May 29, 2008 — Joanne Jacobson, associate dean for academic affairs at Yeshiva College, and Gabriel Goldstein, associate director for exhibitions and programs at the Yeshiva University Museum, have been awarded a $40,000 grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to create a museum exhibit about American Jews in suburbia.
The grant was awarded by the We The People program of the NEH, which supports initiatives that preserve and teach American history and culture.
Jacobson, a professor in the college’s English department, says the show will debut at the YU Museum in 2010 or 2011, depending on additional funding, after which it will travel around the country.
The grant will allow co-curators Jacobson and Goldstein to create a broad-based, analytical exhibit that will examine the significance of suburbia to American Jews and American society and culture in general.
“We are delighted to once again be awarded an NEH grant to help the museum create an innovative and publicly engaging research-based multidisciplinary exhibition,” said Goldstein. “We are delighted to be working with University faculty to explore new topics and to educate and engage our audiences.”
Provisionally titled “Grass/Roots,” the exhibit will investigate a variety of suburban areas throughout the United States rather than focusing on a particular community or region. It will recreate a typical 1950s-style suburban home, divided into various living spaces, including a kitchen, family room, and yard, so that viewers can imagine themselves in a range of suburban situations. A Website will enable participants across the world to contribute material on their own suburban histories.
NEH panelists at the proposal’s evaluation were enthusiastic about the idea and its leaders, noting in their report that it had an “excellent project team with a stellar group of humanities scholars.”
“I’m proud that the team we’ve put together has already had a major success in being awarded this grant,” said Jacobson, whose interest in mounting this exhibit grew out of public programs she organized after the publication of Hunger Artist, her memoir about growing up Jewish in suburban Chicago. “My collaboration with the museum and with other academics and urban planners from around the country has already been one of the great pleasures and learning experiences of this project.”