By Miriam Bell…

It’s full steam ahead for two of the foundation projects central to building New Zealand’s Jewish Museum, with the pace of progress picking up noticeably as the year comes to an end.

Earlier this year, the Jewish Museum of New Zealand Charitable Trust received funding – from two different government agencies – for two distinct projects which will each play a critical role in the development of the museum.

One project is the revival and rebuild of the existing Jewish Online Museum website, which the Trust now has responsibility for. It is being funded by a grant from the Ministry of Culture and Heritage.

The other project is the preservation and archiving of the Auckland Hebrew Congregation’s (AHC) historical materials, which are desperately in need of restoration. This work is being funded by a grant from the NZ Lottery Grants Board.

Trustee Roger Moses says that work on the two projects has now started moving along quickly and he’s keen to update the community on their progress.

“The website is now in the process of being built following a comprehensive design process and the archive restoration project has started.”

Historian Sheree Trotter, from the Holocaust and Antisemitism Foundation New Zealand, is working through, and assessing, the documents and material in the AHC archive.

She is being assisted by financier-lawyer Ira Bing and Perry Trotter, who is also from the Holocaust and Antisemitism Foundation New Zealand and who is photographing the documents.

Once an archival system is in place the important documents uncovered will be digitalised, imported and catalogued.

Moses says that it is a monumental task, but the Trust feels it is vital to preserve what they can of AHC/Chevra history, especially as it is rapidly becoming clear the archives contain some fascinating material.

“We are sure there will be other ‘collections’ which will be added as time goes by. Clearly funding is a major requirement and we are working hard on that. It will, of course, be an on-going issue.”

Now this work is underway, the Trust wants to appeal to people to get in touch if they feel they have historically interesting and valuable documents that could add to the archive preservation project, he adds.

Meanwhile, the rebuilding of the Jewish Museum website has also picked up pace.

Marketing expert Val Graham is overseeing this particular project. She says the website has been redesigned in a way which is fresh, uplifting and exciting – and the build process is now underway.

But there are still many aspects of the rebuild to work through. One major consideration is content, which will be a combination of material from the old website and new material, and how best to present it.

“We want the website itself to be more manageable and easier to update as well as to navigate,” Graham says. “And we want to lighten up the content: to make it less academic and more readable and accessible.”

The goal is to make the website customer-focused so that people are engaged and drawn in. To that end, the website will make greater use of podcasts, videos and livestreams, as well as magazine style reading content and links to other relevant websites.

Graham says they want people to feel a part of something through the website. “We want it to help maintain connection and cohesion with the broader community and to assist with a sense of identity and heritage.”

It is a big undertaking, but an exciting and important one, she says.

“We want to encourage people to get involved, to get in touch with ideas and feedback and, potentially, support. It’s all about building community so we are keen for people to reach out and become a part of it all.”

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