|The El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center|
|A couple of cabinets with a bunch of Nazi artifacts, many of which don't|
have any labels.
|The jarring transition into Nazi Germany.|
|A replica train car, similar to that at the United States Holocuast Memorial |
Museum in Washington DC.
|The display case of camp artifacts and the model guard tower.|
After hearing about the devastation wrought by fire in 2001, it did not surprise me to find the museum lacking in material culture. What does remain came from the personal collections of Holocaust survivors in El Paso, who generously donated their memories or returned to the camps to collect new artifacts. However, the museum did not incorporate them well into the narrative shaped by video and environment. One or two artifacts found homes in other galleries, but the bulk of the collection resided in the sections on the rise of Nazism and the camps themselves. This first gallery includes several cases with a veritable hodge-podge of Nazi memorabilia. China, badges, uniforms, books, documents, trinkets, and weapons lay side by side with little explanation. Most objects have no explanatory text at all, much less any cohesive organization or narrative. I saw this jumble repeated in the camp gallery - a variety of relevant artifacts flung together in a case haphazardly. It seems to me that the museum divided their surviving collection into two categories and threw them in cases. This museum needs to work on incorporating artifacts into the narrative to support its flashy videos and galleries.
The final stop on my visit to any museum is the gift shop or bookstore. I think that the gift shop is just as much part of the museum as the galleries, because it is from there that visitors find tangible objects to help them remember or further explore what they learned. Therefore, an excellent gift shop should expand from the museum's focus to other relevant topics. The El Paso Holocaust Museum's shop boasted a small selection of souvenirs, books, and DVDs, which support its focused narrative. Almost all the books retold the experiences of Jewish groups or individuals during the Holocaust, including volumes appropriate for both children and adults. Of the other topics covered, I found one volume on other victims of the Holocaust, one book on Japanese internment camps, two books on Rwanda, one on genocide in general, and one on Holocaust denial. The collection of DVDs contained slightly more variation in genre and country of origin, but focused on the Jewish experience with one notable exception. Downfall, a 2004 German film, which witnesses Hitler's last days through the somewhat revisionist account of his secretary, Traudl Junge. Its presence among the several different versions of Anne Frank's tragic story continues to intrigue me.
|Holocaust survivors who settled in El Paso.|