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Jewish Britain: A History in 50 Objects, where each object tells a story about the history of the Jewish community in Britain from Medieval to modern times.
As part of an 18 month project, a small curatorial team uploaded and categorised images of the Museum’s most prized objects, building a visually stimulating and coherent narrative of over 350 years of Jews in Britain. The exhibition covers six key themes: Working Lives & Trades, Sport & Leisure, Charity & Welfare, London’s East End, Growing Up and Regional Communities. Each object is accompanied with historical points of reference, additional images from the same period and, where available, how the object came to be in the Museum’s collection.
Objects of particular note include the London Jewish Bakers’ Union Banner, a 13th century Medieval mikveh (Jewish ritual bath), a 1930s camera from the legendary East End wedding photographer, Boris Bennett, and a 17th century portrait of Menasseh ben Israel by Rembrandt. There are also a number of objects from the Museum’s Judaica (Jewish ritual art) collection, recognised as one of the finest in the world, and awarded ‘Designated’ status from the Museums, Libraries & Archives Council, in recognition of its outstanding national importance.
Elizabeth Selby, Curator of Social History at the Jewish Museum says: “The Museum holds around 28,000 objects and, as with similar organisations, we are unable to display them all. However, by digitising our collections in this way, we can share our knowledge and passion for British Jewish history with a far wider audience, both in the UK and internationally.
“Each object is a gateway into British Jewish history and we hope that those who visit the online exhibition will gain a better insight into how Jewish people have lived within and contributed to British life over the last 350 years.”
This is the second online exhibition to be developed by the Jewish Museum, after the success of Yiddish Theatre in London, which explores the rich theatre form brought by Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe in the late 19th century.
Elizabeth Selby concludes: “This has been a fascinating project to work on and sharing our collection with a global online audience is a really important progression for the Museum. The main challenge we faced was actually narrowing the selection to only 50, as we have so many exceptional objects here, whilst at the same time ensuring as broad a history as possible was being told.”
This exhibition has been produced as part of the Judaica Europeana project, co-funded by the European Commission. The aim of the project is to identify content documenting Jewish presence and heritage in European cities and to make it available on the Europeana website. The Jewish Museum London is one of a number of partner organisations contributing content.
Jewish Britain: A History in 50 Objects can be found at www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/jewish-britain-home
Yiddish Theatre in London can be found at http://www.jewishmuseum.org.uk/Yiddish-Theatre-in-London
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