Abby Pierron, 2008

Educator/Curator of the Michael Klein Collection, a collection of Judaica at The Temple, Congregation B'nai Jehudah in Overland Park

What do you do at the Michael Klein Collection? What kind of programming do you offer? Is it different from working at a congregational collection versus a public museum?

It's a very interesting job, different from my role [as education coordinator] at the Watkins [Museum of History]. I'm working with a very fine collection of Judaica--objects created in fulfillment of a commandment that Jews call "hiddur mitzvah," to glorify, or beautify, objects used in Jewish rituals. The objects in our collection range from everyday items found in Jewish homes (Sabbath candlesticks, Hanukkah dreidels, Seder plates, lamps designed to burn throughout the Sabbath) to fine items for and decorating and using Torahs (toppers called "rimmonim" (pomegranates) that sit on top of the scroll handles, breastplates, reading pointers), items found in synagogues, and more. The collection has recently been given to the congregation for use as a teaching tool--and I'm the one running it! The synagogue's building is currently being renovated (partly to house and display the collection) and when we reopen in November I'll be offering programs to highlight it. 

It's still a new job but there are already a lot of differences apparent to me that stand out after spending the last twelve years in the world of Kansas history. First and foremost--I am the only *museum* person on staff. This is both good and tough--good in that everyone is very interested in the things that I do and extremely curious about the objects in the collection. Tough in that they are all very busy running a synagogue, so I'm a little bit of a lone ranger in the day-to-day. I've also realized that I have to advocate for the collection and teach about it (and museum-style methods of care, conservation and usage). It's definitely going to be used as a teaching collection, and not one that sits behind glass forever or remains unseen in storage-we plan to use items in services, which will fly in the face of most every conservation lesson I've been taught.


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