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Museum Musings

Schweitzer Collection: 20,000 And Counting

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rexWhen I read this story about this amazing collection of African-American artifacts, collected by super-cool DJ Magnificent Montague, no less, I immediately thought of the Museum’s Peter H. Schweitzer Collection of Jewish Americana. 

In 2005, Peter donated an estimated 20,000 objects to the Museum that he had acquired during more than 25 years of collecting. 
Peter’s story about how his collection came about is remarkable. It began with some turn-of-the-century Jewish postcards and took off from there. An object here, an object there, and all of sudden, he had 20,000 objects and counting.

As he wrote when donating the collection to the Museum, “One item, alone and solitary, is an oddity. Find another like it and you already have a collection or at least a collection-in-the-making. When I owned only one neon clock advertising kosher sausage it was a fun conversation piece. But then I found a second … and a third … and eventually I lost count. Now that’s a collection!”hides

Fur StorageEventually, he amassed so many objects, and had no way of sharing them, that the time came for him to look for a place for the collection.
Upon choosing the Museum, he said, “I have found my collection a home where I believe it will continue to be cared for and preserved for generations to come.”

The collection contains objects that depict the everyday lives and experiences of Jews in America, both in their secular lives as well as their religious practice.  Included in the collection are signs, posters, tins, bottles, photographs, trade cards, menus, neon clocks, Yiddish typewriters, yearbooks, autograph books, textiles and ritual items.

Dr. Beth S. Wenger, one of the Museum’s historians, said “this is perhaps the most ambitious effort to collect objects that reflect the range of American Jewish experience.” 

bar mitzvahIf you are thinking, “Hey, that stuff should be on display in a Museum,” don’t worry.  Many of the artifacts from his collection are displayed in the Museum’s core exhibition. 


All objects from the Peter H. Schweitzer Collection of Jewish Americana.pickles


-- Contributed by Jay Nachman

Public Relations Director






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