Summer Internships 2013: Cataloguing Jewish History
This summer, history major Rilka Spieler ’14 worked as an intern in the registration department of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia with the support of Haverford’s John B. Hurford '60 Center for the Arts and Humanities.
At the Museum of American Jewish History, the registration and curatorial departments work together to coordinate and create exhibits. As a registration department intern, Spieler dealt with the more technical aspect of exhibit creation, including working with the artifacts.
Spieler’s main charge was to catalogue and research the materials in the Margaret Anne collection, donated by a Jewish woman of German ancestry from the South. The artifacts and recorded histories, which date from the mid-19th century to the present day, tell about the donor’s family’s experiences and offer little-known stories of small-town southern Jewish life. In order to determine the best way to exhibit a given artifact, a museum must conduct extensive research about it, providing patrons and researchers with as much information as possible. “Essentially, if we are to own the object, we don’t want to have any holes in our knowledge about the object,” says Spieler.
In addition to her work on the Margaret Anne collection, which she wrote about on the HCAH’s Decentered blog, Spieler has been performing upkeep on some of the standing exhibits, doing daily checks and rotating objects from storage to display and vice-versa. “This way, we can allow artifacts to ‘rest’ and preserve their condition so that they’ll still be in good enough condition to be displayed in museums for years to come,” says Spieler, who notes that the museum has over 25,000 artifacts, only about 750 of which are on display at any one time.
—Ben Weissman '14