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The territory given by the Moscow Government was situated close to the already built by that time Moscow Jewish Community Center. It was the Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage, its main garage 8500 square meters in area was built in 1927 as per the design of Konstantin Melnikov, a great Russian constructivist architect, and Vladimir Shukhov, an engineer.

The garage got its name after the street on which it was situated, former Bakhmetevskaya street, now Obraztsova street. The community received it in January 2001, two years after the transportation facilities had moved out.

By that time the building was in a miserable condition, the roof was absent in some places, chaos prevailed inside, it was typical abandoned working space.

The situation set new tasks for the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia – to restore the building of the Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage and to fit the museum into the historic look of the monument of the Russian Constructivism.

The Charity Fund of Arts Development and Support Iris founded by Darya Zhukova who is now the member of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Board of Trustees was asked to carry out restoration works. Land sanitization was carried out; all necessary utility lines were conducted. The Center of Contemporary Arts Garage was opened in the new building of the former bus depot in 2008.

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At the same time a closed tender for the garage building reconstruction aiming at transforming it into a modern cultural center was announced. Daniel Libeskind (the author of the projects of Jewish Museums in Berlin and San-Francisco), Diller Scofidio + Renfro Bureau (the developers of the High Line park in New York), David Chipperfield from Great Britain and other famous architects were invited to participate. Each of them saw their future collaboration with constructivist architect Konstantin Melnikov differently: outbuildings, superstructures, glass shades, escalators brining visitors to new halls through the windows in the original roof, numerous complex dimensional symbols were suggested by the authors. As a result The Hettema Group won the tender organized in the beginning of 2000s in the competition between BRC Imagination Arts and Jack Rouse Assosiates. However, the next project stage was delayed, and the company started another project. The signs of the initial concept can be tracked in the existing museum layout, but the final project of the Jewish Museum resembles an attraction to a much smaller degree than that suggested by The Hettema Group.

In 2009 Graft Lab Bureau published the final project of the museum. According to it the garage remained untouched, only the floor surface was to undergo changes in order to create a complex scenario of visitors’ movement and to demonstrate different lives of Jews in Russia.

On analyzing the architects’ projects the creators of the museum concept decided that Ralph Appelbaum would supervise the realization of the concept; his company has been working on the maintenance of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center exposition for already several years.

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Contents

Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA) with headquarters in New York fulfilled the projects of the Holocaust Memorial and News Museum in Washington, Museum of Transport in London and many other cultural institutions all around the world.

Before starting the works RAA agency researched the interest of the Russian cultural society to different museum formats and made plenty of analytical efforts to understand the specific character of the Moscow and Russian context.

To analyze information Appelbaum gathered the representatives of the international expert council. It united professor Oleg Budnitsky from Russia (the International Research Center of Russian and Eastern European Jewry director), professor Nathan Meir from the USA (Lorry Lockey Fund grant-holder, the assistant professor of the Harold Schnitzer Family Program in Judaic Studies, Portland University, Oregon), doctor Jonathan Dekel-Chen from Israel (the head teacher at the Jewish University and the Research Center of Russian and Eastern European Jewry director) and many others. Professor Benjamin Nathans (Ronald S. Lauder Fund grant-holder, the history adjunct professor of Pennsylvanian University), the chairman of the research and development group, was responsible for the quality of the expert council works.

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The works on gathering and selection of the materials took more than ten years. Several Soviet archives which had been earlier inaccessible opened in Russia, thanks to this the exposition has become richer than it could be in the beginning of 2000s. For the first time the history of the Russian Jewry acquired rather objective and integral shape.

The range of specializations of the involved into the process researchers allowed to avoid judgmental accents in the exposition. The collection of the Jewish artifacts which the museum is now proud of was shaping during all these years. More than ten teams were involved at different stages in order to organize all the gathered materials into a truly multilayered narration which would be of interest to visitors with different depth of personal knowledge and emotional involvement.

The Museum was opened on November 11, 2012. A big educational complex including the permanent exposition, the Tolerance Center, Center of Avant-Garde, Children’s, Research, and Educational Centers as well as the area for the temporal expositions was created as a result of long and diligent work. The first project was the exposition: Le Corbusier – the architect of a book, it presented the original of the created by the famous Swiss book – Le poème de l'angle droit. Such iconic exhibitions as Aliens Everywhere (from the collection of Pomeranz Collection Fund), Performance Now together with ICI and PERFORMA, Andy Warhol: 10 Famous Jews of the 20th Century under the auspices of the Blavatnik Family Fund and Avant-Garde and Aviation were a great success. Already in 2011 the Museum started to receive gifts: from personal correspondence during World War II to the original of the iconic photo of Eugenie Haldey ‘Victory Flag over Reichstag.’ With the assistance of Vladimir Putin, the RF President, the Schneerson library was moved to the Museum, it is the collection of Ancient Jewish books and manuscripts collected by Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the Lubavitcher Rabbi, which had been kept in the fund of the Russian State Library for a long time.

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