The Diaspora Museum is turning into the Museum of the Jewish People. Ann Goldberg takes a look
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Big changes do not happen overnight, which is why Beit Hatfutsot, formerly known as the Diaspora Museum, is still in the midst of its far reaching, long-term programme of renewal.
By 2014, its core (main) exhibition will have been changed to reflect its new name, the Museum of the Jewish People. It will no longer concentrate only on the Jewish people in the Diaspora, but will begin from the dawn of the Jewish people in biblical times.
Beginning with our patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, travelling through the lives and times of the judges and prophets, the museum will cover life in Israel and our exiles, using the latest museum technologies to bring our story to life. The interactive and educational exhibition will introduce visitors young and old to their history in an exciting and thought-provoking fashion and will cover what unites us and what divides us as a people.
It incorporates "thinking posts", where visiting groups and classes will be encouraged to stop and discuss problems that have befallen us at various times in our history.
The Douglas E. Goldman Jewish Genealogy Centre remains a focal part of the museum. With more than three million names in the database and thousands of family genealogies, it is unique in its international database of Jewish families.
Many visitors fill in their online form or spend time in their centre when they visit, seeking out their roots.
One innovation that has already been introduced is The Family Gallery, inaugurated in July. Its intention is to enable all members of the family, whatever their ages, to participate, while putting the children at the very centre.
Hands-on interactive games and activities have the children laughing and playing without even realising how much they are learning as well.
The first exhibition, which will run for three years, is entitled A-B-See-Do - a journey to Hebrewland. This multi-sensory exhibition will enable children to see the development of the Hebrew language from Bible times to modern high-tech terminology. Jumping, card playing, computer generated games, letter pouring and word matching - all these and much more are used to highlight the development of communication through language.
Interactive displays show you how the Hebrew language has helped define the Jewish people throughout thousands of years.
With London hosting the next Olympic Games in 2012, visitors may find the exhibition Jews and Sports - The Game of their Lives, of particular interest.
This exhibition, which opens in January 2012, will cover the stories of Jewish athletic heroes of the 20th century, both before and after the Holocaust and the founding of the State of Israel, as well as current leading athletes and award-winning sports figures.