February 9, 2024
Melbourne Holocaust Museum reopens in Elsternwick Village
The Melbourne Holocaust Museum has reopened in Elsternwick Village and offers two powerful new exhibits to mark the occasion.
The newly revamped museum, formerly the Jewish Holocaust Centre, relocated to a temporary premises in 2020 for renovations and is now back in Elsternwick Village with an expanded museum.
Chief executive of the museum Jayne Josem said the centre had reached capacity and an extension was needed to support the huge number of annual visitors.
The two new exhibits, Everybody Had a Name and Hidden: Seven Children Saved are already proving popular.
Survivors in their own words
Everybody Had a Name is described as a uniquely Melbourne perspective of the lives lost during the Holocaust.
The exhibition starts and ends with local survivor Tuvia Lipson but thousands of other stories are shared, mostly from Melbourne’s survivor community. It honours the survivors who migrated to Melbourne via their stories, powerful photographs and evocative artefacts.
Curated in conjunction with interpretive design specialists Thylacine, the exhibition takes visitors on a journey from life before the war, to the rise of Nazism and the outbreak of World War II through to liberation and its aftermath.
Everybody Had a Name may not be suitable for children under 15 years old because of the nature of the content.
Ms Josem said great care was taken in creating the exhibition “to ensure that this vital history is engaging for a broad variety of visitors”.
She said it showcases a wide array of original material, “telling a multitude of stories and setting it all in its historical context”.
For children, by children
The Thylacine team also helped develop Hidden: Seven Children Saved, designed for children aged 10 and above.
It tells of the experiences of Joe de Haan, John Lamovie, Halina Zylberman, Paul Grinwald, Henri Korn, Sonia Kempler and Floris Kalman who survived the Holocaust in hiding.
First-hand survivor accounts, along with stories of others who courageously helped save the children’s lives, make it a moving exhibition.
It’s an immersive exhibition that includes age-appropriate testimonials, photos and artefacts that keep the child’s perspective in mind.
Immersive exhibition specialists, Art Processors, designed and produced exhibition spaces and a learning studio.
They wrote, produced and recorded audio narratives of children retelling the stories enabling young patrons to engage with the subject.
Moving images, soundscapes, dioramas and projections help bring the words to life.
A journey of growth
The new Melbourne Holocaust Museum in Elsternwick Village has been a decade in the planning, about three years in construction and has already won an architecture award for its design.
Almost 40 years after the end of World War II, the Jewish community in Melbourne took their first steps to ensuring we never forget about the horrors of the Nazi genocide.
It’s estimated about six million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust and the establishment of the then Jewish Holocaust Centre was a bid to ensure they were not forgotten.
Holocaust survivors, their families and supporters donated money, time and materials to the project.
It has been a journey of continuous growth and modernisation for the museum which threw open its doors in a renovated dance hall in 1984.
In 1990, the museum was remodelled and doubled in size, with The Smorgon Family Auditorium built upstairs, creating a larger space for hosting educational programs and seminars.
Almost 10 years later the building was again extended and the Hadassa and Szymon Rosenbaum Research Centre was opened by the Governor-General of Australia, Sir William Deane.
An ever-growing number of visitors, particularly school groups, meant the museum again outgrew its space and, in 2020, it moved to temporary premises to allow for its recent renovation.
Ms Josem urges visitors to put away preconceived notions about museum exhibitions and encounter a “powerful, inspiring and beautifully designed story space”.
She said visitors will leave the museum “moved by the history, provoked by its messages and yet inspired to do better in the world today”.