The National Holocaust Museum Bring Pop Up Exhibition to Nottingham City Centre

Wednesday 28 February 2024
reading time: min, words

Ahead of bringing their touring exhibition to the city centre this weekend, Sam Cousens, Development Director of North Nottinghamshire’s National Holocaust Museum tells us all about how the timely show will explore the myths and realities of being both British and Jewish. 


Tell us about the Holocaust Museum…
The National Holocaust Centre and Museum based in North Nottinghamshire was founded in 1995. It is Britain’s only dedicated Holocaust museum, and the only one in the world founded by Christians - the remarkable Smith family.

Through age-appropriate exhibitions, memorial gardens, educational programmes, an internationally important collection of artifacts and above all the testimonies of a large number of Holocaust survivors to whom we have been a home-from-home for over 28 years — we communicate the memory of the Holocaust for a contemporary purpose.

What’s the exhibition all about?
‘I Say British, You Say Jewish’ explores the surprising and sometimes amusing pluralities of being British and Jewish. Through images, objects and interactive digital displays, the exhibition explores myths and realities of being both Jewish and British. It offers opportunities to discover some Jewish elements of popular British culture in food, music and football but also exposes anti-Jewish prejudices. 

As social activists, we do not simply wish to highlight the problem. We wish to help unpick and disrupt the ancient prejudices at play.  You’ll meet our curatorial team who will be on hand at the exhibition to answer visitors’ questions and help them create their own set of inspirational pictures. The team have produced world-leading interactive experiences including The Forever Project, which enables a Q&A with a Holocaust survivor even when they are no longer alive; The Journey exhibition and app, which immerses the visitor or user in one refugee boy’s story of the Kindertransport; The Eye As Witness, a ‘mixed reality’ exhibition in which visitors use VR goggles to ‘step into’ an infamous picture of the Warsaw Ghetto; as well as short films including the multi award winning Edek, which tells the harrowing story of survivor Janine Webber through the medium of Hip Hop.


Tell us about some of the artefacts in the exhibition?
We’ll invite visitors to explore everyday objects, from curious walking sticks to good luck charms that have normalised anti-Jewish racism. Visitors will see images and insights shared by young Jewish Brits today, who tell their stories of what it means to be both British and Jewish – for them, two sides of one identity. 

The past is an exhibition feature too, as it underscores the present. Visitors can move around an interactive digital environment that recreates the 1930s living room in which a Holocaust survivor grew up. It offers a taste of the lived experience of discrimination and exclusion in those days, and allows them to hear original testimonies. There are doubtless echoes in the present situation, and we hope that all sides can come together in a shared learning experience.

The exhibition is an invitation to think again about unconscious bias. A few objects on display seem harmless enough — until you lift up a flap to discover the particular ingrained anti-Jewish assumption each derives from. Even the graphic design of the exhibition aims to make visitors ‘think on’. It is vibrant, welcoming, colourful and contemporary — disrupting the sometimes shadowy, mysterious, cultish perceptions of Jewishness.

Why have you chosen 2024 as the time for this exhibition?
There’s no use running away from the current conflict ripping through the Middle East and polarising public opinion. The anti-Jewish pogrom staged by Hamas on 7 October 2023 has led to a marked increase of anti-Jewish hate in the UK. Our exhibition is not about Israel. But it does ask people to think again about where political criticism becomes racist hatred: for example, when old anti-Jewish libels are mobilised to demonise Israelis of the present day. That is one of the many nuanced conversations we’ll be delving into when our touring exhibition comes to Nottingham this weekend.

Critical thinking about the Holocaust and the 2,000 year continuum of anti-Jewish ‘othering’ at its root, and which persists today, is a transferable citizenship skill. We believe it can and should be used to deconstruct all types of misinformation-based racism today. To challenge ‘othering’. To heal differences. And to encourage the skill of critical thinking in a world of misinformation.

The exhibition will be situated on Smithy Row from 12 noon – 4pm on Sunday 3 March then 12noon-6pm Monday 4 March to Friday 8th March then onto Birmingham.

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