What Are Museums for Anyway? Knesset Exhibit Celebrates Israel At 70

Museums were once thought to be treasure houses, warehouses, or curiosity cabinets. They were thought to be about their collections of objects and art. In those days museums, along with art and high culture generally, were the exclusive province of the elite and the expert.

No more. Museums have become democratized. They evolved from being about something to being for somebody. Today’s museums have educational and social roles, as this Knesset exhibit demonstrates. It aims to tell the story of Israeli culture and the State through works created in Israel or collected by its many museums.

Among the most moving images in the exhibit is this 20th century painting of a Yemenite boy by Tziona Tajar.

Yeminite Boy

It reminds the viewer of the ingathering of the exiles, of the multi-ethnic, culturally dynamic mix that combines and integrates to make Israel the exciting, vibrant country it is at 70.

If we look at museums with a post-modernist perspective, we can consider museum objects to be like texts whose meaning is completed by the act of reading. In the case of texts there will be as many versions as there are readers. Similarly, a museum object will acquire different meanings for each visitor who brings different viewpoints and memories, associations, expertise, assumptions and experiences.

One cannot help but project into the image of this lonely man of vision who, along with so many others, dedicated all the years of his life to founding the state. The exhibit honors his memory with this 1966 photo of Ben Gurion at Sde Boker By Micha Barom

About the Author
Renee Garfinkel, Ph.D. is a psychologist, television commentator and podcast host of the Van Leer Series on Ideas with Renee Garfinkel
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