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CAJM 2017  Transcending Boundaries: Redefining the Museum Experience

MARCH 19-21, 2017

Museums of all kinds are in the business of transformation and transcendence. While their artifacts and storylines often point to a shared past, audiences also count on museums to illuminate, elevate, and reposition materials and stories as heightened experiences. However, today’s museums are often ill-equipped to meet the expectations of the new experience economy.

Temple Israel of BostonVilna ShulMuseum of Fine Arts BostonYiddish Book Center

In an age when Jewish museums are facing great shifts in communities and constituents, audience expectations, and the communication of ideas, museum professionals must prepare themselves to provide information and experiences using different skill sets and mindsets. Our institutions will still be counted upon to preserve and present the best of our shared material culture, but  design, insights, dialog, and experiences offered must also be key aspects of our delivery systems. Museums can no longer simply be the collectors and keepers of our heritage; they must also be dynamic environments and centers for cultural exploration.

For Jewish cultural institutions, the equation at hand includes a look at surrounding community resources. When does a city need a Jewish museum? How do synagogues, art museums, university programs, JCCs, and archives do similar work—and what partnership opportunities exist? Ultimately, what can a Jewish museum do differently, and what should a Jewish museum experience look like in the 21st century?

In Boston and Amherst, many of our colleagues and institutions overlap the museum world, while prioritizing different frameworks: the Jewish Women’s Archive focuses on audio recordings; the Yiddish Book Center surveys and digitizes a disappearing literature; the New Center for Arts and Culture now focuses on programs; and sites such as the Vilna Shul and Mayyim Hayyim focus on a living Judaism. While these organizations are, themselves, also growing and changing, they offer alternate forums for our feedback and new conversations.

CAJM will provide bus transport to and from Amherst on the Monday of the conference.

Over three days, we will discuss challenges, opportunities, and strategies in creating alternate encounters with Jewish culture, to stimulate new thinking for the future of Jewish museums. The conference won’t assume to know an ideal model, but will look to a wide range of examples and techniques to allow members to reconsider strategies for their work. Importantly, we will look beyond extant examples to also consider what the coming decades hold as well. As museum professionals explore and consider the possibilities inherent in transcending museum boundaries, they’ll share ideas about their next iterations and the nature of the experiences they can offer.