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The Future of the Archive: Conference Report

By David Fligg

Our project’s final large-scale public event, the international conference ‘The Future of the Archive: Performing the Jewish Archive and Beyond’, was held in London between 14 and 16 January.  

Delegates from around the world, with the USA, Germany and Israel being particularly well-represented, attended the event, which was hosted by and took place at The British Library, one of PtJA’s most important partner-institutions. It brought together not only the PtJA team, but a number of individuals and organisations with whom PtJA has worked closely during the past three years.

(L-R) Dr Teryl Dobbs, Prof Michael Berkowitz, Dr Lisa Peschel

The keynote lecture was given by Michael Berkowitz, Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at University College London. His presentation, ‘Leopold Godowsky’s Living Archives Project (1963): Music, photography, film, preservation’, was characteristically entertaining in its focus on a remarkable individual—Godowsky Jr., son of the virtuoso pianist Leopold Godowsky, was himself a professional violinist, co-inventor of Kodachrome colour film, and married to George Gershwin’s sister, Frances. Prof. Berkowitz’s lecture was a veritable “who’s who” tour of Jewish Americans in the 1930s.

Sessions on memorialisation, cultural revival and preservation, and Holocaust testimony education shared as their overarching themes considerations of archives past, present and future, virtual, digital and fragmented. Underpinning this were the presentations from the PtJA researchers, reflecting on more than three years of ground-breaking archival discoveries in Jewish music and theatre, and how these can be sustained for, and bequeathed to, future generations.

The Cassia String Quartet

The second day of the conference culminated in an evening recital of music by Mozart, Gideon Klein and Pavel Fischer, performed by the Cassia String Quartet. The Cassia has had a close association with PtJA, and so it seemed entirely appropriate that the ensemble should take part in the project’s final public event.

PtJA’s new archival website Jewish Music and Theatre Online (jewishmusicandtheatre.org), was officially launched at the conference  A selection of papers from the conference is in preparation for publication (late 2019) in a special edition of the Taylor & Francis journal Holocaust Studies: A Journal of Culture and History.

Download the conference programme booklet here

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