Historical Museums in Israel: Semiotics of Culture
Keywords:History, Judaical, Israel Studies, Holocaust, Museology.
AbstractTiny by physical size, the State of Israel retains some of the world’s most important cultural treasures, along with many other great cultural institutions. Archeological treasures have yielded much information as far as biblical history and have been well adapted to a Zionist narrative by both the Jewish press and international news organizations, such as the New York Times whose archives are replete with reports of Jewish history being dug up by the Jewish people. Once the State of Israel gained independence in 1948, the course was set for the development of historical museums whose discourse would reflect the most significant events in Jewish history, most especially the Holocaust and the state of constant warfare that continues to imbue the cultural consciousness of its citizens. In this paper we outline, through categorization, the various historical museums, which are currently operating. Furthermore, this article hopes to shed some light upon the cultural sensibilities conveyed through these institutions. This paper is about Israeli culture, mythology, and collective needs, as formed by and informed through a variety of historical museums. The working assumption is that in a historical museum culture is partially formed and at the same time the culture is influencing the contents and narratives on display inside the museum. It should be clear from the start that the discussion is held about Israeli museums as viewed by a Jewish population and created by and for Jews. Notwithstanding the multifaceted collective of Israeli society, this work is confined to and circumscribed by this demarcation. In the following sections, I intend to provide an explanation for this viewpoint from a historical perspective and also provide a framework of what constitutes a historical museum and justify the methodology of its employ. This will be followed by a discussion of the main categorical types of historical museums present in Israel, and finally a detailed accounting of specific museums.
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