Exploring Holocaust Museum Houston: Gaining New Perspectives
I first visited the Holocaust Museum Houston in fall of 2020 with family. The museum is home to three exhibits - Bearing Witness: A Community Remembers, the Lester and Sue Smith Human Rights Gallery, and a temporary exhibit. At the time of my first visit, the Nelson Mandela temporary exhibition was on display.
Walking through the museum, my breath reached deeper, and my thoughts, my curiosity, flowed with the walls and pictures.
Some of the highlights of Bearing Witness, which is the exhibit focused on the Jewish experience before and during the Holocaust, are images and videos of local Holocaust survivors, and an opportunity to “talk” to a survivor via virtual reality technology. The Human Rights gallery focuses on more recent events and crimes against humanity and also takes on the questions: What are human rights? How do atrocities happen? What can we do?
The exhibitions were so powerful that I wanted, or needed, more than one visit to absorb the impactfulness. So I went back to the museum a few weeks later, this time organizing students from the African American Affinity Group at my school to come along. During the visit, I noticed different things, such as an inspirational quote next to the exit, or the photos donated by survivors in the Bearing Witness exhibit.
On my third and most recent visit to the museum, which was with Buzz interns Tulsi Parikh and Alex Buettgen, I knew to expect something new to grab my attention, even though I had already seen two of the exhibits. Sure enough, something did catch my attention: the intentional architecture.
The Bearing Witness exhibit, which is permanent and relatively unchanging, starts with a lower ceiling with the videos and displays explaining the history of antisemitism and the rise of Nazi Germany. As the exhibit continues, the ceiling slopes upwards, and natural light beams inwards, ultimately shining light and hope on the resistance and liberation sections of Bearing Witness.
After leaving Bearing Witness, I moved onto the museum’s newest temporary exhibition, Withstand: Latinx Art in Times of Conflict. When Holocaust Museum guest curators, Gabriela Magana and Rosa Ana Orlando, started planning for the museum’s newest exhibition, they chose the theme of resistance.
Resistance and conflict, whether they be personal or interpersonal, are universal to all peoples. However, Withstand offers an opportunity to connect with experiences specific to Latinx artists through various videos, sculptures, paintings, and photographs.
Magana and Orlando collected the pieces through an open call process, in which they invited local Latinx artists to submit their artwork and a description of its connection to resistance. The curators selected 100 pieces to be shown in person and a selection of other artworks for the online exhibition.
With the selection of pieces, naturally, sub-themes developed such as social and political turmoil, identity, gender roles, religion, and immigration. Each piece of art has such a unique style, and such a unique story. The artists’ talent and ability to weave metaphors into their art - like the clay molded and powerful as a response to fire, or the vibrant Guatemalan textiles that fade in time just as memories do - will likely take your breath.
The gallery can feel like one large painting where each consecutive piece contributes to the larger picture or message. To Rosa Ana Orlando, that larger message is that “we are all more similar than we are different,” she shared.
Withstand is the first temporary exhibit that includes pieces inside the Human Rights Gallery. So as you make your way through the third exhibit, some of the beautiful artworks will still surround you.
The exhibit will run through Oct. 17, 2021. As you walk through, you can use a smartphone to scan QR codes to learn more about each piece.
The museum, located at Lester and Sue Smith Campus, 5401 Caroline, Houston, TX 77004, is hosting free admission “family days” this summer, which offer opportunities for visitors to talk with some of the local Latinx artists from the Withstand exhibit, experience dance and theatre performances, and take tours of the exhibits with curators. Upcoming family days are July 10 and Aug. 14. The museum is open to all ages, but Rosa Ana Orlando agrees that the exhibits are likely to be most impactful for those 11 years old and older.
Admission is always free for kids under 18, active military, active military families, and museum members. Tickets are $19 for adults, $15 for adults 65+ or AARP members. Thursdays from 2-5 p.m. are free for all visitors. The museum is closed Mondays; open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; open Sunday, 12-5 p.m. The Legacy Cafe is open weekends only.
Face masks are requested if you are not fully vaccinated and complimentary masks are available at the front desk. See more information and reserve tickets here.
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