Located at the new National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia PA, the Contemporary Issues Forum encourages visitors to engage, consider, and debate current issues of vital importance. Visitors are invited to document their personal insights and feelings on hot-button topics of the day and to dialogue with others as they work through the opinions that resemble theirs and those that do not. This gallery reinvigorates the philosophical roots of liberty through the opinions and debates that typify democracy, America, and the Jewish-American experience. Visitors entering the gallery encounter a table stocked with three types of custom cards that are color coded and labeled with either “Yes”, “No”, or “Um”. After reading each of the four walls that present different questions to respond to, visitors write their response on cards, have them quickly scanned and then post their cards to the wall. The questions are programmed regularly and range from, “Should the government regulate where houses of worship are built?” to “Are Jews White?” to “Is intermarriage a significant threat to religious communities?” The cards then, through a “low-tech” approach (by default of color code), display the dominant opinion as related to each question. Not to leave technology by the wayside - the scanned card images are simultaneously shuttled to an online microsite (cif.nmajh.org) where visitors can later see their cards, see other opinions and continue the debate. Lastly, video is captured of the visitors posting their cards and then re-projected as an attract loop not only to help demonstrate the function of the gallery but to create an association of responsibility by linking an image of the visitors who posted the opinion with the opinion itself. The installation also contains a custom Content Management System. The museum curators and administrators can update the questions, monitor the responses and review the information gathered to continue to build education and curatorial programs to cover thoughts and opinions that carry the content of the museum into the future and the next realm of public dialogue.
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