Julia Kabat and Marc Smith graduated from the CCA’s Honours in Curatorship programme at the end of 2016. They both earned an internship at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Below is an article written by Julia on her up coming trip.

Curatorial Contemplation: An Internship at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem

My sincere thanks and gratitude is extended to The South African Friends of the Israel Museum (SAFIM) for their very generous support and for providing me with this otherwise unimaginable opportunity to intern at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem.

My journey with fellow curatorial graduate Marc Smith, will begin in Jerusalem, a city with one of the longest recorded histories dating back approximately 4 000 years [1]. This is the city where prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah uttered thoughts which influenced the moral and religious attitudes of nearly half the human race. J erusalem was also the scene of Jesus’s last ministry, and where he was crucified, whilst Mohammed is said to have ascended to heaven in this sacred city [1]. Jerusalem is perhaps the most dramatic city in the whole world, owing to its antiquity, tumultuous past and present and holy monuments associated with the giant biblical stories of distant ages [2]. To this extent, Jerusalem in its entirety is one monumental archive, with a national ethos that both prides itself and prospers on the preservation of its’ history and heritage. Perhaps this explains why the city is so prosperous, considering that it defies the rules that govern most great cities, with no harbour, river or great trade route [2]. As an outsider who will soon be faced with navigating my own space and place within the political, historical and religious complexity of the city, I find the far- reaching diversity of Jerusalem highly intriguing.  Even on home- soil, searching for accommodation in Jerusalem has been an educational experience of note, with the possibility of erecting a ‘Sukkah’ in ones apartment, having a ‘shabbat elevator’ along with perplexing Hebrew translations which state that no ‘dog-catchers’ are included in the monthly rental!

For three months I will be indulging in curatorial delights and dining on an archaeological and fine art feast, along with invaluable exposure to the everyday- workings of Israel’s largest cultural institution founded in 1965 [3]. The Israel Museums’ collections echo the cultural diversity of its location. This encyclopaedic Museum housing the Dead Sea Scrolls, that are approximately two thousand years old, dating from the third century BCE, are in stark contrast to its stellar Contemporary Art’s Department, with holdings from 1970 to the present, with works by Dan Flavin and Ed Ruscha to Damien Hirst and Marc Dion, just to name a few [3]. Whilst researching Jerusalem I stumbled across a photograph from a bygone era titled ‘ Petrol for my Donkey,’ which ironically depicts a man replenishing a petrol carton slung across his ‘trusty (stead),’ as if re-fueling his motor vehicle. This picture serves as the perfect pictorial analogy to describe the spirit of the museum, a mélange of ‘old’ and ‘new’. This essence reverberates from the very foundations of the museum, where the modern architectural wonder of the acclaimed ‘Shrine of the Books,’ designed by Armand Bartos and Frederick Kiesler, with its curved, bulbous roof, imitates the shape of the earthenware jars in which the Dead Sea Scrolls were found [3]. The shrine serving as a contemporary vessel that houses these ancient manuscripts, along with the impressive digitisation of the scrolls embodies this sense of mélange.

An exhibition currently hosted by the museum, titled, ‘No Place Like Home’ encapsulates my current contemplation on this soon- to -be adventure, for reasons that depart from the traditionally insinuated feelings of nostalgia. According to the museum, the exhibition, “examines how artists have incorporated commonplace household items into their work, removing them from the context of the home in ways that subvert the mundane experiences of daily life” [3]. The notions of place and displacement amongst other concepts arising from this exhibition are particularly pertinent. As a newly graduated curatorial student, I am embarking on a journey of the unknown that will broaden and in some ways subvert and challenge my current curatorial and museological knowledge and its associated practices.

As I ‘gawk’ through the screen of my laptop at the mesmerising and monumental stature of the museum, it seems surreal that I have the privilege of calling this place home for three months. On this note, might I add that the museum has one of the largest collections of Dada and Surrealist works in the world, an absolute treat for someone like myself whose academic practices thus far have hinged upon concepts of ‘irrationality’, ‘fiction’, ‘humour’ and ‘irony’.

I am utterly thrilled to embark on this adventure, where I have the privilege of immersing myself in this cultural heterotopia that awaits in the Middle- East.

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Header image (from left): Dr Siona O’Connell, Jade Nair, Marc Smith and Julia Kabat. Photo taken by Ticha Muvhuti at the opening of Promises and Lies: The ANC in Exile an exhibition that Marc and Julia interned for under the guidance of O’Connell and Nair during their time as students in the CCA’s Honours in Curatorship programme in 2016.


1. Kollek, T & Pearlman.1968. Jerusalem: Sacred City of Mankind, A History of Forty Centuries. Steimatzky Agency Limited: Tel Aviv.

2. Thubron, C. 1976. The Great Cities of Jerusalem. Time Life Books: Netherlands.

3. The Israel Museum. 2017. Current Exhibitions and Special Displays: No Place Like Home. Available: http:// www.imj.org.il/exhibitions/presentation/exhibit/?id=1115 [2017, April 27].

Image References:

1. “Jerusalem”- Jerusalem National News. 2017. Jerusalem, Israel. Available: http://f.a7.org/pictures/746/746666.jpg [2017, April 27].

2. “The Israel Museum”- The Israel Museum. 2017. About the Museum. Available: http://www.imj.org.il/en/ about/ [2017, April 26].

3. “Petrol for my Donkey” (pg182- 183) – Thubron, C. 1976. The Great Cities of Jerusalem. Time Life Books: Netherlands.

4. “Dead Sea Scroll, ceramic jars” – Museum of Science. 2017. Dead S ea Scroll, Ceramic Jars. Available: https://www.mos.org/sites/dev-elvis.mos.org/files/docs/press-kits/ScrollJars.jpg [2017, April 25].

5. “Shrine of the Books” – The Israel Museum. 2017. Shrine of the Books. Available: http://www.imj.org.il/ wings [2017, April 27].

6. “Inside the Shrine of the Books” – All About Jerusalem. 2015. All About Jerusalem: The Shrine of the Books. Available: http://allaboutjerusalem.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/big-image-gallery/ifa_upload/ israel_museumay51.jpg [2017, April 27].

7. “Anila Rubiku Casa all’italiana – Superleggera, 2008 The Israel Museum, Jerusalem” – The Israel Museum. 2017. Current Exhibitions and Special Displays: No Place Like Home. Available: http://www.imj.org.il/exhibitions/presentation/exhibit/?id=1115 [2017, April 27].