The Ark of the Generations: Encapsulating the Depth and Breadth of One Family’s Holocaust Devastation

Named the “The Ark of the Generations” by the artist Ardyn Halter (1953-), this detailed piece was commissioned for Robert Maxwell (1923-1991) by his wife Elisabeth (1921-2013) and presented for his 65th birthday in 1988. It is made of American cedar wood; the size is 16.25” wide by 24” tall by 6” deep. The “Ark” houses an indelible record of the fate of Robert Maxwell’s family during the Holocaust that catalyzed a second academic 'career' for Dr. Elisabeth Maxwell as a globally recognized Holocaust scholar. This brief overview describes the multi-faceted work through the unique lenses of the artist, the recipient, and the scholar. The “Ark” presently resides within the Elisabeth Maxwell Holocaust Archive, courtesy of her estate. 

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Artifacts Display and the Art of Storytelling

The online display of Yad Vashem’s Artifacts Collection adapts the storytelling approach. The aesthetics of the main webpage of the Artifacts Collection are noticeably different from the aesthetics of the Museum’s main webpage[i]. In contrast to the clean-cut white background of the main webpage, the light brown background of the Artifacts Collection webpage represents the color and texture of old papers, which emphasizes the authenticity of the objects displayed[ii]. This sentimental design approach would not normally be the choice of most scholarly accredited web archives. For example, the archive of the Artifacts Collection of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) has a clear white background. The collection is organized by themes, and informative in a straightforward manner, each icon is linked to a short paragraph with basic historical information and at the bottom of the page, there are several links to related articles and so on[iii].

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Lola

According to Jennifer Hansen-Glucklich, museums are often conceptualized as containers for memory, and in a certain sense this metaphor rings true; after all, museums with a historical focus are places devoted to constructing a particular view of the past and to putting that chosen past on display, thereby claiming to offer the visitor a window to another time and place for brief moments. More fundamentally, “the framing of the authentic artifacts, the display of photographic images, and the commission of the original artworks in Holocaust museums and exhibits do not simply illustrate the story being told; rather, they are story, and they largely determine how we remember the past and, therefore, how we understand the present” 

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