The Jewish Museum Vienna
The Jüdisches Museum Wien trading as Jüdisches Museum der Stadt Wien GmbH or the Jewish Museum Vienna, is a museum of Jewish history, life and religion in Austria. The museum is present on two locations, in the Palais Eskeles in the Dorotheergasse and in the Judenplatz, and has distinguished itself by a very active programme of exhibitions and outreach events highlighting the past and present of Jewish culture in Austria. The current director is Danielle Spera and the chief curator is Werner Hanak-Lettner.
The first Jewish Museum in Vienna, founded in 1896, was the first Jewish museum in the world of its sort. It was supported and run by the "Society for the Collection and Preservation of Artistic and Historical Memorials of Jewry". The museum focused on the culture and history of the Jews in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, especially in Vienna and Galicia, while its collection of objects from Palestine also reflected the political debate about Zionism at that time.
By 1913, when it moved into the Talmud-Thora-School in Leopoldstadt with 3,400 objects, it had already moved premises several times. Immediately after the Anschluss by Nazi Germany in 1938 the museum was closed, and its contents were distributed among the Museum of Ethnology (Museum für Völkerkunde), the Natural History Museum (Naturhistorisches Museum Wien) and other repositories. The Natural History Museum used its new acquisitions to mount the anti-Semitic exhibition "The Corporeal and Spiritual Properties of the Jews". At the beginning of the 1950s, the majority of that stock was restituted to the Jewish community (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien), with some additional objects being returned in the 1990s.
On 31 December 1964 a small Jewish museum was opened in the newly built Desider-Friedmann-Hof in Tempelgasse 3, but received scarcely any public attention. It closed for renovation work in 1967 and was never reopened.
In 1986 the establishment of a new Jewish museum in Vienna was announced by the then mayor of Vienna, Helmut Zilk, in New York at the opening of the exhibition "Vienna 1900 - Art, Architecture and Design". On the foundation committee, among many others, were representatives of the Austrian state, the city of Vienna, the Jewish Community in Vienna, the Vienna Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein and Helmut Zilk.
After its foundation in 1988 as a limited company under the management of director Christian Cap the museum was given the management of the Max Berger Collection and the IKG Collection. In 1993 Austrian collector Martin Schlaff presented to the city of Vienna his collection of antisemitica, containing about 5,000 objects, and covering a period from 1490 to 1946, so that they could be catalogued and prepared for a major exhibition.
In 1993 the Palais Eskeles in the Dorotheergasse in Vienna was put at the disposal of the museum by the auction house Dorotheum. Julius H. Schoeps, director of the Moses Mendelssohn Zentrum für europäisch-jüdische Studien at the University of Potsdam, was appointed director. On 24 November 1994 Paul Grosz, president of the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien, opened the museum library. In 1995/1996 the Palais Eskeles adapted for the museum by the Viennese team of architects eichinger oder knechtl to create more display spaces, increase storage, and add a coffee house and a specialist bookshop. In 1998, the museum archive with an ever-growing collection of materials on the history of Jewish Vienna was publicly available. On 25 October 2000, the second building of the museum was opened in Judenplatz with the unveiling of the Judenplatz Holocaust Memorial to the Austrian Jews who perished in the Holocaust.