“Seeing the Voices”: On the Visual Representation of Texts in Jewish Museums

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I share observations from two ethnographic studies conducted during the last eight years in Jewish heritage museums, where collective Jewish identity is displayed and performed, visualized and textualized. I show the visual pervasiveness of texts (historical and contemporary) at these museums, and that these texts indeed amount to the most popular category of artifacts presented as display. In other words, I show that texts or textual (discursive) artifacts play a central role in the visual organization of these Jewish museums, as they are (re)presented, (re)mediated and (re)materialized. I then move to inquire into texts that visitors inscribe, i.e. texts which visitors produce in situ and which are on display. Taking a visual and cultural approach to these museums and to the texts that are publically presented therein, my ethnographies shed light on contemporary visualizations of Jewish texts, as well as—on a different level—on multimodalities and visual designs of the texts themselves. The folkloric view of Jewish visual culture and imagery is examined within an institutional context, as an emerging cultural production that manifests dialectic recourse to the Jewish museums that afford its production.

“Seeing the Voices”: On the Visual Representation of Texts in Jewish Museums

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References

2

Paul Prior“Tracing Process: How Texts Come Into Being,” in What Writing Does and How it Does it: An Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practiceseds. Charles Bazerman and Paul Prior. (Mahwah N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates2006) 169.

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For instance Tamar KatrielPerforming the Past: A Study of Israeli Settlement Museums (Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates1997); Sharon Macdonald ed. A Companion to Museum Studies (Malden Mass.: Blackwell 2006); Scott Laderman Tours of Vietnam: War Travel Guides and Memory (Durham: Duke University Press 2009); Greg Dickinson Carole Blair and Brian L. Ott eds. Places of Public Memory: The Rhetoric of Museums and Memorials (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press 2010).

6

Susan StewartOn Longing: Narratives of the Miniature the Gigantic the Souvenir the Collection (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press1984).

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See Chaim Noy“Mediation Materialized: The Semiotics of a Visitor Book at an Israeli Commemoration Site.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 25.2 (2008): 175–195; and idem “Writing Ideology: Hybrid Symbols in a Commemorative Visitor Book in Israel.” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 18.1 (2008): 62–81.

13

Eric Laurier and Angus Whyte“ ‘I Saw You’: Searching for Lost Love via Practices of Reading, Writing and Responding,” Sociological Research Online 6 (May 2001) paragraph 2.2.

14

Jan Blommaert“Writing as a Problem: African Grassroots Writing, Economies of Literacy, and Globalization.” Language in Society 33.5 (2004) 654.

15

Ernst. H. GombrichThe Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art (London: Phaidon Press1984) 233.

26

See NoyThank You for Dying73–92.

Figures

  • View in gallery
    Pages/Spreads from the Ammunition Hill Visitor Book of 1994–1995, Jerusalem, 2006–2012. Photograph by Chaim Noy.
  • View in gallery
    Pages/Spreads from the Ammunition Hill Visitor Book of 1994–1995, Jerusalem, 2006–2012. Photograph by Chaim Noy.
  • View in gallery
    Event logo, Textually Visualizing Jewishness at Christmas, National Museum of American Jewish History, http://www.nmajh.org, accessed December 23, 2014. Photograph by Chaim Noy.
  • View in gallery
    The ‘Being _____ at Christmas’ board (detail), National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, 2014. Photograph by Chaim Noy.
  • View in gallery
    Writing supplies: colorful papers and markers, National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, 2014. Photograph by Chaim Noy.
  • View in gallery
    Reaching high: “WAY, WAY TOP,” National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia, 2014. Photograph by Chaim Noy.

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