My placement at the National Holocaust Centre and Museum consisted of two elements. The first involved helping with digitisation of the Journey Exhibition – known as the virtualisation project – which is on permanent display at the centre. The second element was to assist the curator in researching artefacts, writing subject overviews, interviewing survivors, and developing best-practice guidelines on interviewing techniques. The aim of the placement therefore was to increase my own knowledge about how museums represent the Kindertransports; how they select artefacts and information to display, and what to archive; and how the exhibition links in with its wider objectives as a Centre and museum. Therefore, the second half of my placement involved working with and using information from the centre’s project Strengthening Our Collections (SOC). Initially I consulted the SOC material to increase my knowledge about the Kindertransports. For example, the material enhanced my understanding of what items Kinder brought with them, what these objects meant to the individual survivor, and how they are used within a museum context today. Many of the SOC interviews have been placed at the end of the Journey exhibition which meant that I was also able to study how these testimonies connect with other sections of the exhibition. This was significant because it allowed me to reflect upon whether the SOC material reinforced or challenged national and international memories of the transports. This material also extended my knowledge about the Kinder’s lives in their countries of birth before they embarked upon their journeys to their host nations such as Britain. Moreover, the interviews with the survivors and their objects were important for my research because they discussed the Kinder’s heritage and they also explored the cultures that they grew up in in their lands of origin.

 

Towards the end of my three-month placement at the centre I created a travelling exhibition entitled ‘Exploring and re-thinking narratives of the Kindertransports through identity, testimony, and artefacts’. This exhibition explored the history and memory of the transports not only to Britain but also to other host nations such as America and New Zealand. Working with the curator I was able to use the SOC material within my exhibition. This material brought the exhibition to life as it illustrated the survivor’s individual stories. The exhibition not only presents the objects that the Kinder brought with them on their journeys to this country but the exhibition also shows the survivor’s connection to these artefacts. For example, on panel five of the exhibition the stories of Bernard and Ellen are presented. The testimony and collections shown on this panel have been selected from the SOC material. This material documents the Kinder’s lives in Continental Europe, their Jewish heritage, and family life. They also show the Kinder’s thoughts and feelings on arrival in Britain. Ellen’s testimony especially highlights how this work is tapping into previously marginalised stories about the Kindertransports because she was not received with welcome arms. Rather she discusses how difficult her time was when she first arrived in Britain. This SOC material is very important because it documents how some Kinder struggled to adapt to a new way of life in this country as Ellen continues to talk about how she was made to do domestic work.

 

I will also be using SOC material within my PhD especially with regards to my chapters about museum exhibitions, memorials and testimony.  I will be using this material to compare Kinder’s experiences in their different host nations. Therefore, the SOC material will shed light on how Britain is remembering the Kindertransports.