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.
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.