The wide-ranging survey of Jewish Museums in Europe carried out by Dr. Brigitte Sion of the Rothschild Foundation (Hanadiv) Europe has been published online, following its formal presentation at the annual conference of the Association of European Jewish Museums. (We published a preview of it earlier this month, linking to an article by Dr. Sion summarizing the report.)
There are more than 130 Jewish museums in Europe — of all types, from big state, municipal or other public institutions such as the POLIN museum in Warsaw and the Jewish Museum in Berlin, to small private initiatives or museums run by Jewish communities. Some are high-tech or have thousands of items and artifacts; others are small displays; for others, the synagogue or other building in which they are situated is the primary exhibit.
The survey states its goals were manifold:
We aimed to generate a comprehensive picture of the Jewish museum landscape across Europe, and to identify the most pressing issues,challenges and needs faced by these institutions. We wanted to learn about the mission, philosophy and methodology of Jewish museums, and better understand their role and position in the cultural and educational realm at large.
We were also interested in the level of professionalization of Jewish museums, both in staff training, collection preservation and cataloguing, management, and the ways in which Jewish museums communicate and arrange partnerships with one another. With a better understanding of these issues, we want now to assess the resources needed and the funding priorities for the next five to ten years.
The questionnaire was sent to 120 institutions in 34 countries and we received 64 completed forms from 30 countries. The questions addressed eleven broad topics: organisation, collections, permanent and temporary exhibitions, facility, visitor services, public programmes, visitor demographics, marketing and PR, finances, future plans and needs.
This diverse sample enabled us to get, for the first time, a quasi-comprehensive picture of the Jewish museum landscape in Europe, from small community museums to landmarks of “starchitecture;” from institutions boasting thousands of rare objects to others mostly text panels — or technology-based; from museums employing scores of professional staff and interns to synagogues-turned-exhibition halls run by volunteers for a few hours a month.
That was precisely the challenge: the large and numerous discrepancies between institutions, depending on their location, their financial and human resources, their political and economic context, the type of visitors they receive, and other contextual considerations.
The results point to four major findings:
1. Transition from museums to multi-purpose hubs;
2. Lack of collaboration and partnerships;
3. Tension between particularistic and universalistic missions;
4. Increasing need to serve a diverse audience