Women greeting each out at the entrance of the museum


Coming Together

March 11, 2024

With warm sunlight streaming through the window, supporters from the 2010 Campaign for the Magnes brimmed with excitement at the news of centenarian Florence Helzel’s arrival. Legendary in the Magnes community for her scholarly and philanthropic contributions, the presence of the former Curator of Prints and Drawings made the reunion luncheon on December 8th complete.

“Welcoming the people who enabled the Magnes’s transition to UC Berkeley was a joy and a privilege,” said Executive Director Hannah Weisman. “Hearing their stories about Seymour and Rebecca Fromer, the evolution of the museum, their own work, and their love for the Magnes beautifully demonstrated the legacy of deep community support on which the Magnes is built.”

People seated around a circle of tables with a man standing and speaking.
Curator Francesco Spagnolo speaks to luncheon guests. Photo by Brandon Sanchez Mejia.

The morning began with Weisman and Curator Francesco Spagnolo sharing details about the collection’s growth, highlighting its vision for the future, and presenting a special viewing of select holdings.

Seated around a large table in the auditorium, guests shared stories about what the Magnes has meant to them over the years. Reflecting on the special energy that holds the community together, Barry Cohn, President of the Magnes Museum Foundation and long-time supporter said, “For those who engage with the collection closely, it reverberates in your core which creates a lasting attachment… There is a sympatico sort of relationship that then gets created amongst all of those who promote, study, admire, observe, and have loved the collection for decades.”

People looking at museum objects
Reunion guests from the 2010 Campaign for the Magnes view manuscripts and other holdings in the Helzel Collection Study Room. Photo by Brandon Sanchez Mejia.

Since moving to the current building in 2010 with on-site storage, exhibition, and program space, the museum’s collection has grown from 10,000 objects, artworks, and documents to 60,000 with the acquisitions of the Peachy and Mark Levy Family Judaica Collection, the Roman Vishniac Archive, and the Taube Family Arthur Szyk Collection

Everyone who walked through the door had a shared history, a common goal, and immediately felt at home. Once president of the museum’s Women’s Guild, Marianne Friedman noted “The Magnes is… a community museum and its affiliation with the University has added to its cache.”

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