A couple of weeks ago, I received a program in the mail for a special exhibition at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. It is called Women Hold Up Half the Sky, and is based on the work Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn highlighted in their book Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity. I read the book and loved it several years ago. The exhibition opened today with a keynote by Lisa Madigan, so I went over to take a look. Madigan was speaking at 2pm, so I figured I would check out the exhibit, stand in the back of the room while she spoke and book out as soon as she was finished.
Not so much.
I arrived shortly after 11am and the place was nearly empty. It seemed that they really didn’t want people in the special exhibition until after the event. As it happens, I hadn’t actually visited the Illinois Holocaust Museum yet..even though it is practically in my backyard. Yes, I am ashamed of myself. I went in and am very glad that I did.
To state the obvious, it is smaller and has fewer artifacts than the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. It felt somewhat less overwhelming, but rather more personal. Skokie, you see. Those are our people. I could still hear the voices from one video interview as I walked on toward the next, which seemed very natural. There is an awful lot to read, if you have the time. The lady at the front desk suggested it would take an hour or so to go through and I took more than two. I also didn’t bring any Kleenex.
When I finished the main exhibit, I went downstairs to grab a cold drink and read my book. The crowd started to arrive – there were actual shuttles to the overflow parking lot, so people came in big groups.
The room was packed. The program started with the usual Thank Yous and acknowledging sponsors. Lisa Madigan spoke only briefly, but noted that the fight against domestic violence and human trafficking is also very local. Chicago is one of the U.S. hubs. One in five women in the U.S. will be sexually assaulted in her lifetime and one in four will be physically abused. Then she pulled out the same program I had been mailed and noted that it contained the names of local organizations working on behalf of women and they have plenty of ways for us to get involved.
I’d had enough of the crowd, so I didn’t go through the actual exhibition today. But I became a member of the museum and will be going back soon. There are several more programs and panels running over the next few months and I plan to make the time.
You can find more details, including that list of partners, at the website of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.
I am going to hug my dog now.