I am pleased to welcome you to the National Library of Israel for the Third International Conference of Judaica Collection Curators: "Material Books and Virtual Collections." The Sages of the Jewish tradition teach that Jerusalem exists in both the terrestrial and celestial realms. The former serves as a physical site of daily life and pilgrimage, while the latter presents an eternal spiritual abode, accessible to anyone from anywhere at any time. As we convene here in Jerusalem to discuss the past, present and future of Jewish intellectual and cultural heritage, the parallels between this ancient teaching and the subject at hand beseech further reflection.
The material book, like the terrestrial Jerusalem, is a physical object, both revered and preserved, yet forever remaining in a state of fragility, subject to destructive forces with the power to erase and destroy. Virtual collections complement material books in an intangible and universal manner. Just as someone on the other side of the world can make pilgrimage to the spiritual Jerusalem, it is now possible to delve into the treasures stored among virtual collections even if their physical counterparts are located across oceans and continents.
There has also always been a tension between these two Jerusalems, and, more recently, between material books and virtual collections. Pressing questions arise, some of which will be discussed over the course of this conference. In the modern age, can the material book truly exist without its virtual counterpart, and vice versa? Does one make the other obsolete? If so, what are the ramifications of this on the collection, preservation and curation of cultural treasures? What are the limitations?
We have recently begun construction on a new state-of-the-art National Library building, and these questions, among others, have played a central role in both the design of that building and in all aspects of our current renewal process. We continue to enrich our physical collections while digitizing and collaborating with institutions around the world to make the cultural treasures of Israel and the Jewish people more accessible than ever. These questions are clearly both ancient and modern, universal and particular in nature.
Thank you for joining us in Jerusalem as we explore fascinating and persistent questions of balance between physical and intangible, between material books and
Chairman of the Board of Directors
The National Library of Israel