Friday, September 26, 2008

Deceased--Joel Bloom

Joel Bloom
August 5th, 1925 to September 23rd, 2008

"Joel Bloom, Science Exhibit Innovator, Is Dead at 83"


Dennis Hevesi

September 26th, 2008

The New York Times

Joel N. Bloom, who in his 21 years as director of the science museum and planetarium at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia transformed a lackluster exhibition space into a bright and appealing one with hands-on experiments and walk-through exhibits, including a giant, pulsing human cell, died Tuesday in Livingston, N.J. He was 83 and lived in Philadelphia.

The cause was respiratory failure, said his daughter, Margo Bloom.

Mr. Bloom was director and president of the museum and the planetarium, which are divisions of the 184-year-old Franklin Institute, from 1969 to 1990. Among other projects, he was a prime mover in the conception and development of a museum of the future.

Now called the Mandell Futures Center, the $71 million, 90,000-square-foot wing of the institute over the years has offered exhibits of experimental high-speed trains propelled by magnets, a computer microchip lodged in the brain of a robot woman that may some day help blind people to see, prototypes of high-definition television and global positioning systems, and displays of undersea gardening. Visitors can walk into a throbbing, sloshing human cell, magnified a million times to the size of a 30-foot dome.

For 12 years, a full-size Boeing 707 was part of the museum collection, until, under Mr. Bloom's direction, the space was taken over by an Imax theater.

Dennis M. Wint, the president and chief executive of the Franklin Institute, said in an interview on Thursday that Mr. Bloom "was a thought leader for the field back in the '70s."

"He embraced using new methodologies — some from science, some from show business — to engage visitors," Mr. Wint continued. "It was not the old encyclopedic approach, but a way to provide a hands-on, interactive experience."

When Mr. Bloom retired in 1990, The Philadelphia Inquirer credited him with "taking the lead" in transforming the institute "from a dusty bin of outmoded exhibits into what is probably the most advanced science museum in the world."

In 1993, the American Association of Museums presented him with its Award for Distinguished Service to Museums; and in 2002, the Franklin dedicated its renovated observatory as the Joel N. Bloom Observatory.

Joel Nachum Bloom was born in Brooklyn on Aug. 5, 1925, one of two sons of Phillip and Minnie Shainmark Bloom. His father held many jobs, including selling insurance, and his mother taught Hebrew.

As a boy, Mr. Bloom spent many Saturdays at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. One of his favorite exhibits, he said in a speech to the American Association of Museums in 1991, was a war canoe of the Haida tribe, described as the "Indian Vikings of the Northwest Coast."

"I would stand beside this canoe and think and dream," Mr. Bloom said. "I don’t know if I would have become a scientist and then a museum director if that canoe had not inspired me to ask questions."

After seeing combat as an Army sergeant in Europe during World War II, Mr. Bloom earned a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1949. Five years later, he received a master's degree in operations research from Columbia.

Mr. Bloom married Paula Yackira in 1948; she died in 2006. Besides his daughter, he is survived by his brother, Gabriel; two sons, Ron and Dan; and six grandchildren.

For several years, the Blooms lived in Israel, where Mr. Bloom worked for the defense ministry. Then, in 1958, he was hired by the Franklin Institute as director of its systems science division. In 1968, he was asked to draw up a plan to redesign the science museum, and a year later he was named director, to carry out that plan.

"People are primates; they learn by touching," Mr. Bloom said in 1990, just before the Futures Center opened. "We're showbiz, and there is no conflict between that and first-class content."

No comments: