The Breman Museum to Host Rich's Exhibition
Atlanta, GA. The Pink Pig. Fashionata. The Magnolia Room. The Great Tree. Legendary Customer Service. All of these terms evoke Atlanta’s most beloved department store. Founded M. Rich Dry Goods in 1867, Rich’s grew into one of the most influential institutions in Atlanta’s history before it was finally absorbed into Macy’s on March 6, 2005. The Rich’s story illustrates Atlanta’s and the South’s commercial, political, cultural, and architectural development, evidenced by a 1949 Saturday Evening Post article entitled “The Store that Married a City.” The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum will unveil a major exhibition on Rich’s in the fall of 2013. Dr. Catherine Lewis, a noted area curator and historian, has been invited to serve as guest curator, and the exhibition will occupy the museum’s Schwartz and Blonder Galleries.
“The Rich’s exhibition is going to be our signature exhibition for 2013,” explained Breman Executive Director Aaron Berger. “What begins as a story of Jewish immigration from Hungary becomes a great tale of American entrepreneurship and innovation. We are especially excited to have Dr. Lewis on board.”
Rich’s love affair with Atlanta was not unique to this city or to the South. Such relationships were repeated across the United States at Jewish-owned department stores such as Hutzler’s in Baltimore, Halle Brothers in Cleveland, Pizitz’s in Birmingham, Lazarus’s in Columbus, Neiman Marcus in Dallas, and Macy’s in New York. Each of these stores evolved from modest beginnings to become palaces of commerce—places to shop, enjoy lunch, and escape the monotony of everyday life into a world of fashion and beauty.
“So many Atlantans and customers throughout the Southeast have fond memories of Rich’s, and we hope that this exhibition will generate nostalgia and happy memories,” explained Dr. Catherine Lewis. “We also hope it will tell little known stories that reflect some of the most turbulent moments in Atlanta’s history—the economic crises involving school teachers’ pay and falling cotton prices, the Winecoff fire, the Orly crash in Paris, and student sit-ins that propelled Rich’s onto the front page of national newspapers as the battle for Civil Rights raged.”
The history of department stores in the United States reflects the experience of Jewish immigrants who rose from foot and cart peddlers to become, in some cases, the owners of the store chains in the country. Rich’s, much like other stores throughout the United States, became an iconic symbol of this community. A visit to Atlanta meant a visit to Rich’s. The store and city were often united in a common purpose. What was good for Rich’s was also good for Atlanta. And what was good for Atlanta was also good for Rich’s.
The Rich’s exhibition will feature a number of interactive elements and will draw upon collections from the Atlanta History Center, Coca-Cola, Georgia State, the Rich Foundation, and the Breman’s Cuba Family Archives. To encourage community participation in the exhibition, the Breman will host several focus groups for longtime employees and customers. If you would like to support the museum or exhibition, contribute artifacts, or share a story, contact the museum by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Breman, Atlanta’s Jewish museum, offers its visitors a wealth of experience spanning Jewish Arts, History, and Identity. The Breman Museum is home to exhibition galleries, the Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education and the Cuba Family Archives for Southern Jewish History. The Weinberg Center informs visitors from every religious and cultural background on the history of the Holocaust through the personal stories of survivors now living in Atlanta. These personal testimonies, both in film and in person, teach visitors about the universal themes of human dignity, diversity and the responsibility we have as human beings to prevent genocide. The Cuba Family Archives, the largest repository of southern Jewish history, houses collections of documents, photographs, artifacts, and oral histories all pertaining to Jewish life in Georgia and Alabama. These collections, as well as our Library, are accessible to students, teachers, researchers, history aficionados and home genealogists alike. In addition to the permanent galleries devoted to the Weinberg Center and the Cuba Family Archives, The Breman also has a special exhibitions gallery which presents various exhibitions pertinent to the museum’s mission.