The display cases at the very center of The Magnes building are designed to unleash the curatorial mind by presenting diverse collection items, a variety of display modes, and a wide range of perspectives. This is the ideal platform for the Case Study exhibition series, conceived as a “scholar’s playground.” Each year, UC Berkeley faculty, graduate students and visiting scholars will collaborate with the curators of The Magnes in creating collection-based exhibitions based on emerging research.
It is our privilege to inaugurate the series with an exhibition created in collaboration with Jeffrey Shandler, Professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers, a leading figure in the study of modern Jewish culture. The Inventory Project draws on his current research on the role of inventory as a practice of modern Jewish life and offers an unconventional look at The Magnes Collection’s multi-dimensional archive, library, and museum holdings.
In the course of several months, Jeffrey Shandler and I explored the collection in search of a variety of items that relate to the act of inventorying. We highlight here rosters, calendars, glossaries, and maps, but also ritual objects, items of clothing, postcards, souvenir books, and restaurant menus. These objects were created by Jews in Europe, Israel and the Americas, as well as North Africa, the Middle East and India, to take stock of their own activities and social status, to celebrate themselves and their communities, or to cope with immigration and exile. At times, they were also the product of the “other”—as in the emblematic case of the bureaucratic apparatus of the Spanish Inquisition—devised to account for Jewish particularism.
Each of the eighty items in the exhibition is subject to a multiplicity of views and interpretations. Accompanying the physical display, digital components online and on-site will allow for the growing understanding of a phenomenon that, as Jeffrey Shandler writes, is a “defining practice of modern Jewish culture, although seldom recognized as such.”
Read the exhibition catalog
Professor Shandler’s research at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life has been supported by the American Academy for Jewish Research.