“Taxidermied Jews?” History, Present and Future of Jewish Museums

  • religion
  • cultural history
  • post war history
  • judaica
  • 19th century
  • history
  • heritage
  • etnography

When the then chairman of the Jewish Community, Paul Grosz, was asked many years ago what he thought of the establishment of a Jewish Museum, he asked a bitter counter-question. Whether Jews should be marveled at there “like taxidermied Indians“?

Today, there are over 120 Jewish museums worldwide. However, even the definition of their designating adjective is by no means uniform. There are those to whom the institution itself is a Jewish one, to others the institution’s topic is Judaism – from the most diverse perspectives. For some, the adjective “Jewish” is unambiguous, for others, it is not just ambiguous but even full of contradictions. The question of definitions and perspectives are decisive for content and practices of museums – and thus also on the sovereignty of interpretation of what is “Jewish” in a social public sphere. The exhibition illuminates the history and present of the institution “Jewish Museum,” its collections and its canon – and thus reflects the urgent question of its role in society in the future.

An exhibition of the Jewish Museum Hohenems, in cooperation with the Saxon State Collections of Ethnography Leipzig, Dresden, and Herrnhut

Curated by Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek (Wien), Hannes Sulzenbacher (Wien).