Museum of Tolerance Opens
The Museum of Tolerance (MOT), a multimedia museum in Los Angeles, California, USA, with an associated museum and professional development multi-media training facility in New York City, is designed to examine racism and prejudice in the United States and the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. The MOT has expanded to Jerusalem, where a "Museum of Tolerance and Human Dignity" is currently under construction. It is sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
The original museum in Los Angeles, California opened in 1993. The museum receives 350,000 visitors annually, about a third of which are school-age children. The museum's most talked-about exhibit is "The Holocaust Section," where visitors are divided into groups to take their own place in some of the events of World War II. These experiences are then discussed afterwards. The museum also features testimonies of Holocaust survivors, often from live volunteers who tell their stories and answer questions. People also get cards with pictures of Jewish children on them and at the end of the museum trip, it is revealed whether the child on the card survived or died in the Holocaust.
In addition, the museum features a "Tolerancenter" that discusses issues of prejudice in everyday life, a Multimedia Learning Center, Finding Our Families-Finding Ourselves, a collection of archives and documents, various temporary exhibits, and an Arts and Lectures Program.
A classroom visit to the museum is featured in the 2007 movie Freedom Writers, based on the real-life story of high school teacher Erin Gruwell and her students. The museum was parodied in an episode of South Park called "The Death Camp of Tolerance".
One of the primary criticisms of the Museum of Tolerance is that its exhibits use excessive multimedia technology to appeal to and manipulate the emotions of children. The museum uses fast-paced skits, dioramas, films, and interactive computer-controlled exhibits in an effort to make an emotional impact on visitors. For most of the tour, actual historical artifacts are absent, and a select few are shown at the end. Some critics have suggested that this is hypocritical, likening the use of emotionally-charged media to the propaganda used by the Nazi Party during the Holocaust. The South Park episode The Death Camp of Tolerance features the museum and implicitly makes the same criticism, implying that attempts to force tolerance on people are just as oppressive as the discriminatory forces they are fighting against. However, others have responded that this use of media is an effective way to get the museum's message through to children and foster understanding of prejudice.
Established in 1993, the MOT has welcomed over four million visitors, mostly middle and high school students. Visitors become witnesses to history and explore the dynamics of bigotry and discrimination that are still embedded in society today. Through interactive exhibits, special events, and customized programs for youths and adults, the Museum engages visitors’ hearts and minds, while challenging them to assume personal responsibility for positive change.