Cultural Memory Studies course visits National Holocaust Museum

23 November 2018

On 6 and 9 November, AUC’s “Cultural Memory Studies” course visited the National Holocaust Museum, Amsterdam, to have two special sessions on location. The NHM is located within Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter, in the vicinity of prominent memorial sites related to Dutch-Jewish culture, history and traditions and to the experience of the Second World War. The visits were part of an arrangement with the National Holocaust Museum to promote on-site and experiential learning in the fields of cultural heritage and Holocaust remembrance.

During the first on-site session, students received a tour of the building and the “Exodus” exhibition which is currently on show. Focused on “Illegal Palestine Travellers, 1945-1948,” the exhibition revisits the poignant stories of Dutch-Jewish youths who wanted to build a new life in Palestine in the immediate aftermath of the horrors of the Second World War. The exhibition traces their stories until the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948.

During the second on-site session, course participants gave presentations in which they analysed specific objects within the exhibition – including the ways in which they have been curated and displayed – to ask how the stories of illegal Palestine travellers and their hardships are being remembered and made to resonate today. In so doing, students brought to bear what they have learnt throughout the course about the interrelations between memory, politics and identity, and about the constitutive role of media in the dynamics of remembrance.

In their presentations, the student teams addressed the themes of: photography and news images; maps, mapping, and the politics of cartography; migration, statelessness, and “Displaced Person” status; the idea of the “Promised Land”; and the role of testimony and oral history in documenting the past. In the course of the presentations and the discussions that followed, the teams also branched out to consider the ways in which the exhibition speaks to the present-day refugee “crisis” and to debates and anxieties about migration and statelessness today.

The on-site classes form an instance of experiential learning in the special context of urban cultural heritage sites, of which Amsterdam’s Jewish Cultural Quarter is a prime example. AUC should wish to thank the JCQ including the NHM for this opportunity to collaborate!

Published by  Amsterdam University College