The Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust is opening the Keeping History Center, which presents the Museum's ideas and collections in a state-of-the-art, interactive, digital visitor experience. This is the first permanent addition to the Museum since the Robert M. Morgenthau Wing was opened in 2003. The Center will open to the public on November 6.
The Keeping History Center, which is being designed by C&G Partners and Potion, will occupy the space at the culmination of the special exhibition hall, a 2,200-square-foot area that has panoramic views of New York Harbor and the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps more than any other space in the building, the Keeping History Center is the link between the Museum's subject matter and its powerful symbolic neighbors.
"Our Core Exhibition is a compelling and powerful, personal experience, but visitors need opportunities to actively participate in the stories it tells," said Ivy L. Barsky, Deputy Director of the Museum. "The Keeping History Center will maintain the Museum's groundbreaking approach of transmitting history through individual stories and voices. The Center will encourage visitors to add their own voices, and ‘curate' experiences for themselves based on their own curiosity, interests, and family history," Barsky said.
Jonathan Alger, a founding partner at New York-based C&G said, "Our goal for this installation is to provide a museum experience unlike any other and allow visitors to look, see, and interact with one another while contributing their own thoughts and stories. Its location at the end of the special exhibition hall allowed us to provide a cohesive and memorable experience for visitors while taking full advantage of the panoramic views of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty to enhance this contemplative space."
About the Keeping History Center
The Center will be created in two phases. With content accessible via multiple physical structures including touch tables, dynamic databases, electronic books, and MP3 players, each unit will encourage social interaction among visitors - teachers, students, families, and the general public - as they learn and create experiences together using state-of-the-art interactive tools.
The first part, which will open to the public on November 6, includes Voices of Liberty and a virtual exploration of Andy Goldsworthy's Garden of Stones.
Voices of Liberty is a soundscape made up of diverse voices reacting to arriving in America for the first time. While overlooking the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visitors will walk through the exhibition as they listen to the moving stories provided via an iPod Touch and triggered automatically by an electronic (RFID) system. The voices include Holocaust survivors who sought refuge here in the 1940s after having lost everything in Europe, Soviet refuseniks arriving here in the 1980s seeking religious freedom, and other individuals with pertinent stories. The emotional, moving testimony is culled from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, the Museum's collections, and other sources. It will include the capacity for visitors to add their own responses to seeing the harbor, or their own stories of arrival in the United States.
The other exhibit in Phase I explores Andy Goldsworthy's sculpture, Garden of Stones, the Museum's memorial garden, which demonstrates how elements of nature can survive in seemingly impossible places. As a living memorial, the Garden helps remember those who perished and is a tribute to the struggle for survival, experienced by those who endured. This contemplative space is meant to be revisited and experienced differently over time as the Garden matures, and viewed as well as cared for by future generations.
The interactive, entitled Garden of Stones Timekeeper, uses a time-lapse camera to record each moment in the sculpture's life. A dial on the display's interface allows visitors to move the screen image backwards and forwards, in order to watch the trees' growth through time and across seasons: from bare branches to lush leaves. Visitors will also be able to watch footage of Goldsworthy as he creates each element of the memorial.
In 2011, the Keeping History Center will also include Mining the Collections and Family History.
Mining the Collections will allow visitors to explore not only the stories and artifacts found in the Core Exhibition, but also objects, documents, photographs, and video testimonies that are usually unavailable to Museum visitors. Small "curated" digital exhibits will be created by staff and visitors alike. The program will allow for a variety of constituents to contribute their ideas and impressions about the subject matter.
Family History consists of personal timelines, extracted from the life histories featured in the Museum's book To Life: 36 Stories of Memory and Hope (a volume of powerful artifacts and stories from the Core Exhibition) as well as from JewishGen, the largest database of Jewish genealogy on the web. Visitors will contribute their own relevant data to the network. The result will resemble a tapestry that is interactive and searchable. Visitors are welcome to use touch screens to learn more about a specific individual, period in time, or country. This exploration, in the context of Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust, will offer individuals and families a starting point for piecing together their own history and how it relates to a larger historical continuum.
The Keeping History Center, dedicated by Morton Pickman in memory of Morris and Fannie Pickman, is made possible by a generous grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; with additional support from New York State Senator Eric T. Schneiderman.
About C&G Partners
C&G Partners was founded by Steff Geissbuhler, Keith Helmetag, Jonathan Alger, and Emanuela Frigerio. The partners' cumulative history includes the creation of some of the world's most recognizable experiences, images, spaces, and icons. Planning and design of exhibitions and environments is a particular specialty. Recently, they have completed major projects for Griffith Observatory, National Parks of New York Harbor, the Museum of American Finance, Voice of America, New York University, and the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration. Currently, the firm is working with the World Trade Center Memorial Foundation, the New York Yankees, the Signature Theatre Company, American Express, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, to name a few.
The firm employs an interdisciplinary team of exhibit designers, architects, graphic and signage designers, strategists, and interactive designers. In 2007, C&G Partners was a finalist for the National Design Award given by the Smithsonian. In 2006, partner Steff Geissbuhler was honored with the medal of the American Institute of Graphic Arts, the highest honor of the profession.
Founded by graduates of the MIT Media Laboratory, Potion is a design and technology firm specializing in interactive installations. Potion's strength lies in the creation of aesthetic solutions that utilize the most recent technologies available. By seamlessly integrating digital processes into physical structures, Potion enables the design of spaces that inform, educate, and entertain. Their process is to translate clients' needs into dynamic, visual systems that can be presented at any scale. These solutions can take the form of a contemplative, interactive table or a stunning, five-story façade. At Potion, every surface is a potential display, every object a potential interface, and every gesture a potential command.
Potion's clients include the National Museum of American History, the Museum at Eldridge Street, the University of Pennsylvania, the National World War I Museum, Clo Wine Bar, and Adour at the St. Regis.
"Potion is excited to be involved in the creation of the new Keeping History Center," said Jared Schiffman, a partner at Potion. "The historic setting is a natural stage for connecting the past to the present and future through the combined effects of design and technology."