Keeping History Center

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Review

of an Exhibit

by Monica Brandwein

Published on March 27, 2011 , Modified on March 28, 2011

  • Museum: Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust

  • Visit Date: March, 2011

  • Website(s):  http://www.mjhnyc.org/khc

  • Description:

    The Keeping History Center is an interactive digital visitor experience at the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust. The exhibit opened in the fall of 2009. It is located in an overlook gallery overlooking the New York harbor. In this space visitors have the opportunity to explore stories from the museum’s collections. It is a place to create and understanding that we are all participants in, as well as custodians of, our history.
    Right now the Keeping History Center is in Phase I. Phase I will be on view until the fall of 2011. This phase includes two installations: the Garden of Stones Timekeeper and the Voices of Liberty. The Garden of Stones Timekeeper is a virtual exploration of Andy Goldsworthy’s memorial Garden of Stones located in the back of the new wing of the Museum. The timekeeper is an interactive exhibit that uses a time-lapse camera to record each moment in the sculpture’s life. A dial on the display allows visitors to move the screen image backwards and forwards, watching tree growth through time. Also on view in the timekeeper is footage of Goldsworthy as he creates each element of the memorial as well as the planting of the trees by Museum family. (See image attached of Andy Goldsworthy using the timer at the opening of the exhibition).
    Voices of Liberty is a soundscape composed of diverse voices including Holocaust survivors, refugees, and others who chose to make the United States their home. The stories are emotional, humorous, and meaningful testimony that tells the visitor the stories of arriving in NYC from the point of view of those who sought to build new lives here. The exhibition is divided into nine themes. These nine themes are: Leaving, Home, Dreams, Liberty, Object Lessons, The Trip, Adapting, Object Lessons, First Impression.
    Each theme is highlighted with a carpeted circle and a bench to sit and listen to the stories. Visitors enter the space and are given an ipod touch and headphones. They are instructed to move into the first circle to for instructions and welcome from the Director of the Museum. From there visitor can move throughout their space at their own pace. The stories are triggered to start and stop by antennas in the headphones and on top of each circle. At the end of the visitors exploration there is a computer station for visitors to add their own memories though the website associated with the exhibition.

    The Keeping History Center in Phase I is introducing new types of technology into a Museum that focuses on history. The technology that is used is a look into the future of what museums will begin to offer. The exhibition becomes enticing for younger visitor who are bored of looking at artifacts behind glass. Here these young visitors who are growing up with technology at their finger tips can explore a subject of history using the technology they are familiar with. Even though there are no real “artifacts” the stories from the immigrants become the artifacts. The location of the exhibition with the view of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island help visitors begin to imagine what these immigrants saw as they arrived in United States. The inclusion of the timekeeper in this space allows for the visitor to explore another part of the museum as well as its history of how the memorial garden was created and installed at the museum. Museum visitors have the chance to become part of history by going into the garden and captured on the timekeeper. The visitor can then view themselves on the timekeeper in the Keeping History Center.

    The exhibition going along with the Museum’s mission is a visitor friendly exhibition and is suitable for people of all ages. Students beginning in 3rd grade through adults can enjoy the space (younger visitors might enjoy the space but may not understand the full themes of each circle). Depending on the time you allot to explore the space each visitor can get something out of it. The stories are clear and easy to follow. The themes are expressed well through the stories that are shared. As mentioned before younger visitors might enjoy the space because of the use of technology but older students should not shy away from the space because of the technology. It is user friendly and museum staff is there to help explain anything.

    Phase I was an exciting introduction and I look forward to Phase II, which will include more technology. Voices of Liberty and the Time Keeper will be part of Phase II but on a smaller level.

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