May 24, 2009

The Museum of Tolerance

Posted in Uncategorized at 10:29 am by classicalmusic

One of the most intriguing concepts in museums is the Simon Wiesenthal Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. What started as a monument to victims of the Holocaust has become a major institutions that teaches topics on a global scale.

The Museum boasts that it is not a museum of artifacts and documents, it is a museum of emotions. What this really means is that the visitor is thrust into a world of hate and forced to confront whatever personal prejudices he or she might have.

For example, one exhibit is set up as a 1950’s style diner. At each table, a conversation can be heard that would have been typical of the time. Racism and prejudice are served up along with sandwiches and then the visitor gets an opportunity to join the conversation. No one walks away the same after a visit to this “diner.”

Another exhibit teaches about global intolerance. Displays that document the genocides of Rwanda, Bosnia, and Darfur are gripping in their directness. A visitor realizes how intolerance can lead to murder on a grand scale when left unchecked. Yet, it is not an exhibit of despair. The visitor is encouraged to come up with solutions for these vexing situations and is then shown how these issues can be dealt with.

Of course, the Museum is grounded in its best known exhibit, that dealing with the Holocaust. yet rather than just displaying the “shock value” artifacts of other Holocaust Museums, the Museum of Tolerance tries to show the human side of the tragedy. How unchecked anti-Semitism led to whole-scale murder. Gripping pictures show how typical people were dehumanized and treated as animals.

The lessons of the Museum are clear. Any type of intolerance — when allowed to grow — can lead to genocide. Seemingly innocent jokes told to friends at a diner, can be the foundation of mass murder. Hopefully, the visitor will leave the museum as a different person and will always be on the lookout for intolerance.

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