I was on a routine visit to the UB Archives when I observed a young woman at the receptionist’s desk carefully handling a handwritten musical score, her gloved hands gingerly sorting through the pile of fragile papers. Curious, I asked the woman (who turned out to be Gabrielle Carlo, a musician and student assistant pursuing a master’s degree in library science) about the papers. She told me they were scores for voice and organ that had belonged to Samuel Luskin, the long-serving choir director at Temple Beth El in Tonawanda, N.Y., who died in 1959. Luskin’s collection of scores, notebooks, correspondence and what Gabrielle called “special objects” recently came to UB in a joint program with the Jewish Buffalo Archives Project.
As we chatted, Gabrielle suddenly held up an old-fashioned key with a rounded head that had also belonged to Luskin. “Where does this lead to and what does it mean?” she wondered aloud. Somewhat akin to Harry Potter’s winged key (though a little less ornate), it provoked in my mind the image of unlocking a previously unexplored world. Unable to dislodge these thoughts, I found myself researching it later.
Luskin’s key may have opened an arc containing the Torah, as some have speculated, or perhaps it led to an unknown repository of his other musical compositions. Either explanation is plausible: Luskin spent much of his life composing and arranging music, both religious and secular. And he helped generations of boys prepare for their bar mitzvahs. But maybe the purpose was more prosaic. Perhaps the key opened an old clock or unlocked a strong box containing his insurance policies. Clues to the key’s significance may be hidden in the four other boxes that remain to be sorted. In the meantime, Gabrielle told me a few days after our visit, she savors the mystery.
I thought a lot about Luskin’s key, and how it might serve as a metaphor for unlocking our own sensibilities, as we embarked on redesigning our magazine. It’s been almost a year since we began planning the redesign. During our dozens of team meetings, we endeavored to reveal what is essential to developing more compelling content for our readers. If our symbolic key worked, you’ll see our new reader-centric approach reflected in our features and in regularly occurring departments. One of these departments, Objectology, takes an object associated with UB and either deconstructs it into its component parts or shows its evolution, as with our lighthearted depiction of the UB mascot’s head.
Still, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. As with Luskin’s vintage key, a certain mystery may always remain.
Ann Whitcher Gentzke, Editor