Case Study

Going Digital Enriches Documentation, Enables Accessibility and Creates Security

Temple B’rith Kodesh is no stranger to the work that maintaining a collection requires. With nearly 1,000 pieces of Judaica in their possession, the New York-based temple was well-acquainted with various methods of display, storage, and organization of their historic objects. But the synagogue faced a challenge: They needed to digitize their collections.

“Despite prior attempts to digitize the collection, our records still remained entirely manual,” said Marjorie Searl, head of Temple B’rith Kodesh’s collections committee and former art gallery curator. “I knew that numbering objects really needed to be done in a different way - a way in which a catalog number would give you information about the year of acquisition, the materials used, [and more].”

The exterior of Temple B'rith Kodesh, located in Rochester, New York.

Making the Transition From Paper Documentation to Digital Records

Founded in 1848, Temple B’rith Kodesh is the oldest Jewish congregation and the largest Reform temple in the greater Rochester, New York area. Recognized today as a Reform synagogue, the congregation made the gradual shift from traditional Orthodoxy to a now modernized home for religious gathering and worship. In alignment with the evolution of their religious practices, Temple B’rith Kodesh’s congregation grew exponentially – and with increased membership came an overwhelming increase in donations to their Judaica collection.

“When displays are in constant rotation, it’s incredibly important that organizations properly document their objects through some form of collection-management system,” said Marjorie. Tasked with finding an aligned collections management system to house the collection digitally, she began to look for a system that was easy to navigate and self-explanatory for every user. When a close friend and Rochester Institute of Technology librarian referred her to CatalogIt, Marjorie was quick to subscribe.

Cast in gilt bronze, Spanish surrealist Salvador Dali’s “Branch Menorah” is among the many beautiful Judaica pieces belonging to Temple B'rith Kodesh's collection.

Creating Better Documentation for a Digital World

“Prior to using CatalogIt, our museum space was pretty dormant,” said Marjorie. “Displays hadn’t changed in awhile and a lot of the collection was in storage.” Additionally, ditching their manual cataloging process and opting to digitize their collections with CatalogIt helped the Temple better document the historic information of each object. “Before CatalogIt, even if we could identify when and who donated a specific item, we couldn't actually identify much about the piece itself,” said David Silver, a long-time member of Temple B’rith Kodesh who serves on the collections committee. “Now, if anybody donates a new piece to Temple B’rith Kodesh, we will be able to use the CatalogIt criteria to help us accurately determine what provenance that piece should have.”

Temple B’rith Kodesh’s digital collections now serve to educate its members, and their new process has made it possible for Marjorie and her fellow committee members to categorize their collection in a more effective way. “CatalogIt has encouraged us to develop a collections management plan which previously had not existed for our collection,” said Marjorie. “It really helped us define what we wanted vs. what we didn't need to continue collecting. Our Museum account has been extremely helpful because it guides us without constraints [and] pushes us to focus on what is truly important regarding a specific object, especially when it comes to documenting basic information. You can’t even begin to count the benefits that come with using a system, such as CatalogIt!”

Menorahs from the Temple B'rith Kodesh Collection. Photos by Kate Melton via Democrat & Chronicle.

Temple B’rith Kodesh

New York, USA

"CatalogIt has encouraged us to develop a collections management plan which previously had not existed for our collection."

Marjorie Searl

Research Curator
Plan Type





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