16 March 2008

Chicago: Spertus Institute's new building

The Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies - known by locals as the Jewish Museum - brings history to light in more than one way. Its new 155,000-square-foot building opened November 30, 2007.

"The soaring 10-story structure is a transparent facade built from 726 individual pieces of glass in 556 different shapes," was designed by Krueck & Sexton Architects.

According to a Daily Herald article, "The unique design allows you to see inside the facility from the street and, from the bay-like windows inside, you can see the lake and north Michigan Avenue."

The new building houses the 400-seat Feinberg Theater, designed specifically for readings, lectures, live performances and film, and offers state-of-the-art acoustics, tiered seating and a proscenium stage.

The Spertus Cafe by Wolfgang Puck is the only kosher restaurant in the Loop area. The article reports, "Kick back, read a book, gaze out at Grant Park and chow down on delicious Thai beef wraps, graze on a Caesar salad or indulge in some sushi."

The "depot" is a ninth floor storage and display area for more than 1,500 items from the museum's collections, examines cross-cultural influences on Jewish objects, as well as ethical and historical issues concerning acquisition and display of sensitive collections. It was curated by Dr. Felicitas Heimann-Jelinek, Spertus Museum Senior Curator of Judaica and Chief Curator of the Jewish Museum of Vienna.

Visitors can borrow an MP3 player to tour the exhibit.

The new Asher Library features an expansive reading room with incredible views of Grant Park and Lake Michigan, free wireless Internet access throughout, computers for public use, electric mobile shelves for improved access to collections, custom audio/visual carrels for accessing videos and musical recordings, reading rooms for viewing material from the archives, rare book and map collections, and facilities to accommodate visiting conservators.

As Tracing the Tribe has previously reported, the Chicago Jewish Archives, a great resource for those searching Chicago family roots, is also located at the Asher Library.

Attendees at the 28th IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy will find much to interest them at Spertus, located at 610 S. Michigan Ave. Check the website for hours and information on the library and cafe.

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