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Elizabethtown high school talk on the Holocaust museum


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  • I gave a talk for the honors class of Elizabethtown High School, Elizabethtown, PA. I spoke about how museums struggle with history presentations and used the Holocaust as an example. The class was attentive but silent. Afterward they said that the information about museums and history was unfamiliar and new for them. They liked thinking about it. Suggested to me that an important example about how museums present, frame, and sometimes skew history could be a useful session for students.
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Elizabethtown high school talk on the Holocaust museum

  1. 1. BACKGROUNDI HAVE BEEN A DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR A NUMBER OF MUSEUMS. My job was to make them operate. I do not do the creative stuff like deciding what are in exhibitions though I have in the past.I WAS DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR THE USHMM FROM 1991=1994 because I know to open museum that are undergoing change or construction.I AM NOW A CONSULTANT TO MANY MUSEUMS AROUND THE WORLD that are undergoing change.
  2. 2. USHMMThe USHMM opened in 1993 after 10 years of planning and argumentsIt opened with 10,000 people in attendance including 16 heads of state.The opening was broadcast live on CNN and the speakers included the President of the United States Bill Clinton.The first visitor was the Dalai LamaWhy did they come? why was it broadcast live? And why would every head of state thereafter come to visit when in DC?
  3. 3. GOVERNANCEThe USHMM is a government museumIt was built with private fundsIt is free to the publicIt has an annual Federal appropriationIt also fundraises separately
  4. 4. BACKGROUNDThe Holocaust happened between 1933 and 1945 in Nazi Germany. It is not a synonym for the WW2.It refers to persecution and genocide to all the victim groups. The largest group are Jews, the second largest are Poles. The victim groups include Roma, Homosexuals, political dissidents, handicapped individuals, people of color, communists, socialists and those who opposed the Nazi’s.Genocide was the reason for rounding up 2 of the groups – Jews and Gypsies.
  5. 5. MUSEUMS• Are public places• Except for groups (schools) people came when they want and leave when they want• The visitor is mostly standing and walking• Comes alone or with a small social group that talk together• Visitors are surrounded by strangers• Have “stuff”, evidence, collections on display• Have multi-sensory experiences available, not just reading or looking• Are time limited experiences
  6. 6. EXHIBITION ISSUESForced marchChange of flooringUse of Picture as evidenceUse of collections material as evidencePrivacy wallsWhere to put the crematoriumLooking at youVoice of the narratorHeroes on the last floor
  7. 7. EXHIBITION CONTINUEDThe shoesWhat America knew and when did they know it?How to end the storyIs a memorial proper in a Federal building?Separation of church and stateSeparation of Federal and Private museums