The first Jewish museums were established in the late nineteenth century. By
then, museums were coming into vogue all over Europe, with encouragement
from central and local government. Furthermore, while private collections of
objects of art had existed for centuries, these collections were now entering the
public domain. And, for the first time, this trend also applied to the collection
of Jewish ritual objects. As Cohen (1998) notes, art patronage in the form of
donations to public museums was a way of displaying patriotism while at the
same time seeking legitimacy in society.