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Digital Jewish Culture: From Documentation to Interpretation

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Harborview 3 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Academic libraries, archives, and museums are transforming the porous boundaries between the institution types, creating new forms of scholarship and interpretation. While these changes are discussed widely within the field of Library and Information Sciences, the rapid, often technologically-directed shifts have occurred largely out-of-sight of the academic humanities. This panel aims to engage the fields of Jewish history and Jewish literature in this broader transformation, to connect academic theory about libraries and archives to the practice, and to consider the politics of knowledge production that divides reflection from organization, collection from interpretation.

The four papers on this panel collectively explore modern digital collections by individually examining a different phases: proposing projects, gathering materials, digitizing objects, and interpreting or reading their final form.

Sarah Ponichtera will use the occasion of the panel to propose a new project: an ambitious plan to document our current, ephemeral moment through robust web archiving and digital preservation systems. Eleanore Biezunski, at the YIVO sound archives, will discuss the Ruth Rubin digital exhibit. Eleanore will offer a critical methodology of exhibit construction, and the challenges facing the project as it moves forward. David Schlitt will explore gathering and documentation. His paper pursues the Small Town Jewish History project. What began as a mission to preserve and record the stories of rapidly vanishing Jewish communities, he tells us, is emerging as a challenge to the traditional narratives of American Jewish communal life. Finally, Eitan Kensky will read an existing digital collection, a series of interviews and poetry readings recorded by the Yiddish poet and critic Abraham Tabachnik. Now a part of the Yiddish Book Center's Frances Brandt Library, Tabachnik’s project to record is best understood as a series of hopes: hope in the existence of an audience, hope in technology, hope in the possibility of the archive.

The panel contends that the work occurring within information spaces is often already scholarship designed to advance and question broader narratives about Jewish culture. This panel aims to spark a dialog between the various sides of academic knowledge production with the aim of generating better, more informed theory and improved practice.

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