Reverence and restraint are often the hallmarks of a visit to the museum –where the pieces were painted hundreds of years ago, the displays are cordoned off and the atmosphere is very hush-hush.Not so at an exhibition showcasing at the Ashdod Art Museum.

Called Ashdod Project,” this is an exhibit that was made by the people for the people. Of Ashdod, but not only.

The exhibit is comprised of thousands of small, clear Perspex boxes which city residents, mostly children, were asked to fill with an object that best represents them. The result? Three installations full of wondrous objects that tell the story of the city.

Ballet slippers best symbolize this child from Ashdod. Photo by Naama Barak

The first installation showcases individual objects, focusing on the most private space of the individual – the bedroom. From this single object a whole world is imagined, and empty Perspex boxes marked with words like “bed,” “wardrobe” and “window” line the rest of the space to create a complete bedroom.

The most personal space for children, their bedroom, was created around one real object. Photo by Naama Barak

The next installation one level down has to do with structures of human organization that impact daily life in the city. The object-filled Perspex boxes construct a festive table symbolizing family organization; a demonstration highlighting political associations; or, in a case very symbolic for the southern city, the Code Red rocket alarm system that represents organization in states of emergency.

Personal objects in Perspex boxes make up this festive dinner table to symbolize human organization. Photo by Naama Barak

Down another flight of stairs is the final, most expansive installation dealing with the concept of “the city.” Here, the boxes are organized according to their creators’ neighborhoods, creating a visual and detailed blueprint of the city. Visitors can walk through the different “blocks” and peep into the clear boxes filled with photographs, toys and paintings representing the children who sent them in.

One Ashdod child chose a soccer glove as a personal symbol for the Ashdod Project exhibition. Photo by Naama Barak

The idea behind the exhibit was for “a portrait of the city to be presented in the museum through a portrait of all its residents,” says Yael Amit, the director of the museum’s education department. “They are the creators and they are the creation.”

The museum’s guides tell of groups of visiting schoolchildren frantically searching for the object they sent in – so much for a hush-hush atmosphere – and of locals figuring out what parts of the city are represented in the different blocks.

Yet even for those out of town, the exhibit resonates with universal messages of childhood, family and communal life, making Ashdod Project a must-see for all.

Ashdod Projectis on display at the Ashdod Art Museum until January 19, 2019. English tours available on demand. Ashdod Art Museum, 8 Derech Eretz St, Ashdod.