One of 50 US libraries selected for a traveling exhibition from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, the JD Williams Library along with the Department of History and the Museum Studies minor presented Americans and the Holocaust, an examination of the motives, pressures, and fears that shaped American responses to Nazism, war, and genocide in Europe during the 1930s and ’40s.
UM hosted the exhibition last winter following a competitive peer-review process of its application that considered community demographics, plans for outreach around the exhibition, and the availability of other Holocaust-related educational opportunities in the area.
“Hosting the exhibition is significant because there are not many opportunities for people in the area to engage with cultural heritage programming related to the Holocaust,” said Cecelia Parks, research and instruction librarian and assistant professor. “Americans and the Holocaust helped increase knowledge and awareness around this important issue for students and the north Mississippi community.”
Drawing on a collection of primary sources from the time, the exhibition focused on the stories of American individuals and groups who took action in response to Nazism. It challenged visitors to consider the responsibilities and obstacles faced by individuals—from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to ordinary Americans—who made difficult choices, sought to effect change, and, in a few cases, took significant risks to help victims of Nazism even as rescue never became a federal priority.
The exhibition provided a unique opportunity for students minoring in Museum Studies to participate in the installation. Students Victoria Allen, Reese Anderson, Madeline Duvall, and Kristen Randle, as a part of their Introduction to Museum Practice course, applied what they learned in class by assisting Kariann Fuqua, director of the museum studies minor, and the library team to unpack and assemble the panels and kiosks.
Along with the exhibition, the museum hosted a professional development workshop for area middle and high school teachers on the UM campus.
“Teachers face many challenges with this difficult, yet important, topic,” said alumna Laura Boughton (BA history 88, MA history 93), a program coordinator at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. “The museum strives to provide guidance and resources to help teachers feel more confident about teaching the Holocaust. The resources are designed to provide content and context surrounding the topic as well approaches to help students grapple with the complexity of this history.”