Ellen Rudolph saw the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage's limitless possibilities long before she became its executive director in January. She served on the Beachwood institution's exhibitions committee for a couple of years, even as she worked as the Akron Art Museum's senior curator.
"I was really captivated and excited by what I saw as the potential for this museum to broaden its audience, to expand its programming and to really become a cultural hub," says the Shaker Heights native.
Her next big opportunity to make that a reality is the traveling exhibit State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, which runs Nov. 13 through March 15. Rudolph talks to us about the exhibit and what she's learned about her heritage.
Q. How does your experience as a curator influence how you lead?
A. I very much value the creativity of everyone on the staff. I think that passion and creativity drives our success as an institution. Ultimately, that translates to the visitors. I think visitors are very much looking for an authentic cultural experience.
Q. Have you learned anything new about your Jewish heritage since you became executive director?
A. I have a much bigger picture of the diversity of the Jewish community in Cleveland. Growing up Jewish does not necessarily expose you to the variety of religious groups.
Q. What does it mean for you to show the State of Deception from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum?
A. We have partnered with them in the past and continue to value our relationship. They, obviously, have incredible scholarship and research capabilities. They also have incredible access to unbelievable artifacts and histories.
Q . What about the exhibit stood out to you?
A. Not only was there a children's book, but there was a game called "Jews Out" — a children's game. The objective was to expel all of the Jews from this town. It really is shocking.
See this: Adolf Hitler election poster, 1932
The poster that will be on display in the State of Deception exhibit exemplifies the Nazis' use of strong imagery and simple messages in propaganda. "It's very chilling to look at today," says Ellen Rudolph. "The exhibition really sets up how this became a perfect storm ... why this poster would work and why the whole machine was so successful in laying the groundwork for war and carrying out the Holocaust."