Time Capsules. The Magnes: 10 Years at UC Berkeley
2121 Allston Way | Berkeley , CA
In celebrating a decade at UC Berkeley, Time Capsules revisits ten out of the over thirty exhibitions presented since The Magnes opened the doors of its new academic home to the public. These exhibitions relied on its extensive, and ever-growing, holdings of art, books, manuscripts, and material culture, as well as different modalities in which these materials can be studied and displayed: from curatorial and scholarly forays into the collection to research projects created in collaboration with UC Berkeley Graduate and Undergraduate students, to real-life experiments with ideas borne out of courses and seminars. Each exhibition featured in Time Capsules is unique in exploring the cultures of the Jews in a global perspective, in bringing museum objects “back to life,” and in offering ever-changing ways to understand the past in order to inform the future.
Time Capsules revisits the following ten exhibitions:
The Inventory Project
The Inventory Project (2012), a collaboration between The Magnes and Jeffrey Shandler (Rutgers University) offered an unconventional take on The Magnes Collection’s multidimensional holdings.
The Peachy and Mark Levy Family Judaica Collection
In 2015, The Magnes welcomed the gift of the Peachy and Mark Levy Family Judaica Collection, which represents the largest donation of objects–400 ritual objects–to The Magnes since its founding in 1962, and the largest addition to its holdings since the purchase of the Siegfried S. Strauss collection in 1967.
Sound Objects (2013) combined the study of Jewish material culture with the emerging field of sound studies and investigated the role of objects that emit sound during synagogue rituals.
I-Tal-Yah (2016) presented a selection of manuscripts, books, ritual objects, textiles, photographs and postcards collected by The Magnes over five decades to investigate the global significance of Jewish history in Italy.
Case Study 1
For Case Study No. I (2012), The Magnes staff discovered and re-encountered art and artifacts that were packed away in storage during the construction and collection move.
Pièces de Résistance
Centering on coins in The Magnes Collection, Pièces de Résistance (2018) explored how the Jewish revolts against Hellenism and the Roman occupation of Palestine (Judaea Capta) echo in rituals, art, and everyday life from antiquity into the present.
The Secret Language of Flowers
The Secret Language of Flowers (2015) displays unique botanical drawings by Shmuel (Samuel) Lerner (1890-1981). His drawings open a unique window into the landscape, the history and the languages of Israel in the period immediately following the establishment of the State.
Living by the Book
Developed with Daniel Fisher (PhD 2018), then a Graduate Student in Near Eastern Studies, Living by The Book (2015) focused on the role of the Bible in Jewish life: as text and as a physical object, as well as in its impact on material culture, through objects that accompany the everyday experience of Jewish life.
Curated in collaboration with Barbara Johnson (Ithaca College), Global India: Kerala, Israel, Berkeley (2013) highlights The Magnes’s extensive holdings documenting the history of the Jewish community in Kerala, South India, collected in the 1960s and 70s.
For thousands of years, food rituals have been essential to constructing and maintaining Jewish identities throughout the diaspora. Gourmet Ghettos: Modern Food Rituals, (2014) explored the broader linkages between food, ritual, identity, and activism that inform Jewish life.
Through the Zooming In Spring 2021 Series: Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi reflected on the exhibitions revisited in Time Capsules, highlighting insights and connections within its holdings.
Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Gal Kochavi
Undergraduate Curatorial Apprentice:
Major support for The Magnes comes from the Helzel Family Foundation, the Magnes Museum Foundation, The Magnes Leadership Circle, and the The Office of the Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley.