Anniversaries are an occasion to reassure oneself. We did that in a variety of ways last year. For example, with our social media campaign “30 Jahre, 30 Geschichten” (30 years – 30 different histories) and with our symposium on 30 years of Jewish museology. Such forms of self-reflection serve less as a review than to a much greater extent as the foundation of our future. This is because the Jewish Museum is undergoing a process of fundamental renovation, comprising the redesign of our two permanent exhibitions, architectural, digital and programme expansion, as well as an organisational transformation.
A new museum is in the making
This is a one-time opportunity for a museum to be able to fundamentally renew and expand. In February 2012, Frankfurt city councillors adopted a fundamental resolution to rehabilitate and renovate the Jewish Museum. The municipal authorities approved the museum’s plans for a new centre of Jewish history and culture in summer 2015.
Since then, a new building has been under construction directly next to the Rothschild Palace in which the museum was first opened in 1988. The new building designed by the firm staab Architekten features an ample entrance area with two foyers, a museum shop, a museum café and an events room. The lower level of this new building will have 633 square metres of space to display future temporary exhibitions. The new library will be located in the first floor, which will house the museum’s archives, in particular the documents of the Frank Family Centre for viewing.
Dr. Mirjam Wenzel at the initial press conference on 14 January 2016
The reopening of the ensemble around the former Judengasse and of the museum complex on Untermainkai creates a unique centre for presenting Jewish culture in the past and the present, enabling the diversity of Jewish life to be explored in a visual, emotional and cognitive manner.
The first location of the Jewish Museum, the historical Rothschild Palace, is currently being rehabilitated and returned to its original room and building structure. In future, the Palace will house the permanent exhibition. It will offer three floors of Jewish history and culture in Frankfurt since the period of emancipation, with specific focal themes. The first part of this permanent exhibition is displayed in the Museum Judengasse. Ritual objects, books and papers and everyday items from the early modern period, a children’s space and audio stations, as well as the stone foundations of five historical houses give a lively insight into life in Europe’s first Jewish ghetto. The completely redesigned exhibition at the second location of the Jewish Museum was reopened in March 2016 and awarded the museum prize of the Savings Banks Association Hesse-Thuringia’s cultural foundation in the very same year.
Museum without walls
In recent years, we have been present with temporary platforms in the Frankfurt city area several times. On the Pop Up Boat and in the Pop Up Monument we chose a participatory approach to the topics and questions of the new Jewish Museum. In autumn 2018 we invited visitors to an Open House event on our museum's construction site to participate in the development of the new Jewish Museum on site.
Our temporary platforms demonstrate how we see ourselves – as a museum in transition. One that extends an invitation to its visitors in a transparent and open manner and that wants to remove any barriers. We combine this attitude in times of increasing verbal and physical violence with a mission. We see our own mission in strengthening intercultural understanding, facilitating the exploration of contemporary Jewish history and continuing to stimulate self-reflection. To this end, we have systematically expanded our activities around the city over the past three years and developed educational programmes that address societal diversity with a variety of low threshold participatory offerings aimed at counteracting rising anti-Semitism in schools.
We would like to realize our vision of being an open, transparent and networked museum through our educational offering, our varied forms of cooperation and our digital activities. We are convinced that networked action in the digital as well as social space can safeguard the further existence of open, enlightened and civilised societies in European cities in whose midst Jews want and can continue to live.