Wednesday, July 21, 2010

NY Times on the Israel Museum

The string of articles on the newly renovated Israel Museum continues, this one from the New York Times:

For the last 45 years, the Israel Museum has been both the crown jewel of this country’s cultural heritage and a bit of a mess. It has the most extensive holdings of land-of-Israel archaeology anywhere (including a heel bone pierced by an iron nail with wood fragments, the world’s only physical evidence of crucifixion), an encyclopedic collection of Judaica and an exceptional group of Modernist artworks. It sits on a 20-acre campus atop a hill at Jerusalem’s western entrance, holding pride of place along with the architectural and national landmarks that surround it, including the Knesset, or parliament, and the Supreme Court.

But as any past visitor can attest, finding one’s way around the museum’s art and archaeology has not been easy. Visits have begun with an uphill trek from a parking lot exposed to the hot sun and, inside the galleries, a feeling of being overwhelmed by quantity and mildly perplexed about substance.

That is about to change. On Monday the museum opens new galleries and public spaces. There will be far fewer objects on display, with twice the space to view them, as well as richer links and explanations. In some of the new spaces soft light enters through filtered glass walls, the Jerusalem landscape a dreamy background presence. And a climate-controlled path leads to a central concourse from which the works can be reached.

The idea is not simply to make the museum easier to navigate but also to suggest interesting connections among objects and between the particular and the universal. That is never an easy task in this city of stones, where each culture has long sought dominance and where the interplay between preservation and transformation causes endless heartache.

The article also notes that the renovation was completed on time and on budget.  It’s hard to overstate the significance of this achievement.   The full article is here.



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