Explore The Magnes Collection

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life is today one of the world’s preeminent Jewish collections in a university setting. A unique “library of objects,” The Magnes is distinctively positioned to make Jewish art and material culture available to researchers through an innovative approach to collection access and display. The variety of its holdings and the design of its facilities enhance the university’s academic offerings, enabling an unprecedented view of Jewish and host cultures in the Global Diaspora.

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The holdings of The Magnes Collection are catalogued into three distinct areas, which together constitute the single collection: the Archives, the Library, and the Museum. This unique interdisciplinary understanding of the collection facilitates access to scholars by integrating the different descriptive standards applied to each area and thus offering a wide-angled perspective on Jewish history and culture.

The Magnes Collection veers from many of the traditional museological and cultural conventions adopted by Jewish cultural heritage institutions. Historically, Jewish art museums have attempted to enhance the cultural significance of Jewish material culture by displaying aesthetically pleasing objects of Jewish daily life, defining them as “art,” and addressing the evolving notions of Jewish art through issues of cultural identity rather than through shifting historical contexts. Instead, The Magnes asks its visitors to rethink the role of materiality in Jewish culture, and its relation to art. Rather than defining objects of Jewish daily life as art, The Magnes investigates Jewish material culture in its own right, focusing on its implications within Jewish life and its relations to other cultures. This approach provides a setting in which art and material culture can coexist, and enhances the study of Jewish culture in a highly interdisciplinary manner.

Lavater and Lessing Visit Moses Mendelssohn (1856) by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Jewish Art

The Jewish Art holdings provide a vivid depiction of the processes of Jewish integration into modern secular life since the mid-nineteenth century, and documents the ongoing debate about the definitions of Jewish identity in the modern world. Included in these holdings are painting and sculpture, photography, over two thousand works on paper, and film and digital media.

Lavater and Lessing Visit Moses Mendelssohn (1856) by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Jewish Life

The Jewish Life holdings document the intersection of the material and spiritual dimensions of the Jewish experience in the realm of personal and family rituals, in the context of synagogue and communal life, and in the social interactions among Jewish and host communities throughout Central and South-East Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and the Americas. Included in these holdings are textiles, costumes, metalwork, synagogue furnishings, objects relating to daily life, personal prayer, the life cycle, the Sabbath, and other holidays.

Explore the Collection

Uri Lifshitz (Israel 1926-2011), Cafe on the Square, n.d., 2019.2.16

Museum

The Museum encompasses Jewish Art and Jewish Life, including painting, works on paper, and digital media along with objects representing ritual, social interactions, and community.

rabbi-mayer-hirsch-with-barrels-sacramental-kosher-wine-during-prohibition

Archives

The Archives include manuscripts, photographs, personal papers, and institutional and professional records.

Amulet for the protection of pregnant women and newborn children

Library

The Library holdings include books from the global Jewish diaspora, reference and original materials about Jewish history in the American West, recordings, music books and manuscripts.

Prayer shawl bag

Database

Search the Collection

Online access to The Magnes Collection’s catalog records and digital images is available through an integrated archives, library, museum database.

– Search the database

How to view the Collection

The rich and diverse holdings of The Magnes are available for viewing, study, research, and sharing.

Scholars, students, teachers, and all others are invited to  access resources of The Magnes.

Souvenirs From Utopia Exhibition

The Magnes Holdings

Visit the museum in-person. Explore online The Magnes archive, library, and database

Bancroft Library installation

The Bancroft Library

Esther Scroll

Florence Helzel Collection Study

A study center for the holdings of The Magnes open to researchers by appointment.

Prayer shawl bag

DIGITAL MEDIA

The Magnes Collection on Flickr

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life has been on Flickr since 2007, thanks to a curatorial effort aimed at sharing collection information and encouraging collaborative projects online.

– Explore our Flickr images

Discover the unexpected at The Magnes

Textiles

Seder Plate [75.245]: Passover Seder plate engraved in honor of the 70th birthday of Louis Schlesinger (Racibórz, Poland, 1857)

Torah Ark Curtains

Textiles created to cover and adorn the Torah Ark.

Texts

Seder Plate [75.245]: Passover Seder plate engraved in honor of the 70th birthday of Louis Schlesinger (Racibórz, Poland, 1857)

The Karaite Canon

Manuscripts from Cairo, Egypt

Images

Painting [2014.2.1]: Portrait of David Hofstein, by M. Vaisberg (Ukraine, 1988)

Portraiture

Works by Ukrainian artist, Matvey Vaisberg.

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