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A conversation with Liat Margalit, curatorby simone • July 27 2008
Interview, Art, For the kids, Things to do
Liat Margalit first began working at the Tower of David Museum 10 years ago, while still a student at Jerusalem's Hebrew University. She worked her way up through the ranks, and now, in addition to serving as the curator of the museum's new Fortress and Fantasy Exhibit, serves as the Museum's Assistant Curator, a job coveted by history buffs the world over. Jerusalemite spoke with her after the exhibit's grand opening on July 20.
What was the inspiration behind this exhibit? Who thought of it and how did it come to be? We always try to think of interesting new exhibits that are somehow connected to Jerusalem and its history. I've been here for many years and I realized that many of our visitors don't seem to realize that the museum is housed in a fortress. Or, if they do realize it, they don't pay attention to this aspect of it, but in truth, the Tower of David is not just a museum, but a fortress with its own story as well. So it seemed natural to create an exhibit that paid tribute to this aspect of the museum.
We also wanted to do something from the world of fantasy. Fortresses can be found in many fairy tales and adventure stories – it's a very evocative image. The new exhibit lets visitors walk through the Tower twice: once physically, noting the walls, the moat, the arrow slots in the walls, and one time in their minds, in their imaginations.
The Fortress and Fantasy exhibit provides them with the triggers – throughout the museum there are little stands that take the children into fantasy worlds where they can enter the world of the imagination. At one point, visitors come to what seems like a dead end, and just when they think they've reached the end, there is a hidden door which leads them into a fantasy world.
Fortress and Fantasy is geared towards children and employs some interactive elements, but how does it work, and what exactly will visitors be doing? The exhibit works on two levels. The minute you enter the museum, you begin this path – you enter a story, a story about a fortress that stood for many years next to a village. The fortress holds a secret and visitors try to figure it out. You move from stand to stand and try to figure out the secret, and then, when you come to the end of the road, you enter a world of fantasy, as if you were entering a movie. It's especially exciting for children who never imagined that there's a fortresses, like the fortresses they recognize from their stories and movies, right here in Jerusalem.
Is this exhibit supplanting some other Tower of David exhibit or is it coming in addition to the current exhibitions? This is not one of the museum's permanent exhibits. It's a summer exhibit that will come to a close sometime next year, probably after the fall holidays.
Fortress and Fantasy utilizes innovative technology created by EyeClick. Was it a conscious choice to use Israeli work or were they just the most appropriate for your needs? With every exhibit we do, we come up with an idea and look for new technologies that will help us execute it. We usually find the companies to work with us here in Israel, because there's a lot of technology here. It was the same thing with EyeClick – they were making the technology we were looking for.
I also have to say that I like the juxtaposition of it. On the one hand, you have a fortress with a very old and ancient history, and all of a sudden, within this ancient fortress is a high-tech hall filled with all this modern technology. Everything in the fantasy hall is suspended from glowing strings which were also designed by an Israeli company. I think it creates a nice contrast – the modern exhibit and the ancient tower.
Who do you think this new exhibit will most appeal to – tourists, natives, out-of-town Israelis – and why? The exhibit is bound to be most popular with children and their parents. It's a family experience. But it's also for people that have been at other exhibits here and want to see the museum in a different light. There's something very universal about fantasy. But I guess, at the end of the day, the exhibit will mostly appeal to local families with young children.
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