Holocaust Memorial Museums around the country offer incomparable additions to educational student tours. My experience at the one in Washington DC proved all my research along these lines. The museums give us not just a window into history but a window to the present and the future. Through it we see our world as it is shaped by hatred and bigotry. Beyond it, we see how we can be catalysts for change, so atrocities like the Holocaust will remain in history.
Being from the Midwest, I’m thrilled, if you haven’t heard of it yet, to tell you about the Holocaust Museum in my region. It is also an amazing experience and should be included in Chicago educational tours.
The building that now holds the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is relatively new and was dedicated on April 19, 2009. The keynote speaker, President Bill Clinton no doubt gave his prominent endorsement because of the importance of telling the stories within and because of the learning center that turns the stories into powerful lessons.
Exhibits within this museum present the Holocaust as well as more recent events and genocides still happening today – all in the context of the attitudes and misplaced philosophies that lead to such tragedy. Students learn to recognize hateful tendencies at their root, in their smallest degree, so we can all learn to face them and squelch them before they grow. Some Holocaust stories are so shocking, so abhorrent, we can’t imagine how they came to be. Others, like the use of propaganda to promote Hitler’s cause, seem all too familiar as we face the reality that seeds of ignorance can spread throughout a group with little effort.
In the Make a Difference exhibit, middle graders and other young students will find interactive hands-on activities. The displays here help children place themselves in the world, to realize their impact on it. It’s a favorite section of the museum for students and their eager administrators.
The Illinois Holocaust Museum is one of Chicago’s newest and brightest attractions for students. It is both a memorial and a learning center, a place of remembrance and a place to look forward. It is an absolute must for educational tours.
Photo by kongtemplation on Flickr.