Last Thursday, I paid a visit to Huston Holocaust Museum. It is clearly one of the most impressive sites I have ever seen. The museum itself was constructed in 1996 and is considered the fourth sizable museum in the United States in terms of the exposition to the given topic. The main aim of the museum is to raise awareness of the crimes in the XXth century and show the sequence of events that not only touched the United States but could be reproduced in the global context. Thus, those who aim at understanding history in the broader context, should clearly attend the museum and rethink these historical experiences on their examples.
The expositions comprise of the diversity of tools that illustrate how the history of violence and crimes could be translated to the audience that did not live through these times. The promotion of remembrance of the events is directed through the instruments of visualizations, digital tools and the remnants at that time. Moreover, a substantial part of the exhibits is based on the real stories, translated by the survivors as well as by those who left artifacts from these tasks. Besides the illustrative and demonstrative purpose for the diverse audiences, the museum also pursues a didactic dimension. Namely, the purpose is to show future generation what kind of sins and violence, in general, could be prevented in the future epoque. Therefore, the universal message is that Holocaust does not touch a single country or entity (in particular, Jews), but it is a universal challenge for everyone who might potentially face such violence. Therefore, each and everyone should be aware of these crimes. Thus, an educational dimension was the initial commitment of the creators that is clearly translated in the exhibitions these days.
What’s really particular about the museum is that it does not solely show the history of violence of the époque through the exhibited artifacts. In the museum, there are numerous programs launched that aim at translating the knowledge to others. Thus, the initial purpose of the museum significantly varies from the similar institutions of its type. For instance, one can note that there is a teaching program operating within the museum where experts based in the museum provide the examples on how to translate the knowledge on the history of Holocaust to others. Therefore, it is essential to understand the challenges and focus on the specific aspects. In other words, the museum is an essential space for studying and reading history and translating this knowledge to others.
Another point that stands out after visiting of the museum is the size of its facilities and the volume of information preserved. The museum in Houston is proud to have access to the library with over 5.000 exhibits dedicated to the époque which one can refer to better understand the Jewish history and the universal tragedy in general. The artifacts that are presented to the broader audience comprise of the documents, films, and photographs with the individuals from all over the world. Besides that, there is the information that was preserved by survivors that are documented, too. For instance, one particular story that stroke me during the visit was the survival of a girl from the Hitler Jugend (Hitler Youth). In fact, the museum enlists numerous resembling stories that have personal histories living in them. That is why the visit to the museum may appear to be emotional, as most of these stories reflect upon the lives of ordinary people who lived through that time.
The exhibitions in the museum are usually divided into temporary and permanent. The current permanent exhibition, called “Bearing Witness: A community remembers” illustrates the testimony of Holocaust survivors. While entering the permanent exhibitions, visitors have the chance to have a glimpse into the pre-War historical context and reflect upon the incorporation of Holocaust events into the general context. The documented artifacts in the film files show the elements of Nazi propaganda and its use against the individuals representing a different race. A crucially important part of the exhibition that also related to the local history of Texas is the illustration of the events of the “Operation Texas.” It was an attempt to settle a refugee camp in Texas. While visiting the museum, one has the chance to experience the testimony about the camp, too. All of the documents and movies in particular that are collected within the permanent exhibition show the first-hand experiences of witnesses of the events. In other words, visitors have the emotional attachment to the history contrary to the historical interpretations of these events.
The other facilities in the museum comprise of the Education Center, and Memorial rooms dedicated to the lives of particular families. These are the Lack Family Memorial Room, Alexander Garden of Hope and Morgan Family Center. Each of these facilities carries powerful messages of the personal stories of people living at that time. For instance, Eric Alexander Garden is dedicated to the history of millions of children who were killed because of the Holocaust Tragedy.
While making an overall evaluation of the exhibitions in the museum, it is a certainly well-designed place that shows the universal dimension of history and its personal meaning for each and every actor involved. The visit to the museum would be useful for people of different age groups and those who still question their attitude towards the events at that time.