Monday, 26 March 2012

The Butterfly Project

In Houston, Texas, a museum is collecting 1.5 million hand-made butterflies to represent the children who died during the Holocaust. The exhibition, scheduled for 2014, is modelled on a poem written in 1942 chronicling the misery, hardship, starvation and death children faced at the camps. Many historians are against using 'objects' to represent the dead ( a school in rural Tennessee collected millions of paper clips to signify the victims and faced much criticism). I think it's a great way to show children in particular the sheer magnitude of the Holocaust. It's 'easy' to say millions died, but how do we comprehend that number? It's just a statistic, and we need to get past this - by having an individual representation of something small, whether it is a paper clip or a butterfly, we can remember an individual. Only when they are collected together can we understand the millions of lives lost. Behind every butterfly, there is a child. Anyone who has visited the Imperial War Museum and seen the hundreds of shoes packed tightly together will surely agree - for me, this was the toughest part of the exhibit. These 'every-day' objects help us to relate - behind one pair of shoes was a person, with a name, a family, a home - we will never know who those shoes belonged to, but that doesn't mean we should not remember them.

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