Design shares in £9m Jewish Museum revamp

A radical redesign of The Jewish Museum in London is set to throw up a host of graphic design opportunities over the next six months. The museum, which is in the throes of a three-stage overhaul that will triple the space at its flagship site, is about to embark on a refurbishment, followed by a rebrand. The timescale for this is yet to be decided, according to the exhibition project leader Sarah Jillings. Design consultancy Event Communications is already working on the reinterpretation and redesign of exhibition space, while architect Long & Kentish has been working to unify the two buildings the museum now owns. Other design appointments will follow next year, when tenders for exhibition graphics, signage and branding will be posted in the Official Journal of the European Union.

Armed with almost £9m of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, private fund – raising efforts and trustee donations, the independent museum has bought a disused piano factory, which will adjoin its current building in Albert Street, London NW1. The new, larger space will unite two disparate sites at Finchley and Camden Town in north London. Spanning three floors, the museum will house three permanent galleries, one of which – the history gallery – will chart the chronological development of the Jewish community in the UK from medieval times to the present day. Kathy Jones, head of interpretation at Event, explains that the group’s brief is to improve the interpretation and social context of the collections, which have come together for the first time.

‘With the religious collection, for instance, we had to look at exhibiting it in a way that conveys its context in the modern Jewish way of life. In its first incarnation, the collection captured aesthetics but didn’t connect it with its relevance to the Jewish community. We’ve tried to do this using audio-visual material and interactive displays,’ says Jones. Multimedia displays will play a significant role in ‘bringing the collections to life’ throughout the museum’s galleries. ‘In the history gallery, we’ve [applied] techniques from object theatre to the design of an interactive street,’ Jones adds. Jillings explains that the scheme will enable the museum to reach a wider audience, and extend its work in promoting tolerance and diversity throughout the UK. She says the redesign will enable the museum to collaborate more easily with its counterparts in New York and Berlin. The museum closed in September and will reopen in spring 2009.

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