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Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the first-ever museum retrospective of the Supreme Court Justice-turned-pop-culture-icon, made its east coast debut at the National Museum of American Jewish History from October 4, 2019 through January 12, 2020.
Tracing a career that traveled from trailblazer to pop-culture icon, the special exhibition explores her precedent-setting role on our nation’s highest court, as well as her varied roles as a student, life partner, mother, change-making lawyer, judge, and women’s rights pioneer.
The second woman—and the first Jewish woman—to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Ginsburg acquired the “Notorious RBG” moniker after a series of fiery, record-breaking dissents she gave from the Supreme Court bench in 2013 around the Voting Rights Act. Then-NYU law student Shana Knizhnik was inspired to create the Notorious RBG tumblr, referencing rap star Notorious B.I.G. (In homage to Notorious B.I.G., the exhibition section titles are inspired by his lyrics.)
Based on the New York Times best-selling book of the same name by Knizhnik and Irin Carmon, the visually rich and entertaining exhibition explores RBG’s legacy through archival photographs and documents, historical artifacts, contemporary art, media stations, and gallery interactives. Visitors will find not only the Justice’s writings, opinions, and interviews, but also the whimsical yet powerful world of Notorious RBG memes, fan art, and parody – from a cartoon action figure named Wrath Hover Ginsbot to renderings of the Justice’s likeness on t-shirts, nail decals, and even as tattoos.
NMAJH’s location on Independence Mall provided a unique and ideal backdrop for exploring Justice Ginsburg’s story and the circumstances that brought her to the Court. It placed the Justice’s story at the very location where the United States was founded and the US Constitution established the Supreme Court.
Justice Ginsburg’s life and nomination to the Court are not new to NMAJH. She has been featured in the Museum’s core exhibition since our grand re-opening in 2010 as part of our exploration of contemporary Jewish life in America, and has been a longstanding Museum Member.
Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg is organized and circulated by the Skirball Cultural Center, Los Angeles, California. The exhibition at NMAJH was made possible thanks to the generous support of one of the great many admirers of RBG. Notorious RBG book cover illustration and title treatment by Adam Johnson. Courtesy of HarperCollins. Photographs: Crown © by Hurst Photo/Shutterstock; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States.
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