The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art & Life


The Judah L. Magnes Museum, located in Berkeley, California, is dedicated to the presentation and documentation of Jewish art and history and is the world’s largest research center for the Study of Jewish cultural history in West America. The museum contains the largest collection of Judaica, third by its size in the United States, a historic center of Western Jewry, a library and an archive containing tens of thousands of items, some of which are on display at the museum exhibitions and Blumenthal Collection – rare manuscripts and books.
The museum is working to advance the understanding of Jewish history for our generation and for future generations, and encouraging public dialogue on the subject through an innovative educational program that includes publications, exhibitions and scholarships

The Business Challenge

The museum wanted to integrate the management and search capabilities of the various databases (archive, library and museum) while retaining the distinct characteristics of the many different item types. It needed multidisciplinary workflows to support the management of museum, archive and library items throughout their lifecycle at the institute.

The Solution

IDEA ALM – a central system for managing a number of databases on a common integrated database, comprising of different types of databanks, and using a common infrastructure management and information retrieval. The system also provides the possibility of handling a variety of item types – physical, digital and logical in any language or structure and complies with international standards of Libraries and Archives: Dublin Core, MARC, ISAD, EAD.


The project began in March 2008, and included data conversion from the existing system to the IDEA ALM platform, and setup of the infrastructure for managing the library and archive collections, which were not computerized. The platform utilizes a multilingual interface which enables the users to view items using their selected language, and builds various unique material types for the museum, such as events, locations, personnel and tracking of items on loan.
Using IDEA ALM’s workflow-management capabilities, the museum’s methodologies were developed into tailored workflows, supporting the management of museum, archive and library items throughout their lifecycle at the institute.

The Benefit

These procedures enable Magnes to catalog, manage and track every item in the museum, archive and library, and provide department staff with management tools that are tailored to their specific needs.
The multilingual interface enables staff to catalog in an array of languages, and users to view items in the language of their choice. Thus the staff enjoys advanced management capabilities and transparency and the museum visitors and Internet users benefit from quick and easy access to information.
Today, one can order books from the library, locate information from the archival collections and view the museum exhibitions using one central web interface.
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The Technology

IDEA@ALM, Web interface, IDEA Multilingual module.

“This is tremendously exciting, both for the Magnes and for researchers and scholars around the world .Over the last 45 years, the Magnes has created a tremendous collection. Much of the collection has been unknown and unexamined, except for the select scholars who are able to come into the building and examine them. Today, using the IDEA@ALM system and Web interface, we can offer scholars and the general public access to all of the museum’s collections, including archival material and the option to order books from our library”
Frances Dinkelspiel, Board President.

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