By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN
The highly anticipated Cleveland premiere of, “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” is on exhibit at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage through Aug. 29.
Sponsored locally by PNC Bank, this is the first-ever exhibition about the trailblazing associate justice. Based on the New York Times best-selling book of the same name and created in partnership with its authors, Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik, the exhibit takes a deeply personal journey through historic change with an entertaining yet rigorous look at the life and work of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG) and the Supreme Court. The exhibit was organized by the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.
“Museums communicate. When we heard that the Skirball Cultural Center had this exhibit, we contacted them and asked them to send us information,“ said David Schafer, managing director of the Maltz Museum. “We have a special exhibits committee. They reviewed the information and it was unanimously approved. The exhibit opened in Los Angeles, then went to Philadelphia and Chicago. Now, it is in Northeast Ohio. Museums are vying for it.”
In addition to her work, the exhibit examines Ginsburg’s varied roles as a student, life partner, mother, change-making lawyer, judge, women’s rights pioneer and pop culture icon. Through archival photographs and documents, historical artifacts, contemporary art, media stations and gallery interactives, the exhibition explores the American legal system and civil rights movements through the lens of RBG’s personal experiences and public service. Like the book, it tells the parallel stories of her remarkable life and the efforts she joined to expand “We the People” to include those long left out of the Constitution’s promises.
“As a country, we are refocusing on reversing systemic injustices in our community and in our society. RBG was an example that should inspire everyone,” Schafer noted.
“Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg embodied the Jewish value of respect for all humanity,” he said. “The Maltz Museum expresses the same value, as we work toward a more inclusive, just and civil society. We are honored to share the Justice’s story with visitors, in person and online.”
Skirball Associate Curator Cate Thurston, who developed the exhibition with Carmon and Knizhnik, noted that the exhibition weaves briefs and other writings by RBG, including some of her most searing dissents, with a range of objects to, “give context to the Justice’s place in history.” Exhibit highlights include official portraits of RBG and Sandra Day O’Connor, the first two women to serve on the Supreme Court, on loan from the National Portrait Gallery. There is also correspondence with civil rights leader, poet and lawyer Pauli Murray, whose idea to use the Fourteenth Amendment to litigate civil rights and sex discrimination cases influenced Ginsburg’s winning strategy as an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union.
Three-dimensional environments include recreations of Justice Ginsburg’s childhood Brooklyn apartment and the Supreme Court bench. The exhibit also covers RBG’s marriage to Martin Ginsburg, her partner of more than 50 years. Reflecting RBG’s effect on pop culture, “Notorious RBG” features contemporary art and expression that she has inspired by such artists as Maira Kalman, Roxana Alger Geffen and Ari Richter.
In keeping with Carmon and Knizhnik’s book, the exhibition touches on the playful connection between Justice Ginsburg and the Notorious B.I.G., both of whom were born and bred in Brooklyn, New York, as RBG herself pointed out. The title of each section of the exhibit riffs off of a lyric by the late hip-hop artist.
Response to the exhibit has been great, according to Schafer. There are timed tickets, social distancing and masks are required in the museum. “We as a museum like to have exhibits that lead to conversations of consequence. We look to our historical figures to be more informed and to be inspired. This exhibit is an extraordinary experience and an opportunity to come here for an hour or an hour and a half and learn about one of the great icons in American history,” he said.
Visitors can tour the “Notorious RBG” exhibition in person at the Maltz Museum on Wednesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Timed tickets can be purchased by phone or online in advance. General admission is $12. Student and senior tickets are $10 and children ages five to 11 are admitted for $5. Admission for children under age five and Maltz Museum members is free.
As part of an ongoing outreach effort to connect visitors to the museum during the pandemic, virtual visitors can explore the exhibit online on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 2 p.m. The hour-long, webinar-style narrated tour of key objects and artifacts is followed by a docent-led question and answer session. The cost is $10 per person and free for museum members.
The museum also offers private virtual group tours with advance notice. The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage is located at 2929 Richmond Rd. in Beachwood. Phone 216.593.0575 or visit www.maltzmuseum.org.
“I Dissent,” a monthly program related to the RBG exhibit features an online discussion about election and voting rights on Mar. 24, a discussion about employment practices on Apr. 19, and an online session about reproductive rights on May 19. The cost to participate in these sessions is $10 for non-members and free for museum members.
Explore the life of the ‘Notorious RBG’ at the Maltz Museum
By CYNTHIA SCHUSTER EAKIN