums. The particular story conveyed by the dazzling new NMAJH is that of the Jewish experience in America, a story illuminated by CAJM's other institutions, as well as a story with universal implications for the shared American experience, revealing the promise and challenges of liberty. The conference theme also looked to the future, addressing emerging trends.
Three outstanding CAJM colleagues oversaw the Philadelphia conference. Independent consultant Lynette Allen (below left), who also co-chaired our successful Los Angeles conference this year) and Deborah Cardin (below right), Director of Education at the Jewish Museum of Maryland, served as Co-Chairs. Josh Perelman (bottom), Deputy Director of Programming and Museum Historian at the National Museum of American Jewish History, was Host Chair.
As the Founding Executive Director of the San Diego Center for Jewish Culture, Lynette Allen oversaw the development of a multi-disciplinary program that served as the impetus for the building of an arts and culture facility at the Lawrence Family JCC. She was Program Director for the Institute of Southern Jewish Life in its nascent years, and she remains active in the arts through involvement with the SDCJC, Art Council of San Diego State University, and the CAJM Steering Committee.
Deborah Cardin oversees all aspects of the JMM's educational programs serving adults, families, teachers, and more than 7,000 school children from across the state, and she served as exhibition curator for Cabin Fever! Jewish Camping and Jewish Commitment. She previously worked in museum education and visitor services at the Smart Museum in Chicago, the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, and Port Discovery, the Children's Museum in Baltimore.
Josh Perelman has overseen creation of NMAJH's core exhibition, as well as the education and public programming departments. Interested in the intersection of politics, the performing arts, and ethnic identity, he has taught at the University of Pennsylvania and New York University, participated in the development of many exhibitions, and held leadership roles at the American Jewish Historical Society and with the State of Israel.
Our distinguished keynote speaker, Kinshasha Holman Conwill (right) is Deputy Director of the National Museum of African American History & Culture, Smithsonian Institution. Prior to joining the Museum she was an arts, museum, and management consultant. She was Senior Policy Adviser for the American Association of Museums' Museums & Community Initiative, project director for the NYC Creative Communities program of LINC (Leveraging Investments in Creativity), project director and managing editor for Culture Counts: Strategies for a More Vibrant Cultural Life for New York (New York Foundation for the Arts) and project manager for Creative Downtown: The Role of Culture in Rebuilding Lower Manhattan (NYC Arts Coalition).
From 1988 to 1999 she was Director of The Studio Museum in Harlem, where she coneptualized, organized, or co-organized more than 40 major exhibitions, many of which traveled nationally and internationally. She was previously affiliated with the Museum of the American Indian, the Frank Lloyd Wright Hollyhock House, and the LA Unified School District. She has served as an advisor for the Harvard University Program for Art Museums Directors and on the faculties of the Virginia Management Institute for Senior Museum Professionals and the Salzburg Seminars.
Conwill, who writes on art, museums and cultural policy and is a frequent lecturer and conference panel member, is a past Chairman of the National Museum Services Board and former President of ArtTable. She has been a member of the Accreditation Commission of the AAM, a board member of the Association of Art Museum Directors, an NEA and NEH panelist, a member of the Smithsonian Council, and an adviser or grants committee member for such agencies as the American Academy in Rome, the Ford Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trusts, and the Rockefeller Foundation.
NMAJH Scholar Team
A highlight of 2011 conference Philadelphia was a fascinating roundtable discussion among four scholars who participated in shaping the narrative of the core exhibition of the new National Museum of American Jewish History: Chief Historian Jonathan D. Sarna(left), Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and Director of its Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program; Michael Berenbaum (right), Director of the Sigi Ziering Center for the Study of the Holocaust and Ethics and Professor of Jewish Studies at American Jewish University, and, earlier in his career, Project Director for development of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum;Pamela S. Nadell (left), Inaugural Patrick Clendenen Professor of History and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at American University; and Beth S. Wenger (right), Associate Professor of History and Director of the Jewish Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. This esteemed group, with decades of experience in academic settings and working with cultural institutions, shared their experiences in the multi-year planning process. Josh Perelman, Museum Historian and Deputy Director for Programs at the NMAJH, moderated the conversation, which addressed the decisions faced by the advisers and planning team as they worked to build an institution that explores the promise and challenges of freedom through the lens of the American Jewish experience.
The concluding plenary of the 2011 CAJM Conference, "Let Our Voices Be Heard," capitalized on the setting of the National Museum of American Jewish History to examine the role of museums in democratic life. Zahava Doering, Senior Social Scientist, Office of Policy & Analysis at the Smithsonian Institution, moderated the discussion, featuredRichard Kurin (left), Under Secretary for History, Art and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution, and David Eisner (right), President and CEO of the National Constitution Center.
They discussed how the museum experience can itself be a representation of democratic principles. At the Smithsonian, Kurin oversees the Sackler, Freer, Cooper-Hewitt, Hirshhorn, and Renwick museums, as well as the national museums of American, African, African American, and American Indian art, history, and culture. A prolific author, he has directed the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage for two decades. David Eisner was formerly a Presidential appointee as CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Federal agency overseeing AmeriCorps, VISTA, and other national service programs. Prior to that he was a senior executive at AOL Time Warner and America Online, where he established and directed the AOL Foundation.