Page 109 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 47

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GOLD /A SIGN AND A WITNESS: THE MAKING OF AN EXHIBITION
101
FIRST STEPS
If this sounds impressionistic, it is, nevertheless, a fact that
the project was realized by careful planning and the hard work
of many people. It began with the organization of an Exhibitions
Program at The Library under Diantha D. Schull and the res­
toration of the original exhibition gallery, which, in the
nineteen-forties, had been partitioned off to create office space.
Restored to its former glory, the gallery was reopened on May
24, 1984 as the D. Samuel and Jeane H. Gottesman Exhibition
Hall. This was one part of President Vartan Gregorian’s design
to make The Library a place where the joy of learning is shared
and celebrated. Earlier that year, from January 6 through
March 9, “Jewish Life in America,” a panel exhibition of pho­
tographs prepared by Allon Schoener and sponsored by the
Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and the American Jew­
ish Historical Society was shown in The Library’s Astor Hall
and was very favorably received. There was now a feeling in
the air that a major Jewish exhibition ought to be planned. This
crystallized around the suggestion of j3y Ungerleider-Mayerson
that we seriously consider applying for the loan of a Dead Sead
Scroll and building an exhibition around it. The rest, as they
say, is history.
We decided to present the Hebrew book from the time of
the Dead Sea Scrolls to the present. Because of the nature of
The Library’s collections and because of the library setting, the
idea of an exhibition of the book was preferred to one on ar­
chaeology, for example. Awareness of the importance of visual
interest, so that the exhibition would appeal to as broad a public
as possible, led to the conclusion that illuminated manuscripts
should be a major component. From this it followed that almost
half of the books exhibited would have to be borrowed. For
while The Library has a very rich collection of Hebrew printed
books, it holds only a few decorated Hebrew manuscripts. Very
early on a planning grant was sought, without success, from
the National Endowment for the Humanities. Nevertheless, the
work moved forward. As it progressed a rough formula
evolved: about half of 185 items shown would be printed books
and about half manuscripts, and these would be mostly dec­
orated ones; roughly half of the books would come from the
collections of The New York Public Library and half would