God is in the detail: Clues, Quotations, Objects and Memory

The working group on mapping diasporas is concluding its series of monthly meetings for the Spring Semester.

Meetings continued to involve the exploration of theoretical issues, collaborative collection research  (based on the holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life), and the critical examination of digital tools and platforms.

The third and last meeting of the semester will focus on a presentation by Francesco Spagnolo, who will illustrate the plan for a new course on Mapping Diasporas, which will be offered in the Fall of 2016 by the Department of Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. The course will combine the critical examination (and application) of digital tools to the study of diasporas through material culture.

The focus on objects emerged in the analysis of the quotations that open the chapter, “Clues: Roots of an Evidential Paradigm,” of Carlo Ginzburg’s, Clues, Myths and the Historical Method, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 1989, p. 96.
Carlo Ginzburg, Clues: Opening Quotations

God is in the detail. A. Warburg
Attributed to Aby Warburg

An object which speaks of the loss, of the destruction, of the
disappearance of objects. It does not speak of itself. It speaks of others. Will it also include them? J. Johns
Attributed to Jasper Johns via John Cage’s Jasper Johns: Stories and Ideas, included in A Year from Monday: New Lectures and Writings, 1969. 

One can also listen to John Cage’s reading of Jasper Johns: Stories and Ideas on the Internet Archive:


Mapping Languages in Diaspora

The working group on mapping diasporas is continuing its monthly meetings for the Spring Semester.

Meetings involve the exploration of theoretical issues, collaborative collection research  (based on the holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life), and the critical examination of digital tools and platforms.

The second meeting of the semester will include:

  1. Mapping Languages in Diaspora:Robyn Perry, a graduate of UC Berkeley’s iSchool, an inaugural Fellow of the Center for Technology, Society & Policy and a collaborator in the Aikuma app project (a platform aiming a preserving unwritten languages) will discuss information-based approaches to migration and language in diaspora
  2. Research on hanukkah lamps in The Magnes Collection: the question about how did lamps specifically designed to accommodate nine lights came into existence, and how their use spread and changed across Jewish history, is rather thorny. We will discuss the topic of mapping history through objects by looking as some examples being selected for an upcoming exhibition
  3. More questions about Virtual Reality: VR is increasingly gaining traction as an emerging platform, and we will continue to explore this topic

More engaging discussions to come!

Curating Memories, Mapping Families | Celia Applegate on the Mendelssohns

The Working Group on Mapping Diasporas (a project of the Townsend Center Working Group on Modern Jewish Culture) is delighted to co-sponsor a talk by Professor Celia Applegate (Vanderbilt University).

Family Ties: How the Mendelssohns Understood Their Own History

Presented in the context of The Mendelssohn Project
Monday March 14, 2016 5 to 7 PM


In 1879, Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel’s son Sebastian published “Die Familie Mendelssohn 1729-1847” as the “chronicle of a good German Bürger Family.” It carried an epigram from Goethe’s Iphigenie as its frontispiece, on the joy of recounting the deeds of one’s fathers. This lecture will work backwards in time from this 1879 family chronicle, using letters and other writings of members of the Mendelssohn family to illuminate their emerging self-understanding as a German-Jewish family.

Celia Applegate, William R. Kenan, Jr. Chair of History at Vanderbilt University,  studies the culture, society, and politics of modern Germany, with particular interest in the history of music, nationalism and national identity. She is the author of A Nation of Provincials: The German Idea of Heimat (Berkeley, 1990), the co-editor (with musicologist Pamela Potter) ofMusic and German National Identity (Chicago, 2000), and the author of Bach in Berlin: Nation and Culture in Mendelssohn’s Revival of the St. Matthew Passion (Cornell, 2005), winner of the DAAD/GSA Book Prize. She is currently working on comprehensive interpretation of musical life in Germany from the 17th century to the present, titled Music and the Germans: A History. She is past President of the German Studies Association and Vice President of the Central European History Society.

More here.

Curating Memory, Mapping Families | Upcoming Working Group Meeting

The working group on mapping diasporas is resuming its monthly meetings for the Spring Semester. Meetings involve the exploration of theoretical issues, collaborative collection research  (based on the holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life), and the critical examination of digital tools and platforms.

The first meeting of the semester will include:

  1. Curating Memory: Theoretical Approaches to Diasporic Culture, led by Cindy Nguyen, PhD candidate in History at UC Berkeley
  2. Research on ketubbot (Jewish marriage contracts) in The Magnes Collection: these manuscripts, which are often painted or otherwise decorated, include a unique form of geolocation, intersecting toponyms and references to bodies of water (rivers, seas, oceans).
  3. A close look at Footprints (also on Facebook): an online platform created to trace “the history and movement of Jewish books since the inception of print.”

Looking forward to the engaging discussions!

Robyn Perry appointed inaugural Fellow at iSchool Center for Technology, Society & Policy

Robyn Perry, a recent graduate of UC Berkeley’s iSchool, a collaborator in the Aikuma app project (a platform aiming a preserving unwritten languages), and a participant in the Working Group on Mapping Diaspora, was appointed as an inaugural Fellow of the Center for Technology, Society & Policy.

Robyn will be working on a project called Room for Improvement: Can Migrant Support Services Augment Their Impact with Innovative Technological Solutions?

Read more here.  Follow Robyn at @nyborobyn

Carla Shapreau awarded Palisca Award for the digital edition of looted music manuscript

Carla Shapreau, a faculty member at Berkeley Law whose research involves the Nazi-era plunder of musical cultural property and the restitution of those possessions, a senior fellow in the Institute of European Studies and a curator at the Department of Music, as well as a member of the Working Group on Mapping Diasporas, is the recipient with two co-authors of this year’s Claude V. Palisca Award of the American Musicological Society announced this week.

The award recognizes outstanding scholarly editions or translations in the field of musicology published during the previous year. Shapreau received for the Ferrell-Vogüé Machaut Manuscript, published by the University of Oxford’s Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music, reconstructs the long history of the manuscript, a rare work by Guillaume de Machaut, a medieval French poet and scholar.

The manuscript was confiscated by the Nazis from its owner, Georges Wildenstein, in Paris on Oct. 30, 1940, and shipped to Germany. Later, it was taken to the German countryside for safekeeping. In the summer of 1945, the U.S. Army discovered this 14th century musical, literary and artistic work hidden in a Bavarian monastery, and in 1949 it was returned to its true owner.

Read more about this here and here.

Working Group on Mapping Diasporas (2015-2016)

During the Academic Year 2015-2016, the planning for Mapping Diasporas includes the work of a multi-disciplinary Working Group. Its participants hold monthly meetings, held at The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, UC Berkeley, to discuss individual projects and mapping platforms.

In the course of each session, working group participants conduct “hands-on” (but with gloves…) research on select collection items that presents pertinent research questions relating to the topics of diaspora, cultural mobility, multi-locational relations, provenance, and geolocation, and explore a variety of platforms that allow online “mapping” and engage in a wide-ranging set of conversations about cultural objects.

Working Group Participants

Angela Marino (Theater, Dance, and Performance Studies)

Ray Lifchez (Environmental Design)

Cindy Nguyen (History)

Carla Shapreau (Law,  & Music)

Andrea Sinn (History & German)

Greg Niemeyer (BCNM & Art Practice)

Yosef Rosen (Jewish Studies)

John Fox (Memory Miner, Findery, & Netflix)

Francesco Spagnolo (The Magnes, Music, & Performance Studies)

Robyn Perry (iSchool, Center for Technology, Society & Policy)

Sam Ball, Citizen Film

Tomasz Koncewicz, University of Gdansk

Zach Bleemer, Economics

Claudia von Vacano, Digital Humanities at Berkeley

Jon Voss, Historypin