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‘Americans and the Holocaust’ Traveling Exhibition Coming to UM

The J.D. Williams Library at the University of Mississippi is one of 50 U.S. libraries selected to host “Americans and the Holocaust,” a traveling exhibition from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum that examines the motives, pressures and fears that shaped American responses to Nazism, war and genocide in Europe during the 1930s and ’40s.

The touring library exhibition, based on the special exhibit of the same name at the museum in Washington, D.C., will travel the country in 2020-22. It is slated to arrive in Oxford in 2021.

“Being selected to host this exhibition is also significant because there are not many opportunities for people in this area to engage with cultural heritage programming related to the Holocaust,” said Cecelia Parks, research and instruction librarian and assistant professor.

“Hosting this exhibition will help increase knowledge and awareness around this important issue for UM students and the broader north Mississippi community.”

“Americans and the Holocaust” will be displayed at the J.D. Williams Library, along with a series of related events, from Dec. 1, 2021 to Jan. 14, 2022.

Ole Miss was selected to host the exhibition following a competitive peer-review process of its application that considered community demographics, proposed plans for outreach around the exhibition and the availability of other Holocaust-related educational opportunities in the area, Parks said.

“The University of Mississippi Libraries are excited to host this traveling exhibition from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum,” said Cecilia Botero, dean of UM Libraries.” The exhibition will be a great opportunity for the University of Mississippi and the greater north Mississippi community to engage with the history of the Holocaust and its lessons for us today.”

The exhibition will provide a rich instructional resource for multiple courses in university curriculum, while also engaging faculty and students at local K-12 schools, according to Noell Wilson, chair of history and Croft associate professor of history and international studies.

“As we develop a museum studies/public history concentration in the College of Liberal Arts, students’ collaboration in the installation and dismantling of the exhibit will provide rare insight into the behind-the-scenes work of exhibitions,” Wilson said.

“Given that the application process resulted in only a 20 percent acceptance rate, UM’s selection speaks to the commitment of the greater LOU community in educating the general public about the history of the Holocaust and its enduring lessons for humanity in 2019.”

Based on extensive new research of that period, the “Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit addresses important themes in American history, exploring the many factors – including the Great Depression, isolationism, xenophobia, racism and antisemitism – that influenced decisions made by the U.S. government, news media, organizations and individuals as they responded to Nazism.

Drawing on a remarkable collection of primary sources from the 1930s and ’40s, the exhibition focuses on the stories of individuals and groups of Americans who took action in response to Nazism. It challenges 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 as rescue never became a government priority.

Besides the traveling exhibit on loan, the J.D. Williams Library will receive a cash grant to support public programs. One library staff member also will have expenses paid to attend an orientation workshop at the Holocaust museum in Washington, D.C.

“Americans and the Holocaust: A Traveling Exhibition for Libraries” is made possible by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Library Association.

For more information about Americans and the Holocaust and related programming at the J.D. Williams Library, visit https://libraries.olemiss.edu/. To learn more about the exhibition, visit https://www.ushmm.org/online-calendar/event/maamerexhib0418.

By Edwin B. Smith

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