I had always meant to visit the Museum of Tolerance. It’s in Central LA, it is a well known, innovative museum, and going to a museum about tolerance has to be good for you. Unfortunately, I am just never in the mood to go to a museum that focuses on genocide and other horrible things people to do to each other. The last time I went to an exhibit like this was way back in Fall 2007, when I was living in London. A friend and I visited the Imperial War Museum (which is ridiculously impressive, by the way. So many planes!), and we found ourselves in the Holocaust section, which is huge…and overwhelming…and just so sad. So so so sad. There were stacks of shoes and glasses that had been shed before the victims entered the ovens. There were tons of recorded testimonies by people who had been sent to death camps. There was so much senseless death. By the end of the exhibit, I could barely move. My friend continued on while I stared at the wall for a long time.
So, yeah. It’s not idea of my best time.
But, I am studying museums. I can do this.
The Museum of Tolerance doesn’t focus just on the Holocaust, although that is a large section of it, but rather on injustices of all sorts (although I would mention that there are some MASSIVE blind spots, particularly when it comes to injustices in the Middle East ahem ahem). Once you get through these early exhibits about the Civil Rights movement and other current injustices, you’re sent into the Holocaust section of the museum, which is only entered with a tour guide. This tour is very aimed at school groups (I went through with a high school group). The museum has a fake Germany “set” which ends with the extremely sobering concentration camp and gas chamber sets. Yeah. Sitting in a fake gas chamber will make you think things over, let me tell you. I found the exhibit to be kind of basic. There aren’t a lot of original materials, and instead it is entirely recreated. Still, the information was good, and I think the kids were getting a lot out of it.
Also, at the beginning of the tour, you’re given a card with the name and picture of a child who was affected by the Holocaust. Along the way, you put the card into very 1990s card readers which give you more information about the kid, and, in the end, you find out what happened to your child. My child, sadly, disappeared during the Holocaust, but some did survive, as evidenced by the Holocaust survivors that the museum hires to sit and talk to visitors. That’s an amazing addition to the whole experience.
So, yes. I’m glad I went. It’s an interesting museum from a museum studies standpoint, due to its lack of actual objects, which are replaced by its interactive exhibits.
But did I enjoy myself? Um. I don’t think that’s the point. I was so emotionally exhausted, that I went home and took a two hour nap.
Let’s all be good to each other, yes? Thanks.