William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum

By Jill Sweetapple, SGA Blog Contributor

 On Spring Street in Atlanta, there is a wonderful museum which celebrates the many Jewish contributions to our city. I asked for details from Jeremy Katz, Senior Director of Archives for the Ida Pearle and Joseph Cuba Archives.

Jeremy, give us your Breman elevator speech!
The Breman Museum is Georgia’s Jewish museum, and it is our mission to connect people to Jewish history, culture, and arts. We accomplish this mission by utilizing our physical space, which consists of three exhibition galleries, an auditorium, and an archival repository that houses the largest collection related to Jewish history in the region. We also have an ever-growing virtual space that consists of online exhibitions, programs, and access to archival collections via industry leading content management systems.

COVID has created challenges for everyone, but the Breman used the time wisely. What was your big project, and why now?
The archives at the Breman Museum turned lemons into lemonade and utilized the extra time at home to completely overhaul our entire CMS. We migrated from outdated, siloed systems to the industry leading ArchivesSpace, Aviary, and CollectionSpace. We recently joined the Archives at Yale as the only two repositories to integrate and sync Aviary with ArchivesSpace. Our endgame is to unite all this information into one public search portal like BentoSpace.

What made you choose the platforms you did for your collections?
Our staff decided on these platforms after years of research, planning, and fundraising. At the heart of the initiative was the primary goal of lowering barriers to collection access. After consulting with colleagues, vendors, and supporters we decided to work with LYRASIS to migrate to ArchivesSpace and CollectionSpace, and AVP to migrate to Aviary. This overhaul has drastically improved both administrative workflows and the user experience, as well as exponentially increased access to our collections.

What were a few of the biggest challenges for the project? What went well? What didn’t go as well?
One of the biggest challenges to the project was a double-edged sword. Working from home allowed extra time to focus on the project but is also created fact checking barriers. If we came across a possible error in a finding aid, for example, we could not double check the physical record to ensure accuracy. Besides the physical barrier due to COVID, everything went extremely smooth with the migration. That is a testament to our staff in the archives at the Breman and our support teams at LYRASIS and AVP.

Do you have any advice for anyone else planning to choose a new CMS?
Every institution is different so find the solution that works best for your content. Analyze your data and how it is structured, research the latest systems available, and budget the resources needed to achieve the migration. I also highly recommend the solution that we chose should your research point you in that direction. Seeing our content become more accessible than ever before has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career.

I hear an anniversary is coming up, how do you plan to celebrate?
Another project we worked extensively on over the past year is our new exhibition opening this September in honor of the Breman Museum’s 25th anniversary. History With Chutzpah: Remarkable Stories of the Southern Jewish Adventure, 1733 – Present, focuses on the archives and how we preserve and democratize access to the stories of our community. I hope you all can visit the museum to see the show after it opens in a few short weeks!

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