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Two years ago, researchers with the Center for Jewish Art at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem surveyed the many synagogues built across Siberia. Over the course of the expedition, they found a large number of the sacred buildings, long abandoned, in ruins or on the verge of collapse. Jewish cemeteries, too, were largely neglected and filled with fallen tombstones. The team documented and photographed each site, in addition to speaking with local communities about the need to preserve them; their images are now part of the Bezalel Narkiss Index of Jewish Art, a recently launched website that represents the world’s largest online database of Jewish art.
Made public by the Center in August, the website features over 260,000 entries that catalogue a wide range of objects, artifacts, and sites from 41 countries, dating from antiquity to recent years. Over one-third of them are characterized as Jewish Ritual Architecture — such as synagogues, palaces, and houses — while researchers have organized the rest into five other groups: Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts, Sacred and Ritual Objects, Jewish Cemeteries, Ancient Jewish Art, and Modern Jewish Art. The database is fully searchable by these categories but also by keyword, date, artist, location, community, and school or style.
The images of paintings, sculptures, architectural drawings, and much more are the fruits of the Center’s own 30-year effort to document Jewish art kept in museums, private collections, synagogues, and other cultural institutions. Since its establishment in 1979, the Center has recruited a small group of professionals and graduate students who have traveled around the world to seek out objects and buildings; their travels have brought them to cemeteries in Egypt, a modernist synagogue in Croatia, and museums of all kinds, from the Omsk State History Museum in Russia to the Ulcinj Museum of Archaeology in Montenegro. The collection required an additional six years to digitize.
Unfortunately some of the buildings and objects on the website no longer exist or may be nearly impossible to access. At times, the team photographed artworks at auction before they disappeared into private collections. More than documenting Jewish art, the index is preserving it as much as possible. It represents a much-needed, unparalleled resource for researchers or anyone simply interested in learning about Jewish art around the world.
“Jewish culture is largely perceived as a culture of texts and ideas, not of images,” Dr. Vladimir Levin, the Center’s director, said in a statement. “As the largest virtual Jewish museum in the world, the Index of Jewish Art is a sophisticated tool for studying visual aspects of Jewish heritage. We hope that making this Index available will lead to further in-depth study of primary sources, and serve as an enduring launching pad for the study of the historical and cultural significance of Jewish art for many years to come.”
The Center is now gearing up to share more major projects later this year. It will soon publish Synagogues of Ukraine: Volhynia, a monograph by Dr. Sergey Kravtsov and Dr. Vladimir Levin that covers 39 extant and 302 vanished synagogues in the Eastern European country. In November, it will launch the first-ever inventory of all the historic synagogues around Europe. The ambitious project is a joint effort with the Foundation for Jewish Heritage, and will provide an assessment of each building’s significance and condition.
Editor’s Note: This endorsement is part of a special edition that Hyperallergic published on the ongoing legal case to return the photos of Renty and Delia Taylor to their descendants. * * * Your Honour — On April 11, 2018, The New York Times published a report on the differential outcomes for maternal and infant…
he ownership of images has a long and nuanced legal history, which has evolved dramatically in recent years as cultural standards and photographic technologies have rapidly advanced
The show, which honors the 50th anniversary of an exhibition history once ignored, continues a series of projects documenting Wilmington’s contemporary art scene.
Renty and his daughter Delia. Renty was an enslaved African, kidnapped from the Congo, sold and forced into slave labor on the South Carolina plantation of B.F. Taylor
What is the relation between possessing a person, possessing their image, and dispossessing their progeny
As a scholar of African American history and photography whose work has focused on the status of violent images in museums and archives, I fully support the validity of Ms. Tamara Lanier’s claim and the amicus brief.
Two K-12 art teachers will each receive a $1,000 cash gift and an additional $500 to put toward classroom art supplies. Nominations are due October 31.
The daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor, Delia, Drana, Alfred, Jack, George Fassena, and Jem remained in an unused storage cabinet until 1975, when it was discovered by an employee of the Peabody Museum.
I am writing in support of the amicus curiae brief submitted by Professor Ariella Aïsha Azoulay of Brown University for the full restitution of the daguerreotypes of Renty Taylor and his daughter Delia, currently held by Harvard University, to their familial descendant, Tamara Lanier.
We cannot be indifferent to the long-lasting effects of photography. The photographs at the center of Lanier v. Harvard are relentless in making Renty and Delia Taylor work and perform as slaves. The pain inflicted on them has not ceased. Photography has the capacity to propagate harm, and we have the moral obligation to interrupt…