The Jewish Mu­seum London has at­tracted im­pres­sive fund­ing and vis­i­tor num­bers, but it needs more of both

The Jewish Chronicle - - Front Page -

Asow, there is a pal­pa­ble buzz of ex­cite­ment. The 150 or so guests are throng­ing the build­ing, in par­tic­u­lar the gallery space where Pas­sow’s work is ex­hib­ited. The at­mos­phere chimes well with the mu­seum’s aim of cre­at­ing a vi­brant ed­u­ca­tional and cul­tural cen­tre, wel­com­ing to ev­ery­one.

Nonethe­less, these are chal­leng­ing times for the Cam­den Town in­sti­tu­tion — the harsh eco­nomic cli­mate is hav­ing its ef­fect. “I think is it the same for all arts and cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions. It does have an im­pact,” re­flects di­rec­tor Rickie Bur­man.

What makes it more dif­fi­cult is that the mu­seum does not re­ceive any gov­ern­ment fund­ing. “Most other Euro­pean Jewish mu­se­ums do, but we don’t,” says Bur­man. This means it has to charge vis­i­tors for en­try and has to rely on con­tri­bu­tions from donors, pa­trons, char­i­ta­ble trusts and lega­cies to sur­vive. “It is fun­da­men­tal to en­able us to carry out our work,” says Bur­man.

She hopes the po­si­tion will change but “un­til we re­ceive gov­ern­ment fund­ing, there’s all the more em­pha­sis on en­cour­ag­ing the Jewish com­mu­nity to sup­port the mu­seum. I am told that peo­ple love the mu­seum but at the same time there are peo­ple who say they keep mean­ing to visit. More work has to be done in turn­ing pas­sive in­ter­est into ac­tive in­ter­est and in­volve­ment.”

Chang­ing ex­hi­bi­tions is one way to at­tract re­peat-vis­i­tors and the aim is to have at least two ex­hi­bi­tions a year. But, un­like other mu­se­ums, there does not ap­pear to be a planned rolling pro­gramme in place. Once again, fund­ing is a crit­i­cal fac­tor. Bur­man says that, long term, the hope is to set up a ded­i­cated ex­hi­bi­tion fund which will put an end to the cur­rent ar­range­ment of hav­ing to “take each one step by step”.

In spite of the on­go­ing fi­nan­cial is­sues, there have been suc­cesses. Any week­day visit is likely to co­in­cide with a school-group trip and Bur­man de­scribes the mu­seum’s con­tri­bu­tion to in­ter­faith un­der­stand­ing through its ed­u­ca­tional work as “hav­ing a re­ally ben­e­fi­cial im­pact. Ninety per cent of the schools that visit are not Jewish”.

Pro­fes­sor David Cesarani, the his­to­rian and mem­ber of the mu­seum’s ad­vi­sory coun­cil, be­lieves that non-jews can get a huge amount from vis­it­ing. The mu­seum “con­veys a sense that be­ing Jewish is a way of life that is full of won­der­ful things, and not sim­ply a re­li­gious cal­en­dar”, he says.

Feed­back from a vis­it­ing group of Year 9 girls who were part of a 90-strong, mixed school group from The Coop­ers’ Com­pany and Coborn School in Up­min­ster, seems to en­dorse his view. One pupil de­scribed some of the dis­plays FTER A £10 mil­lion, ma­jor re­de­vel­op­ment, and amid na­tional pub­lic­ity, on March 17 2010, the Jewish Mu­seum London re­opened its doors.

Two years on, at the launch of its lat­est ex­hi­bi­tion, No Place Like Home: Pho­to­graphs by Ju­dah Pas-

The mu­seum’s Wel­come Gallery ( above); ( left) from the ex­hi­bi­tion of pho­to­graphs by Ju­dah Pas­sow of Jewish life in 21st-cen­tury Bri­tain


Chief ex­ec­u­tive Abi­gail Mor­ris

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