Nancy Johnson has been curating the Museum at Eldridge Street’s temporary art and history exhibition series since it began in 2016. As the Museum’s archivist, she looks after its historic documents, objects and art collection. Favorite projects since coming to Eldridge Street in 2009 include editing Beyond the Façade, an illustrated history of the Eldridge Street Synagogue and its restoration; developing the permanent exhibition in 2014, and curating exhibitions ranging from the art of Kiki Smith to Harbin, China/Past-Present, combining both history and contemporary art. Nancy has worked as an archivist, curator, editor and writer for longer than she cares to admit. She has been a consultant on major projects at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Montclair Art Museum, Alan Lomax Archives, Lotos Club and many other arts-related organizations. She holds an MA in art history from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and BA degrees in history and art history from Stony Brook University.
Join us in this conversation with The Forward and Museum At Eldridge Street about immigrant newspapers in NYC.
Nearly 200 languages are spoken by New York City’s diverse citizens. They read in their own language, too – 95 ethnic and foreign-language newspapers circulate every day in the city. Printing news from the old country alongside their new one, these papers keep immigrants connected and provide a sense of belonging. New York Magazine reported in 2014 that these newspapers have a combined circulation of 2.9 million – more than the print reach of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, the Daily News and the Post combined.
These newspapers are vital to immigrants adjusting to life in America’s most bustling city, and they’re not new. The Yiddish-language Forward was launched in 1897 on the Lower East Side. The publication gave eager American Jewish audiences news about Jewish communities from around the world, and offered news and advice about everything from baseball to labor rights. Across the way in Chinatown, Chinese immigrants were printing their own newspapers such as The China Daily News. These, too, covered news about wars brewing in the home country, American sporting events, and hyper-local news about rent protests.
The Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) and The Forward both have archives of these fascinating historic newspapers. Join us as we dive in to discover how these two different communities in such close proximity used their newspapers to share information and build community. Joining this conversation will be Chana Pollack, Archivist, The Forward; Yue Ma, Director for Collections and Research, MOCA; and Nancy Johnson, Archivist and Curator, Museum at Eldridge Street.
This program is held in conjunction with the exhibition Pressed: Images from the Jewish Daily Forward at the Museum at Eldridge Street.
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Yue Ma, Director for Collections and Research, has been with MOCA for fourteen years, and is in charge of the museum collections, library, and archives. She oversees daily acquisition, preservation, conservation, research, and digital projects in MOCA’s new Collections and Research Center, located at 3 Howard Street, titled MOCA Workshop. In addition, she assisted with the permanent exhibition “With a Single Step,” and recently co-curated the exhibition “Waves of Identity: 35 Years of Archiving.” She enjoys being a liaison between the collection donors and the museum. Prior to MOCA, Ma interned at the City of Toronto Archives, and served as a Digital Project Manager and an Associate Research Archivist at the Shenzhen City Archives. Educated globally, she received a B.Sc. from Jilin University and a MBA from Xiamen University respectively, then received a MA in Photographic Preservation and Collections Management from a joint program at Ryerson University and George Eastman House.
Chana Pollack is the Forward’s archivist providing research, translation and production of original Forward archival content with an eye on contemporary contexts.
The Forward’s archival materials have been exhibited virtually with the Museum at Eldridge Street’s curator Nancy Johnson on Untapped NY about The Forward’s exhibition Pressed, featuring the Forward archive’s photoengraved metal press plates, and in the public television documentary film Fire of a Movement about the Forward’s coverage of the Triangle factory fire. They participated in a panel discussed the Triangle Factory fire at Lincoln Center’s Atrium in conjunction with Julia Wolfe’s NY Philharmonic’s premiere composition Fire In My Mouth.
The Forward’s archival materials and their related stories are presented publicly in an ongoing digital mapping project with Urban Archive, and in their special activist series titled: “Activism in the Five Boroughs”. In the run up to the 2020 elections, along with Innovation Editor Talya Zax, original historic Forward archival election content and graphics have been published on the Forward’s site and curated as a special archival election newsletter.
The Forward is the most significant Jewish voice in American journalism. Our outstanding reporting on cultural, social and political issues inspires readers of all ages and animates conversation across generations and different segments of our community. Our English and Yiddish platforms build on a century-old legacy maintained in our archives and lead to a deeper understanding of what it means to be Jewish in the 21st century.
MOCA has not skipped a beat since its temporary closure in March 2020. We’ve been converting our programs to online offerings and creating new digital content through multiple platforms, always free of charge—because history matters. We are facing tremendous financial losses due to COVID-19. We hope you’ll consider making a gift to become part of a continuing lifeline for MOCA. No amount is too little and we greatly appreciate your generosity. Your contribution helps sustain our beloved institution and supports the creation of new, online programming that will bring comfort and inspiration to more communities.
This program is brought to you by MOCA friends and partners, including Bloomberg Philanthropies. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.