Leo Baeck Institute works to preserve and promote the history and culture of German-speaking Jews.
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Thanks to a gift from a trust under the will of Edythe Griffinger, LBI has begun work on a project that will highlight its art collection. The $100,000 grant will allow LBI to make the collection more accessible through the creation of a virtual art catalogue based on high-quality digital images of important holdings and a web portal that will allow the public to view artworks and artifacts that are rarely if ever on public display.
Although the collection encompasses about 8,000 objects, which range from significant works by artists such as Max Liebermann and Moritz Daniel Oppenheim to centuries-old ritual objects used in German-Jewish communities, only a small subset is currently available through DigiBaeck, LBI’s gateway to its digital collections.
“This has been effectively a hidden collection,” said LBI Art Curator Renata Stein. “In addition to the marquee works, we have an incredibly rich collection of objects that show the daily lives of German Jews, but many of them are difficult to put on public display.” She cited intricately woven bridal bonnets from the 18th century, banners of 19th -century Jewish fraternities, and brass Sabbath lamps used in Jewish homes as examples of items that the project will make accessible for the first time.
Executive Director William Weitzer said that cataloguing and digitizing these types of items will help not only students and scholars, but also professionals such as museum curators, documentary filmmakers, and educational publishers find and use the items. “By making our collection more accessible to a broad range of individuals and groups, our art and artifacts will be better utilized and the mission of LBI better known,” said Weitzer.
Project staff have begun conducting an inventory of high-priority items in the art collection and drafting a coding scheme that will aid access and discovery.