In 1980, with the financial support of the Memorial Foundation for the Jewish Culture, began an effort to capture the Jewish heritage of Greece on film, even of the communities, which had been destroyed during the War. This effort resulted in the creation of the Jewish Museum’s Photographic Archive, and its enrichment with photographs of edifices that were still standing at the time, even though they were not in use anymore.
The photographic archive of the J.M.G. includes a large number of photographs that cover all aspects of Jewish life and tradition in Greece. The photographic material consists of original black-and-white photographs, printed copies of original pictures, colour photographs and slides.
The main body of this material is the primary archive of original photographs, which have been donated to the Museum by their owners and which are kept separately. These photographs have been copied and replaced with 13 x 18 cm copies, as well as film negatives and contact prints of those. The access to the originals is limited for reasons of safety and preservation.
However, the largest part of the archive, in number as well as in variety (about 2.200 photographs) is the secondary one. This is made up of copies of original photographs that have been lent to the Museum by their owners, who have also ceded all their rights to the J.M.G.
The rich variety of those images captures all aspects of Jewish life in Greece, from the end of the 19th century to the present. For easier classification and accessibility, they have been divided into about 100 different categories. Some categories refer to a particular town or city, while others cover specific aspects of social, professional and everyday life, under titles such as schools, foundations, publications, traditional costumes, events, sports and more. Other categories refer to religion, for example synagogues and cemeteries, religious texts and artefacts, celebrations and ceremonies. Yet other categories cover issues such as the Greek-Italian War of 1940-41, the Occupation and the Resistance, the Holocaust and the concentration camps, and the children who survived in hiding.
The colour negatives of the Museum number approximately 3,500 and are kept in the form of magnified contact prints or printed pictures. Their subjects refer mainly to the social and cultural life of the Greek Jews of the last decades. They also include pictures of the artifacts of the Museum’s collections, permanent exhibition, of the temporary exhibitions held in the Museum, and a photographic record of all the stages of the new building’s renovation process. Also, of all the exhibitions and events hosted by the Museum, such as inauguration ceremonies, educational activities, interviews and guided tours.
Finally, the collection’s approximately 2,000 slides, cover the same topics as the black-and-whiteones, plus everything that has to do with the Museum’s collection (religious and everyday items, traditional costumes etc.) whether on display or in storage, as well as all the areas and display cases of the Museum. Possibly the most important part of the slides collection are those that record in every detail the synagogues and cemeteries of all the cities and towns that have or have had Jewish Communities, such as Thessaloniki, Ioannina, Chania, Didymoteicho, Veroia, Larissa and many others.
Many of the original photographs, the copies in the secondary archive, the colour photographs and the slides are also available in digital form. It is among the Museum’s goals to gradually digitise the entire content of the photographic archive.
The Photographic Archive of the Jewish Museum of Greece is open to researchers and the public, by prior arrangement.