Author Archive | Paul Williams

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Do You Remember, When”

Paul Williams, NYU
United States Holocaust Museum: Online Exhibit, Do You Remember When?
Among the various modes of museum display, “online exhibits,” are often disappointing. They are overwhelmingly purely visual, comprising two-dimensional representations of select artworks or artifacts. These are chosen without explanation by the museum and organized in a this-then-that sequence that has little to do with the personal idiosyncrasies of museum visitation – or the cross-institutional, hyper-textual possibilities afforded by the web. While some science and a few art museums offer important exceptions, history museums are particularly guilty of this tendency.
It is heartening, therefore, to find a truly enlightening online history exhibit. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s ‘Do You Remember, When’ exhibition went online in 2001. It is based entirely on a book given by one young man, Manfred Lewin, killed at Auschwitz, to his gay friend, Gad Beck, a half Jew who survived in the small Jewish underground of World War II Berlin.…

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The Atrocity Exhibition

Paul Williams, Assistant Professor, Program in Museum Studies, New York University
On first reflection, we might assume that objects tied to abhorrent events deserve no place in the museum. The association of the museum with all things historically precious and valuable is an idea that remains largely stable in public consciousness. In history museums, the prized object has qualities related not primarily to the aesthetic excellence found in art museums, nor the rare and representative specimens that fill natural history museums, but to that of authenticity. The subcategory of memorial museums, for their part, are acutely aware of the role of primary artifacts, not only because they give displays their powerful appeal, but also because in many cases they exist as tangible proof in the face of debate and even denial about the veracity of what transpired.…

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