Four talented young people review the latest exhibition at Epping Forest District Museum

As part of the Bronze Arts Award program currently running at Epping Forest District Museum, young people have visited and reviewed the latest exhibition ‘The Boys: Holocaust Survivors in the Epping Forest District.

Below are four insightful reflections on the exhibition.

Review One – by Harry Hyett

The exhibition that I have been to is ‘The Boys: Holocaust Survivors in the Epping Forest District’. I was expecting there to be a lot of artefacts in glass boxes, however there were paintings, tapestries, quotes on the wall, video and audio devices and more. It wasn’t how I imagined it as there was so much information packed in the small room.

The first thing I heard when I entered the room was classical piano music which made it feel old. I saw the railway cart and German writing on it and stepped in and felt cold which instantly felt like it was war.

My eye was drawn to the boy’s poster reminding me what it was about. It made me think about the Holocaust and it is very well thought out as it immediately sets out the scene and reminds you what the exhibition is about.

At the start it is very black and dark, like the horrors of the Holocaust which it is telling you about, but after the liberation it turns green. I think they did this as green makes me think of new beginnings like a new leaf sprouting.

The choice of objects is very well picked as they have an emotional story behind them – not just an old object!

The choice of pictures is good, and they tell the story quite well as the pictures of the Holocaust are not placed as you walk in, they are placed in chronological order. Another reason why the choice of pictures is very good is because as you imagine what it is like. Reading the text, you look up at the pictures and see the Holocaust then imagine what it was like and really connect on an emotional level, so yes, they are effective.

The large text on the wall gives an effect that it is very important and clear.

The film is high up on the wall and is near the pictures and naturally draws attention to them as people love to look at screens. It is also high up for practical reasons: if it were low down people would crowd around blocking the view.

I think the TV interview is good as you do not have to sit down and wait for it to go to the start you can pick to watch from any point. It does make a difference as you can see what the survivors look like more clearly and it symbolises the start of a new age. It is clear who is talking as it says the names of them. The volume could be a bit louder, so people do not crowd, but no other improvements otherwise.

The audio stand is very effective as you can choose which ones to listen to as it says what they are about. It is not much different as there are only a few pictures shown but other than that you are just listening to experiences. I prefer the audio as you can sit down, and it is not always replaying. You can rewind to number one or two and if you are listening for a while you can sit.

I think the paintings are very good as they give the effect that they are trapped like in the camps. They add a lot to the exhibition as they give a different material – the Holocaust is not just shown as artefacts in boxes.

The quilts are very good as there are lots of things to look at, each personal, and a story behind them. They are different to the paintings as there are many to look at, with lots of emotional stories, where the painting has just been painted with one story. There is a big community behind the narratives of the quilts. It is very good as it concludes the exhibition with all of the Loughton boys and a part of their own story which is what the exhibition is all about and what you go home thinking about – the Loughton boys.

The exhibition is accessible to everyone because there is a lift for wheelchair users or anyone else who needs it, it is free so anyone can come and it is a walk in so you do not need to book, so you can come in when it suits you .

I think this exhibition is of hope and despair. I think it is both for the first half of the exhibition it talks about the horrors of the Holocaust then it turns green after the liberation, a new beginning, so hope.

The quality of the exhibition is very good as there is so much information in a small room, and it is not just odd objects in glass boxes. The history is displayed in all kinds of ways.

It could be even better if:  there were seating near the screens but not too close blocking the view, if the television was a little louder so everyone did not crowd around it, the audio wire was a little longer, and there were not parts of the exhibition outside. There were parts I did not notice at first on the left when you are standing outside. Finally, the information about the railway wagon should be on the board on the right by the entrance, as I could not tell what the outside was meant to be at first –  but I think I could not find more things to improve even if I tried. It was a high-quality exhibition and I enjoyed it a lot.

Review Two – By Dilly Roth

I went to see ‘The Boys: Holocaust Survivors in the Epping Forest District’ exhibition at Epping Forest District Museum in Waltham Abbey.

I was expecting a lot of pictures and information. That was mostly what it was like, but there were a lot of artefacts, and a lot of them had upsetting or heart-warming back stories. There were also some video and sound interviews which were very interesting.

The first thing I heard as I entered was fast classical piano music which was calming and seemed like it was near to when the Holocaust started.

The things that my eyes were drawn to and that I liked best were the paintings by one of the Holocaust survivors. The pictures made me feel intrigued.

I noticed the curator had added barbed wire at the bottom of each panel and throughout the information panels he slowly changed the black background to green and the barbed wire to a green line as a symbol of peace.  I felt this was very effective as it slowly shows harmony.

This exhibition showed creativity by turning the entrance into a railway carriage.

What I learnt from the exhibition was that mostly Jewish men survived the Holocaust as men were made to work and women were sent straight to gas chambers.

I think the exhibition was very assessable as it is free and has a lift and stairs, so it does not exclude anyone.

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The quality of the content was amazing and extremely creative. If I had to change anything about the exhibition, I would add chairs to sit on.

Review Three – by Cameron Martin

The exhibition I attended was called ‘The Boys: Holocaust survivors in the Epping Forest District’.

I had expected it to be full of glass cases each containing a few items with an information board underneath with a little bit of information on the items, but, as I found out when I visited the exhibition, I was wrong.

The very first thing I heard as I entered the exhibition was fast classical piano music that gave an old feel to the exhibition.

The front of the exhibition was designed to look like an old railway cart that was used to transport the Boys about to the camps and to the airports when they were liberated. The cart was made of a reddish-brown wood and rusty metal adding to the old feel of the exhibition.

The very first thing I saw as I walked in was the same photo as on the poster telling me I am in the right place. It was a photo of the Boys. I noticed that at the start there was barbed wire at the bottom of the information board that gives a solemn feel to the start.

I realised that all the items had stories behind them. One that particularly jumped out at me was a homemade toothbrush as it struck me as absurd that the prisoners were not even provided with toothbrushes.

I think the photos on the walls were effective to show that only a few people survived (only 715 survivors were sent to Britain of the thousands captured).

At the end of the exhibition there were four quilts made by the families of the Boys. I think the quilts are effective to show almost the dawn of a new era in that they were very colourful and cheery and positive.

All in all, I think this is a great exhibit and though very small I think it is full of information. I think it is also very easily accessible as there is a lift, lots of space and you can walk-in without having to book. On the other hand, there could be more chairs.

Review Four – By Aiden Philpott

I visited an exhibition called ‘The Boys: Holocaust survivors in the Epping Forest District’ at the Epping Forest District Museum.

The first thing I heard when I approached was fast, classical piano music, which linked to one of the Holocaust survivors.

Before I entered, I noticed that the wall resembled a cart in which people would have been transported to the concentration camps. I also noticed a photograph of the Boys at the Holocaust Hostel in Loughton. These transported me back to the WWII – era and afterwards.

I also noticed that the curator has chosen to have the black walls and boards which gradually turned into a brighter colour. In addition, at first, at the bottom of the boards there were silhouettes of barbed wire, which reminded me of a prison. This gradually turned into green layers, symbolising the end of WWII and improving situations.

Despite its small size, the exhibition is very detailed and full of information, with few objects but ones that were extremely important. My eye was drawn to a German map of Europe which showed where each of the concentration camps were. This was very effective and horrified me because I had no idea how many camps there were.

The quotes on the wall were very noticeable as they were much larger than the other text.

The two films stand out more than the pictures and one of them has been placed quite high up on the wall to make it even more noticeable.

The exhibition is very assessable as there is a lot of space, it is free, you can just turn up and it is COVID – safe.

At the end of the exhibition, there was a contrast between the dull, cramped paintings and the colourful, fun quilts, all of which were created by the holocaust survivors and/or their families. This was my favourite part of the exhibition as it showed both the despair and the hope of the Holocaust survivors.

Overall, the exhibition is extremely effective. However, I only noticed the signs explaining the piano music and the walls resembling a railway cart just as I was leaving. In my opinion, to make the exhibition even better, these signs could be moved closer to the entrance, so they are more noticeable.

I would definitely recommend this exhibition to everyone; you do not need any prior knowledge of WWII and its aftermath to be fascinated by this.

17 thoughts on “Four talented young people review the latest exhibition at Epping Forest District Museum

  1. I thought review 2 by Dilly Roth was excellent! It really gave me an idea of what to expect at this exhibition and what to look out for.

  2. Harry Thank you for your detailed review expressing your thoughts and opinions on the current exhibition ‘The Boys: Holocaust Survivors in the Epping Forest District.’

    Your review has definitely encouraged me to visit this exhibition!

  3. I thought all the reviews were great & I particularly liked the 2nd one by Dilly Roth.
    Well done to all the reviewers. I’m very impressed with their work.

  4. Hello, my name is Ian Channell and I am the Collections Officer at Epping Forest District Museum. My role is to manage and care for all the fantastic objects within the museum’s collection.

    For this exhibition, I managed the insurance, transport, environmental conditions and installation of the loaned objects from the Imperial War Museum and Jewish Museum.

    Thank you, Harry, Dilly, Cameron and Aiden for your extremely insightful reviews! Aiden’s comment ‘there was a contrast between the dull, cramped paintings and the colourful, fun quilts, all of which were created by the Holocaust survivors and/or their families… [It] showed both the despair and the hope of the Holocaust survivors,’ I think, sums up our intentions for the exhibition perfectly. The Holocaust was an appalling and horrific period in world history, but individuals, such as the Loughton boys, despite incredible odds, persevered and it’s hopefully their strength and fortitude which comes across during the visitor’s journey in the exhibition.

    I think Harry, Dilly, and Cameron are absolutely correct that the addition of more chairs around the exhibition would promote accessibly, especially due to the heavy text and video basis for many of the displays. This is a great suggestion- accessibility is immensely important in museum exhibitions, thank you!

    I’m so happy all of you all found the exhibition effective, informative, interesting and creative! Thanks very much for your thoughtful and helpful reviews and I hope to see you at future exhibitions!

  5. Hi , I’m Cath the Education and Outreach Officer at the museum. It has been wonderful reading your reviews of the exhibition. You’ve clearly thought about this a lot and picked up on some very important points. It is interesting how much you enjoyed all the different ways of presenting information – objects, audio, films, text, art etc – a useful reminder to make sure we do this for other exhibitions. I always like hearing music as a background setting to an exhibition so was pleased you found this effective, and that the train had such an impact on you too. I like that you picked up on how the colour scheme changed – our exhibition designer Andy has done an incredible job with setting the scene for this exhibition and creating this atmosphere with his design choices. I’m also really glad you picked up on that final note of hope that the beautiful quilts and stories of the boys leaves you with at the end. And, I’ll see if I can find some more chairs to put in there soon 🙂

  6. These are all most interesting and insightful reviews. You have all described how the combination of music, art, film and artefacts have been displayed to illustrate the experiences of the boys.
    You have made me very curious and I feel that I must now go and visit the exhibition.

  7. Hi, I’m Sam the Cultural Development Officer for Epping Forest District Council. Thank you very much for your thoughtful reviews. You clearly paid very close attention to how everything was put together for the exhibition, and have produced some insightful comments. I am pleased that you found the exhibition effective, and would recommend it to others. Fantastic work!

  8. Harry – I enjoyed reading your detailed and thoughtful review of the ‘The Boys: Holocaust Survivors in the Epping Forest District’. I found your reflection on the change of colour and lighting and the temperature very interesting. It sounds as though you learned a lot from the exhibition and the whole experience. All of the reviews were very informative and I hope they encourage more visitors to the museum.

  9. Hi, I am Tony O’Connor and I am one of the Museum, Heritage and Culture specialists at the museum. I have been really impressed with all of your reviews of the exhibition and really pleased with your comments about the design of the exhibition and how the selection of objects, text, photographs, artwork, music and film brought the story of ‘ the Boys’ to life for you. Our decision to create the exhibition followed a chance meeting I had with Ellis Spicer ( who has been our co-curator of the exhibition), where we talked about her research on ‘the Boys’ and their link to the district, I felt this was an important story we had to tell. The amazing work that the team at the museum has done in presenting this story, is really captured in your comments.

    I hope that you come back, enjoy and leave further reviews of exhibitions at the museum. We will certainly be looking into more seating around audio visuals!

  10. To Harry, Dilly, Cameron and Aiden, on behalf of all the team at Epping Forest District Museum a huge thank you for visiting this exhibition as part of your Bronze Arts Award, and for your very helpful feedback.
    My name is Carly and I am the Museums, Heritage & Culture Speciliast for Epping Forest District Council, and it’s my role to project manage the temporary exhibition programme at the museum.
    This is such an important local story of both British and world history significance and so we are delighted to hear you felt it was displayed to the high standard it deserves. Exhibitions like this are very much a team effort made up of many members across our team, groups like the charity The 45 Aid Society, and of course our resident curator Ellis Spicer – all will be delighted to hear your helpful feedback. Lastly, we must also thank the National Lottery Heritage Fund who funded this exhibit, and who too will be delighted to hear your great reviews.
    Thanks again and we hope you come back to see some of our future exhibitions!

  11. All four reviews of the exhibition are excellent – I particularly Cameron’s insight that he “realised that all the items had stories behind them”, as it’s so important to remember that these personal items belonged to real people, whose lives were irrevocably affected by the Holocaust. Cameron also points out in his review how he thought “the photos were effective to show how that only a few people survived”, which is why exhibitions such as this one are so important – we must never forget the horror of the Holocaust.
    Well done again to all four children – it’s not an easy topic to write about.

  12. Four five star reviews which really make you want to attend the exhibition: Cameron’s comment about the toothbrush shows how small artefacts at a well-curated exhibition can really engage the visitor and make you think about how much more fortunate we are.

  13. Very impressed with all the children’s reviews – a difficult subject to exhibit, which obviously had a great impact on them. It was deeply reflective and creative in its content. They all commented on the atmospheric effect of the music on entering. I liked Harry’s comment on the change from dark to green showing the change from horror to liberation, as also commented on by Dilly. I admired Cameron’s comments as he observed the reality of the Holocaust and seemed moved by the back stories behind the survivors and also the colourful quilts to show dawn of a new era, while Aiden was shocked by the map showing the location of the many concentration camps. Well done children in your attention to detail of such an important exhibition to remind us of the horror of the Holocaust – a shocking but significant part of history to be remembered.

  14. Well done Cameron for your review of the exhibition! Whilst I’ve not visited your summary has painted a very clear picture for me. It must have been very moving. I’m glad it wasn’t what you expected and that the museum have planned the exhibition to engage children. Great work!

  15. Each of the four reviews are very well written and provide clear and detailed descriptions of The Boys: Holocaust Survivors in Epping Forest District.

    I particularly liked Aiden’s observation that ‘there was a contrast between the dull, cramped paintings and the colourful, fun quilts, all of which were created by the holocaust survivors and/or their families’ which ‘showed both the despair and the hope of the holocaust survivors’.

    The exhibition sounds like it is extremely poignant and sensitively curated…an important event not to be missed! I am really looking forward to visiting the exhibition.

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