Manchester Jewish Museum launches project to share hidden stories from the Holocaust - Museums Association

Manchester Jewish Museum launches project to share hidden stories from the Holocaust

Partnership project with IWM aims to get young people engaged with Holocaust Memorial Day
Holocaust
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Geraldine Kendall Adams
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Manchester Jewish Museum reopened last July after a redevelopment
Manchester Jewish Museum reopened last July after a redevelopment Joel Chester Fildes

Manchester Jewish Museum has launched a year-long project to uncover hidden stories from the Holocaust in its collections.

The initiative will see Becky Prestwich, a local artist, writer and theatre director, work with Jewish and non-Jewish young people in Manchester to develop a public event for Holocaust Memorial Day 2023.

The project began today with the launch of a short film created by the young people, combining photography with poetry and stories from the museum’s collection. The film includes a series of provocations inspired by museum objects such as Leo’s Teddy Bear, which was brought to England by Leo Marcus and once belonged to his son, who didn’t survive the Holocaust. Public responses to the film will be used to inform the public event next year.

Leo’s Teddy is one of the stories of how the Holocaust impacted Jewish communities in Manchester Manchester Jewish Museum

The project is funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund through Imperial War Museum’s Second World War & Holocaust Partnership Programme (SWWHPP), which works with partners across the UK to share lesser known, regional stories related to the Holocaust or second world war.

As part of the project, the museum has recruited a new digital intern, Ryan Croney, who will use his knowledge of creating digital content to explore how Holocaust Memorial Day can be engaged with online.

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The digital internship role is funded by the SWWHPP, and aims to give young people with digital skills their first role in the museum sector.  

“I am really inspired to work on such an important project with Manchester Jewish Museum and Imperial War Museums,” said Prestwich. “The young people are already fizzing with ideas and insights into what Holocaust Memorial Day means to them. I’m excited to work with them to explore the museum’s collections and speak to people across their communities, to uncover hidden stories and to create an event which will connect different generations in meaningful reflection.”

“One of the key things is bringing out the diversity of the stories we hold here,” said Alexandra Cropper, curator at Manchester Jewish Museum. “We want people to see there’s a huge variety of responses to every question and show that there’s not just one narrative to this experience.”

The project aims to get a new generation of young people involved in Holocaust Memorial Day. “We’ve always had a close relationship with schools but what we haven’t done as much of is asking their opinion on the collection and what stories they relate to,” said Cropper.

The long timespan of the project will enable students to really delve into the history, she added. “It’s lovely to have a whole year, it gives us that breathing space.”

The eventual public event is likely to be performative, said Cropper – a medium that she says works well in conveying the often dense and complex testimonies associated with the Holocaust. “It’s a heavy subject matter, asking people to come out on a Saturday night to something about the Holocaust is a big ask,” said Cropper. “We need to find new ways of engaging audiences with this subject.”

The public event in 2023 will coincide with the museum's hosting of One Story, Many Voices, a digital and sound installation created by the museums involved in SWWHPP, local communities, writers and StoryFutures Academy, the UK’s national centre for immersive storytelling.

Manchester Jewish Museum’s contribution to the touring exhibition is Alone But Together, written by playwright Nicola Baldwin, which tells a fictional story inspired by true stories in the museum’s collection of Jewish women who migrated to the UK on domestic visas.

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