By: Sarah Cavaliere
Four months into my capstone exhibition project, my team and I have already achieved so much more than I expected to in such a short amount of time. Along with my classmates Paige Mawson, Jessica Parsons, and Noam Roz, I have been working with the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre. We were tasked with creating a micro-website that will host a virtual exhibit and a teacher resource kit for grades 6 to 12. Using archival materials and clips of survivor testimonies, the virtual exhibit will explore the immigration and integration experiences of Jewish Holocaust survivors in Canada between 1945 and 1960.
When we started working on our capstone project last semester, we only had a general idea of the direction we wanted to take with our exhibit. We knew we needed to address the post-World War II immigration and integration experiences of Jewish Holocaust survivors in Canada, but we didn’t yet know what we wanted to say about the topic. We started out with lots of planning and research. First, we looked at secondary sources for background information about our topic. Then, we began listening to the oral histories hosted in the USC Shoah Foundation Visual History Archives. We also dove into the digital collections of the Ontario Jewish Archives, the City of Toronto Archives, and many others. As we gathered elements that represented the experiences of the Jewish community in Canada, we realized we needed to present as balanced a picture as possible. We want to explore not only the successes but also the challenges that Jewish Holocaust survivors faced as they tried to immigrate to Canada and as they made their lives here.
We finished last semester having established the perspective we wanted to include in our exhibit. This semester, we have already achieved so much in working towards our goals. We have established a shortlist of 9 speakers’ stories we want to explore through the exhibit. Next, we’ll be selecting 5 people’s stories to follow throughout the exhibit and digital objects related to their experiences. Following that, we will also be finalizing our interpretive plan, creating the educational materials for the teacher resource kit, and developing the website to host everything.
While we’ve made incredible progress so far, our experience hasn’t been without its challenges. We’ve experienced delays, issues with software, and changing plans. Personally, I had to overcome the hurdle of not having deep background knowledge about our topic and how to use the primary sources necessary for our exhibit. My background is in Ancient Egyptian history and archaeology. I was able to apply some of the same skills I learned during my undergrad, but I had to spend extra time becoming familiar with our topic and primary sources. Working through these challenges has made me more confident, though, and will hopefully contribute to making me a more well-rounded museum professional.
My amazing teammates have made the successes even better and the challenges more manageable through their constant support. I am so fortunate to be working with such hardworking and empathetic people! I can’t wait for everyone to see what we will accomplish in the next couple months.
About the Author: Sarah Cavaliere
Sarah is a second year MMSt student in the exhibition course stream. Before joining the iSchool, Sarah earned her Bachelor of Arts at U of T with a double major in French Linguistics and Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations. In the Museum Studies program, Sarah has discovered that her passion lies in museum education and collections management. Outside of school, Sarah spends her time reading (and is always looking for a good book recommendation!) and playing with her cat, Leo.