Judah L. Magnes Museum Moving to Downtown Berkeley
ISJM, January 4, 2009
The Judah L. Magnes Museum, home of one of America's most acclaimed collections of Judaica is moving to downtown Berkeley (California) where it hopes to attract more attention, visitors and to redefine its position in the high-stakes and increasingly competitive world of Jewish museums and cultural centers. The Museum's plans to adaptively reuse the former Armstrong University Building at 2222 Harold Way, a designated local landmark designed by Walter Ratcliff, Jr., were approved by the Berkeley Landmarks Preservation Commission in July, 2008. The new design is by San Francisco architects Mark Cavagnero Associates. Extensive plans and elevations of the new facility can be viewed online.
The Magnes Museum, founded in 1964, seeks to raise $18 million to convert an historic building in downtown Berkeley. Museum officials say they are far into the campaign. As with so many Jewish cultural institutions, it remains uncertain how the recent turmoil in the financial sector will delay its achieving its stated goal. Plans still call for a start to construction next summer for the new, 35,000-square-foot museum with the opening planned for 2011.
The Magnes Museum also holds the largest single historical collection related to Jews in the West as part of the Western Jewish History Center, founded in 1967. The Center collects reference books and periodicals; personal and family documents; institutional archives; art and artifacts. Highlights include one thousand reference volumes; sixty Jewish newspaper titles; thousands of photographs; dozens of paintings and works on paper; and fifty oral histories.