Even though I’ve been to the National Holocaust Memorial Museum many times since its opening, it never gets any easier to see how innocent people suffered during that time period and the suffering that still remains because of the memory of it.
Again, today we tackled the topic of telling the difficult stories, stories that are hard for our visitors to hear. I was particularly struck by the choices that the museum made in terms of content and message of their special exhibition.
While the professionals at USHMM insisted that putting the visitor in the shoes of either victims or perpetrators is not their intention, it is so easy to relate to the idea of making choices. I particularly liked that the exhibit ends with the question “should I take the risk to help?” At first, I was wondering why the museum would have chosen to place the question at the end of the exhibit as opposed to the beginning, but I think that the idea of neighbors and the inclusion several themes that we can all recognize sort of puts the visitor in that frame of mind from the beginning, anyway. These were just a couple of the USHMM’s choices that shaped my visitor experience.
I think that my take away from today will be the big theme from the exhibit: the choices that we make affect others in profound ways. The choices that I make as a museum professional will affect my visitors, my coworkers, my community, and other stakeholders. Taking a step back, trying to see issues from a variety of perspectives, working in diverse groups, all of these things may help us to make better choices. As we learned today, we may all make bad decisions from time to time, but we shouldn’t let that hold us back when we have opportunities to choose wisely in the future.