YIVO Bruce and Francesca Cernia Slovin Online Museum
The YIVO Cernia Slovin Online Museum is a broad-ranging educational initiative available free of charge to a global audience. The Museum’s inaugural interactive exhibition Beba Epstein: The Extraordinary Life of an Ordinary Girl explores East European Jewish life in the 20th and 21st centuries through the true story of one teenage girl who survived the Holocaust.
The Museum was developed from its inception as a digitally native project. Rather than following an object-based approach, the exhibition is divided into ten chapters that span Beba’s life, using interactive storytelling to unite over 200 artifacts from YIVO’s archives. Within the exhibition, users are able to explore various depths of information at their own pace. A variety of interactive experiences connect Beba’s life to the broader historical context.
The exhibition offers a variety of educational resources related to its inaugural exhibition:
- teacher’s guides and resources for classroom use for grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12.
- easy access to a vast set of primary resource materials including short texts written by expert scholars, letters, diaries, newspaper articles, photographs, short videos, clips of music, and images of objects and buildings. All of the text documents provide at least a summary translation into English.
- downloadable spreadsheets with all the artifacts featured in the exhibition for easy search.
The exhibition’s primary goal is to teach about the Holocaust. However, many of its chapters can be used for a variety of different purposes:
- to supplement the teaching of the Holocaust, American or World history from WWI through the 1950’s or to enrich the study of Poland, Germany and Russia from 1920s through the 1940s
- to teach about Jewish life in Eastern Europe before WWII
- to help students develop strong research skills. What documents do we save and why?
- to discuss the what and why of prejudice and its terrible consequences, recent questions of racial and gender typecasting, immigration issues including recent events concerning asylum seekers in Europe and the United States
- to explore what is meant by the American Dream
Three generations on the way to synagogue
Postcard of a family, Germany, circa 1913
An example of one of the Museum’s primary documents, this postcard from the YIVO collection shows multi-generational change. While the grandfather is bearded and dressed traditionally, the next generations wear the modern clothes of the time. How might that compare to a contemporary student’s family photos? To whom might a student send such a postcard of their family? Why is this artifact from 1913 Germany important to consider?
Meet Beba Epstein, born July 19, 1922 in Lithuania! The Museum’s interactive exhibition takes a visitor through chapters in Beba’s life, a child like many today, but with a lot to teach about history. What will your autobiography teach other kids in the future?