Photo Credit: Jason O'Rear / Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum
Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

During a time of increased anti-Semitism in the United States, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum has just opened, the second of two major Holocaust museums to open in newly expanded quarters since the summer in Texas. This one features a unique interactive holographic technology project.

It’s one of only two in the world that has a permanent Dimensions in Testimony Theater – an interactive, holographic project developed by the USC Shoah Foundation that allows visitors to interact with a Holocaust Survivor long after they are ‘of blessed memory’. The interactive technology allows visitors to speak with holographic images of Survivors in real-time, including one of Dallas’ own Holocaust Survivors, Max Glauben, who will be the featured Survivor that visitors will interact with in the permanent theater.

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“The timing could not be better,” Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson said in opening the museum. “I think it’s not lost on myself or millions of people here that this is the type of action we need to take to stem the tide of that type of behavior. We’ve got to remind the people of the dangers of hatred.”

With anti-Semitic attacks up sharply over the last few years including the deadliest in US history at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the need for such exhibits that invite a deeper conversation about tolerance, xenophobia and where a toxic discourse can lead has never been more critical.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

The $78 million museum, located adjacent to the Book Depository (Dallas’ most visited site) has more than 55,000 square feet of space spread over three floors.

The Museum’s exhibit is designed by world-renowned Holocaust scholar Dr. Michael Berenbaum and his partner, noted exhibition designer Eddie Jacobs. Recent projects completed by the two — partners at Berenbaum Jacobs Associates — include the Holocaust Memorial Center for the Jews of Macedonia, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, and the Cincinnati Holocaust and Humanity Museum.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

This current project does not take the standard approach of focusing exclusively on the tragedy and atrocities of the Holocaust, the designers said. Rather, the exhibit also seeks to connect visitors to the struggle for human rights and to those ‘upstanders’ who pursued change even in the face of adversity through three wings – Holocaust, Human Rights and Pivot to America.

“At a time like this, when so many forces seem to be pushing us further apart and dividing us, we need reexamine and learn from the past. This exhibit is designed to encourage visitors, especially younger ones, to challenge themselves and their understanding of the world around us in order to transform the future,” said Berenbaum.

Jacobs further expanded on the project in an email to JewishPress.com. “Our goal was to compose a sweeping and seamless over-arching conceptual narrative for the museum. We felt a great deal of responsibility to create a story that would be both historically enlightening and personally engaging- particularly to high school age audiences,” he said.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

“Engagement can only happen by taking creative risks, and the results can only be known at the end. It is akin to painting a huge mural- but in pieces. The artist has entire an canvas in his/her mind, but it is only truly seen when it has been fully assembled,” Jacobs added.

Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum

“Some museums educate, other museums showcase historical artifacts. Well, this Museum does all of that, but it goes even further because this museum also inspires; it empowers,” said Texas Governor Gregg Abbott. “The Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is a reminder of the evil that can exist in the world and it stands as a memorial to those who lost their lives so that their memory will never fade. All those who walk through these halls will be inspired to fight for human dignity and freedom throughout the world.”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.