Jewish Museum appoints new chair as it unveils scheme to loan objects across community

The museum is one of 15 museums to have received funding to lend objects from its collections' stores


The Jewish Museum has appointed Nick Viner as its new chair as the institution unveiled a new seam of funding that would allow it to loan out objects from its collection to “individuals, groups and organisations”.  

Mr Viner, the founding chief executive of cultural centre JW3, takes over the role from interim chair and treasurer Tanya Persey.

Mr Viner said that he was “honoured” to have been appointed and looked forward to enabling the Jewish Museum to “realise its full potential”.

Ms Persey had filled the vacancy left by the resignation of its long-standing chair, Lord David Young.  

The Jewish Museum also announced that it had been awarded a grant of £28,000 from the Esmée Fairbairn Collections Fund to bring selected objects from its collection into community spaces, such as care homes, schools and synagogues, as well as people’s homes.  

The ‘Object Lending Library’ is designed to bring the public closer to museum collections during the period when physical access is restricted due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Imagine bringing new life to museum objects by housing them in your own environment,” the Jewish Museum said. “We will for the first time create a pathway for individuals, groups and organisations who want to borrow an object for a specific event.”

It added: “Imagine a family Chanukah where you can borrow an object brought to this country 100 years ago from the same place your own family migrated from. Imagine learning its history and seeing it intertwine with your own.”

Objects considered for a loan will be those that are suitable for travel and handling by those outside of the museum, as well as having “meaningful connections” to communities.

The Camden-based museum, which had been experiencing financial difficulties, has been closed since mid-March due to the pandemic.

The museum said that it was drawing-up plans for a ‘phased re-opening’ that would take into account the safety of visitors and health requirements, and would likely see certain visitors – such as school groups – having “separate access to the building”.

It said that it had undergone a process of “internal restructuring”, including making a number of staff redundant.

In April, the Jewish Museum received £195,000 from Arts Council England towards an interim business model that would involve a focus on educational initiatives during its closure.

In May, the museum announced that its exhibitions programme had been placed on a temporary hiatus as it refocused.

The Jewish Museum said that it had continued to engage and educate despite its physical closure and that its digital teaching platform had seen a 188 per cent increase in use compared to last year.

Nick Viner, the museum’s new chair, said: “Since lockdown began, I have been really impressed by the museum’s ability to shift seamlessly and expertly towards a virtual environment, and now it is very encouraging that it has received generous funding from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation to bring unseen objects out from the collection into a wide range of community spaces.

“I believe the Museum has a real opportunity at this time to deepen and broaden its links with the Community and strengthen its position as a vital resource and source of inspiration,” he continued.

Frances Jeens, the Jewish Museum’s interim director, added: “We are excited now to plan for reopening but we are mindful that people of all generations and all faiths come to our building to enjoy and learn, and we cannot reopen our doors until we can ensure everybody’s safety”.

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