About the Collections
The mission of the Skirball Museum is to preserve and advance Jewish heritage in social and cultural context. Its collections of Judaica and Jewish material culture are among the world's largest. They include some 25,000 objects of art and history relating to daily life and practice, customs and values from biblical to contemporary times, reflecting Jewish life in virtually every era and every part of the world.
The Skirball's extensive collections include:
- archaeological materials from biblical and later historical periods illuminating early Jewish life
- Jewish ceremonial art and artifacts from ancient to modern times
- the Project Americana collection, encompassing items that document the everyday life of ordinary people during three centuries of American Jewish life
- graphics, paintings, sculptures, and other works in a variety of media
HISTORY OF THE MUSEUM
The Skirball Museum is one of the oldest repositories of Jewish cultural artifacts in America. The first stage in its development lasted for nearly a century, beginning when Hebrew Union College (HUC) opened in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1875 and over time began accepting donations of Judaic objects and books. In 1913 the college's Union Museum was founded with the assistance of the National Federation of Temple Sisterhoods, becoming the first formally established Jewish museum in the United States. In the 1920s the collections rapidly expanded with the purchase of several significant private collections of Judaica, including those of Salli Kirchstein, Joseph Hamburger, and Louis Grossman. In 1950, HUC merged with the Jewish Institute of Religion (JIR), and in 1972—with the Skirball Foundation providing initial support—the collection relocated to Los Angeles. In its new home at the HUC-JIR campus in Los Angeles, the now-renamed Skirball Museum became this city's first Jewish museum. It served a primarily Jewish and largely academic audience until it reopened in 1996 as the central component of the new Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where visitors of all ages and backgrounds experience its core exhibition, Visions and Values: Jewish Life from Antiquity to America, as well as changing exhibitions on a wide variety of topics relating to the Skirball mission.