Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Memorial (Еврейский музей и центр толерантности Мемориал)

Orange brick facade of the Jewish Heritage and Tolerance Center

Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center Memorial (Еврейский музей и центр толерантности Мемориал) is in Moscow, Russia and it is the nation’s first state support Jewish heritage museum. It originally opened in 2012, when the museum initially opened it was opened privately – to the presidents of Russia and Israel and opened to the general public in 2013.

The history of the building starts in 1926 as the Bakhmetevsky Bus Garage. In the 1990s a fire broke out leaving the site completely dysfunctional. In 2008 following mass restoration efforts reopened as the Garage Center for Contemporary Culture. In 2012 it reopened once again as the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center.

The main focus of the museum was to create accurate content so Russians and people from around the world could get real facts and information about Jewish heritage instead of popularized beliefs. It focuses on being a large and engaging museum dedicated to the complex history of Russian Jewish history with a modern approach. The content of the museum favors personal testimony, archival video footage, and interactive displays—all translated into Russian and English, exhibitions are divided chronologically, and helping visitors to understand the life of Jewish communities as they traveled across medieval Europe, settling in shtetls before moving to the cities while not ignoring atrocities committed to the Jewish people – life in the late 19th and early 20th centuries is particularly well presented as is the fate of Soviet Jews and the role of Jewish soldiers during World War II. Those expecting to find just a stark representation of pogroms, Holocaust, hardships, and suffering will be pleasantly surprised to find Russian Jewish history presented as something much more complex, filled with both struggles and achievements.

Some of the problems that museum and public history face are a troubled and conflicted past, widely divergent popular memories, and national narratives.

 

 

 

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Works Cited:

 

The History of Notre Dame

Cathedral, Paris, France, Norte Dame, French, Gothic
Notre Dame de Paris, Paris France | Courtesy of Wikipedia

The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France is one of the most distinguished monuments in France. The 850-year-old cathedral was built to be the official seat of the Archbishop of Paris. Construction of the cathedral began in 1163 and was completed almost 200 years complete. Currently, it is owned by the French State, however, the Catholic Church has control to use the Cathedral whenever they want.

The Cathedral itself has a long-standing history. Some of the more major events include; the coronation of King Henry IV of England being crowned as the King of France in 1431; Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned as Emperor in 1804, Victor Hugo published The Hunchback of Norte Dame in 1831 which sparked a renewed interest in the Cathedral, which also led to new renovations, glass stained windows were removed during WWII, and  in 2012 was the celebration of the cathedrals the 850th anniversary.

The most recent event to hit the cathedral was the fire that broke out on April 15, 2019. The fire itself didn’t do much damage to the interior and infrastructure of the cathedral, however, part of the roof and the spire burned down completely. The recent event is currently under investigation, however, it is suspected that current renovations were the cause of the fire. Luckily no casualties occurred, however, one fireman and two police officers did sustain some injuries but luckily all are going to be okay.

 

Public History in the Wild – Terlingua Cemetery

This is a plaque inside the Terlingua Cemetery which is located by the US-Mexican border in Terlingua, TX. Terlingua was once a mining town at the end of the 19th century into the early parts of the 20th century but is now a ghost town with a small population that consists of local artists. The cemetery mostly holds the remains of older residents of the town but there are also graves from as recently as 2018. It was amazing to see how some of these plots had withstood the test of time and continue showing the local traditions.The Author by a plaque inside Terlingua Cemetery

Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe: The Oblate Grotto

The Oblate Grotto is a massive and Catholic place of worship that can be found in San Antonio, Texas.  Regulars and passerbys can both on the dense spiritual presence felt at this place of worship. Unlike orthodox churches, the Oblate Grotto is a church that holds all of its events and services outside rather than behind closed doors. Attendees notice that this change can bring a huge wave of comfort and spiritual attachment to the site which only furthers the religious experience that the Grotto was meant to give.

The Grotto encompasses an area of five acres and in this space, there are two reconstructions of paramount religious events. The first is a recreation of Tepeyac Hill in Mexico and where Our Lady appeared before Saint Juan Diego as Our Lady of Guadalupe. During this meeting, Our Lady asked that a shrine be built in her name and there, Juan Diego received the beautiful image of Guadalupe to convince the bishop to construct the site.

The other religious location is the resemblance to Lourdes in France where San Bernadette had her Marian Spirits apparitions. Having this spiritual connection to a woman who saw in person the religious spirits only adds to the experience and allows for a deeper understanding of the faith.

The Oblate Grotto is a famous worship site where thousands visit yearly to receive an experience that cannot be felt on a daily basis. Many people have had their lives and point of view changed as a direct result of the events held here and there will be many, many more in the years to come.

Works Cited

https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=1757

San Antonio, Texas: The Oblate Grotto and Shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe

 

Saving Syria: Syrian Refugee Project in Germany

Since 2013, Germany has taken in over 700,000 Syrian refugees due to the Syrian Civil War. These refugees are dispersed among Germany’s population of over 82 million people. Although this is still less than 1 percent of Germany’s population, Germany prioritized preserving Syrian culture, while facilitating a smooth assimilation process.

Syria has a rich culture and history that has been endangered due to the Syrian Civil War. Germany wants to make sure that Syrian artifacts and collections are preserved, as many sites have already been destroyed due to ISIS treatment of this particular places. ISIS views Syria’s historical sites as a threat to the Islamic religion – and it sells ancient artifacts to produce revenue. Recently, the city of Aleppo was leveled by ISIS forces and the ancient Roman theatre has become the chosen site for ISIS beheadings.

In order to keep record of Syria’s historical sites, especially those that are at risk, the Museum of Islamic Art in Berlin and the German Archeological Institute reached an agreement with the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs to begin a program that would preserve Syria’s threatened artifacts.

The project aims to weave together present day viewpoints with digital records of Syria, including an online data base which already stores 200,000 photos and documents. Another goal is to build 3D models of the UNESCO sites that were destroyed, so that one day Syria can rebuild these ancient treasures.

Ancient City of Aleppo
Digital interface of the Syrian Archive Project. The collection currently houses over 200,000 items.

As public historians, the Syrian Archive Project raises several questions:

When accepting refugees from war-torn countries how can we preserve their history?

If we are holding these artifacts, who is the true owner? When should the artifacts be repatriated?

How, as public historians, do we handle this situation? What is our role?

Work Cited

“Ancient City of Aleppo”UNESCO. Retrieved 17 August 2011.

The Museum für IslamischeKunst (Museum of Islamic Art) belongs to Staatliche MuseenzuBerlin–Stiftung PreußischerKulturbesitz(State Museums of Berlin–Prussian Cultural Heritage Foudation), http://www.smb.museum/en/museums-institutions/museum-fuer-islamische-kunst/home.html.

THE PUBLIC HISTORIAN, Vol. 40, No. 4, pp. 107–128 (November 2018). ISSN: 0272-3433, electronic ISSN 1533-8576. © 2018 by The Regents of the University of California and the National Council on Public History. All rights reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article content through the University of California Press’s Reprints and Permissions web page, http://www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p1⁄4reprints. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2018.40.4.107.

The Curious Case Jim Thorpe’s Remains

 

The brown granite tomb of Jim Thorpe, flanked to the right by a statue of him, on a bright and sunny fall day.
The tomb of Jim Thorpe, flanked by a statue depicting him.

When American Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe passed away in 1953, his remains were sent across the country in an odd series of events directly out of a movie.

When he died in California, Thorpe’s body was sent to Oklahoma for funeral services. It was to be then returned to California with his wife and son for burial. The problem was, Jim was essentially broke at the time of his death, and his wife had no way to transport the body again. The citizens of Shawnee tried to raise the funds for the transport, but couldn’t get them together. Fearing that Jim would be buried in a porter’s grave, she spirited away the remains to, of all places, a town in Pennsylvania he had never been to.

The towns of East and West Mauch Chunk were financially strapped in the 1950s, and looking for a way to diversify the economy of the former mining town. Precilla Thorpe, Jim’s wife, heard about this and made them a deal: Jim’s body and rights to his likeness for an undisclosed amount. The town agreed, and that same year merged and renamed into what is now Jim Thopre, Pennsylvania.

Some sixty years later, Jack Thorpe, Jim’s son, wanted to see his father buried in his homeland in Oklahoma, as did the majority of the Thorpe family. In 2010, he sued the city of Jim Thorpe for his father’s remains, citing the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act as grounds. Ultimately, the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals would rule in favor of the city, citing the town receives no direct state of federal aid that would designate the whole town as a museum, and that Priscilla sold the remains in good faith to the city as Jim’s direct beneficiary and proxy.

As painful as it is not honor a loved one’s wishes, the positive thing to come out of all of this is the fact Jim’s legacy is forever enshrined in a little town in Pennsylvania, and the fight for his remains provided publicity about the greatest athlete you never knew.

You can read more about the legal battle in Supreme Court Ends Fight Over Jim Thorpes Resting Place and Fight for Jim Thorpe’s Remains Continues 62 Years Later, or about the man himself with Encyclopædia Britannica’s Biography

 

World’s Largest Virgin Mary Mosaic

Virgin Mary Mosaic, San Antonio, , Texas

The City of San Antonio is known for many things; The Alamo, The Riverwalk, Fiesta, Six Flags and many more. Of these known titles of the growing city is the World’s largest Virgin Mary Mosaic.  The 15 foot mosaic, located on the Westside of San Antonio,  was dedicated to the Guadalupe Plaza in 2004, by artist Jesse Trevino. This hidden gem of the city is not only beautiful to look at, but it highlights the rich cultural background of the cultural heritage of those who reside on this particular part of the city.

St. Stanislaus Church

 

St. Stanislaus Church's front entrance, taken from the parking lot on a sunny afternoon.
The front entrance to St. Stanislaus Church

Known for being the second oldest Polish parish in the United States, St. Stanislaus Church stands far from the busy main street in Bandera, closer to the original survey location and modern day suburbs. The current limestone structure was built in 1876 by Polish immigrants who first settled the area in the 1850s. Gothic styling dominates the exterior of the church, while the interior is much more conservative, reflecting the parish mission of being focused on Catholic teachings.

 

The church is flanked by several buildings on the surrounding streets, with two old rectories for nuns, now a museum and church office, an adoration chapel (Now the priest’s quarters.), and the now defunct St. Jospeh’s school, which serves as a meeting hall for local christian groups.

 

Competing Narratives in History

Because there are many different people and cultures throughout the world it is not uncommon for different individuals to have different beliefs on certain topics. History is no exception to this as often time’s different cultures or groups of people perceive certain events or important figures in history differently. In a modern society that has placed an emphasis on making sure unheard voices are listened too, competing narratives and how to address them has posed a problem for public historians and those interested in history alike. One example of this is the Western Wall in the city of Jerusalem and the fact that it is renowned and viewed as sacred by three different religions in the area; Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I think that it is definitely a difficult problem to come to terms with because if executed wrongly it can lead to one group feeling marginalized and unimportant. One of the best things we can do is just make sure that everyone is heard and has a chance to tell their story too an audience. It is also our responsibility as students of history to ensure that we let people know that we want their experiences to be told and to go out on our own and look for stories we may not have been aware of before.

A picture of the Western Wall in Jerusalem
JERUSALEM – DECEMBER 15: The Western Wall in the night with a praying pilgrims on December 15, 2013 in Jerusalem. It’s located in the Old City of Jerusalem at the foot of the western side of the Temple Mount.

Cenotaph Memorial of Alamo Defenders

A Cenotaph is a type of monument built to honor those who are buried elsewhere but focuses mainly on soldiers killed in the line of duty. The Alamo Cenotaph or “The Spirit of Sacrifice”,  commemorates the soldiers who died while defending the Alamo in 1836.  The monument is a free-standing marble statue which bears the soldiers’ bodies and an engraving of all those who participated in the defense on Texas’s side. The Cenotaph bears a staggering 187 names of Alamo defenders and the images of Garrison leaders as well. Recently there has been controversy surrounding the relocation of this monument which sparked fierce debate on both sides.