Material culture provides a unique access point into family histories, as students can trace families moved throughout the diaspora and how they adapted to local practice.
As the panel on “The Family as a Category of Analysis in Jewish Studies” (Mon, Dec 17 – 11:00am – 12:45pm) and other sessions at 2012 AJS conference attest, Jewish studies is becoming increasingly interested in how families help us understand changes in Jewish culture. The Jewish Atlantic World Database allows students to browse objects both by first name and by family name. This family name function provides students with a way to see both how families moved across the port towns of the diaspora and to think about how individual cultures impacted the lives of families. By importing the images into either iPhoto or Omeka (or doing it by hand), students can map the trajectories of different key families in early America.