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What should we remember, what should we forget, and who decides? The Future of Memory:

What should we remember, what should we forget, and who decides?

The Future of Memory: Jewish Culture in the Digital Age is a new installation, exhibition, and digital research lab where museum professionals, scholars, students, and the public, discuss the meaning of memory and the many facets of digital history.

Five hundred years ago, the encounter between Jewish culture and technology produced incalculable results. The advent of the Hebrew printing press canonized the layouts of the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud as hypertexts, in which Scripture and commentary, knowledge and expertise, archive and repertoire, began to seamlessly coexist. The resulting knowledge greatly impacted learning processes, inter-cultural exchanges, and the ongoing dialogue between tradition and modernity. This revolutionary synergy took place in Europe and across the Mediterranean Basin, in port cities like Venice, Amsterdam, Salonica and Istanbul, which at the time were epicenters of world culture, trade, and innovation, and expanded on a global scale.

Today, Jewish culture is faced with the weight of its own history, and its global reach has become the currency of countless other cultural traditions and practices. Online databases, collaborative tools, and social media platforms continuously prompt us to create new forms of knowledge. The San Francisco Bay Area, a contemporary epicenter of technological innovation, is a privileged observatory from which this cultural evolution can be both appreciated and evaluated.

The Future of Memory stages a digital humanities research lab within a museum installation. Objects, books and documents are displayed, studied, digitized, and published on the web via institutional and emerging platforms. New contexts and associations are discovered. Online conversations are instigated and monitored, and the results are discussed and analyzed, so that they can further benefit the long-term study and development of The Magnes Collection.

For one year, the installation will operate as an incubator of critical perspectives on the nexus between the humanities, cultural heritage, memory and technology, centering on the combined local and global connections that Jewish culture continues to elicit.

Each day, faculty, students, classes, undergraduate research apprentices, and the public, will work closely with museum professionals, interacting with collection artifacts and digital tools, experimenting with new platforms, and providing feedback. This work will be complemented with public programs in which project participants, scholars, developers, and the public can continue to evaluate the results of ongoing research.

The protagonists of this project are the visitors. Everyone, beginning with the public, is invited to explore, and to use The Future of Memory to contribute stories, details, and their critical perspectives to the collection, reflecting on the changing notions of knowledge, culture, and memory, in the Digital Age.

–FrANCESCO SpAgNOlO, CurATOr

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