Just one: Chief Registrar and Associate Curator Claire Pingel. Oh, and five strong art handlers. It took only 40 minutes to crawl into the vitrine and replace the bulbs that light up the Museum’s model of the Touro Synagogue created by Stuart Gootnick, an artist who designs miniatures.
The real Touro Synagogue is the oldest surviving synagogue building in the United States. It was also the Synagogue which received one of the most important documents in American Jewish history: a letter which Washington wrote to the Newport Jewish community, composed in response to their letter to him.
In this letter, President Washington affirmed rights and privileges generally unknown to Jews for millennia. Even more importantly, it underscored the new nation’s commitment to religious liberty and equality for people of all faiths and confirmed the new President’s commitment to a government that “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” The letter will be featured in the Museum’s upcoming exhibit, To Bigotry No Sanction: George Washington and Religious Freedom.
In case you are wondering, yes it got quite warm in there. Yes they used commercial dollhouse bulbs with a tungsten filament, and yes, the guy at the top had to hold onto the rope the whole time. As for the Schmatte Claire Pingel has on her head in the picture, this was so the chandeliers wouldn’t catch in her hair like they did last year.
To Bigotry No Sanction: George Washington and Religious Freedom will run from June 29 through September 30. For more information, visit nmajh.org/specialexhibitions/.
-Contributed by Ilana Blumenthal
Public Relations Associate