by Jen Chiappone
Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich discusses how museums, such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington D.C. and Yad Vashem in Jerusalem use portraits and photographs to further (emotionally) connect to their visitors. Hansen-Glucklich focuses on HOW we (the visitor) sees something in a museum and how a museum can organize itself and use certain exhibits to help the visitor to understand meaning.
For those who have not been to the USHMM (go now!!), this museum takes the visitor on a journey through the rise of the Nazi party, through the Holocaust, and ends with the aftermath and remembrance. It fully envelops the visitor. The part that Hansen-Glucklich focuses on in USHMM is the Tower of Faces. These photographs of the Jews in Eishyshok, Lithuania taken from 1890 to 1941 when the German soldiers arrived. Before this in the museum, there are minimal portraits, more objects and text. With these portraits, the visitors get to put a face with the atrocity they have learned about this far into the museum. Once the visitors read the plaque that tells about the Jews from Eishyshok’s fate, the visitor is left wondering about their fate. After reading about their fates, the visitor is brought back from the personal to the “image of a single great catastrophe.” (Hansen-Glucklich 95).
I think the USHMM is a perfect example for the exhibit and museum theories Hansen-Glucklich is implying. This museum is wonderfully set up to surround the visitor with the history, emotions, and tensions that was happening during World War II. Granted there is a lot of reading and text in this museum but the entire museum is the full experience. It starts out with the visitors cramming into a small elevator which is supposed to resemble the crowded train car that the Jews were transported to concentration camps in. This museum is meant to be fully immersible and connect with the visitor with more than just historical facts. The museum tells the visitor when to look in and reflect on what they see after the entire museum. There is a space of remembrance that allows the visitor to light a candle for the Jews from difference concentration camps, regardless of whether they knew someone there or not. The museum connects and controls the visitors emotions and thoughts while in the museum space. This is done with exhibits, films, portraits, and even decorations/architecture.
Reesa Greenberg takes Hansen-Glucklich’s ideas and focuses it closely to the Jewish museums in Europe that existed before World War II. Greenberg breaks down the variables of tolerance in a museum setting sich include integration, inclusion, representation of women, and the response to genocide (Jewish). While many of the museums discussed date before World War II, all have added large sections on the Holocaust to include either the affected general or local Jewish history.
In “Ajax, the Dutch, the War,” Simon Kuper discusses the forgotten and hidden monuments to the Jews who lost their lives during the Holocaust. As in the Ajax club, the feelings about Holocaust and the lost Jews of World War II are more subdued and something that isn’t really talked about. Besides the Anne Frank House and the Dutch Resistance Museum, not a lot is publicly acknowledged. With this, a lot of history can be lost. A “secret” monument I found is the Monument at the Hollandsche Schouwburg in Amsterdam:
This monument is located at Hollandsche Schouwburg, is a theater, now Jewish museum, that was deemed by the Nazis a Jewish theater and was later used as a deportation center during the Holocaust. It pays homage to the Dutch Jews that were deported during the Holocaust. This monument and location is something I have never heard about and am eager to know more. This monument is tucked away in the courtyard of the large museum space and is (probably) often overlooked. Online, there is practically no information on the monument; most is directed towards the building itself.
Hansen-Glucklich, Jennifer. “The Artful Eye: Learning to See and Perceive Otherwise inside Museum Exhibits.” Museums and the Challenges of Representation. Rutgers University Press. 2014.