This article in the NY Times reports that officials of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, the former Polish army camp converted and used by the Nazi’s as a concentration camp, are now contending “its story needs to be retold, in a different way for a different age.” This rationale for change, according to the article, is based on the age and wear of the displays, the pressures of increased tourism, the need to better explain the site to new generations, and the desire to encourage visitors to move from empathy with victims of the past to a feeling of “responsibility to the present.”
After reading the article, talk about some of the plans for updating the museum and what kind of impact you think that (the changes) will have. You may agree that some change is needed but remember to remain critical (critical is not necessarily negative, you just want to think about many possibilities for what would be best for a particular context). Just because many museums are doing a particular thing doesn’t necessarily mean that they all should follow suit. For instance, do you think touch screens and interactive displays are appropriate for a museum like Auschwitz-Birkenau State? What do you think this kind of exhibit DOES to the people viewing it or to the environment. What purpose does it serve?
Then, what kind of ideology is evident in the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and in the proposed changes? What does the museum believe simply by existing?
Finally, try and think about another physical place that has been updated and talk about what kind of impact it had on the visitors. Good? Bad? What was done?