Spy Museum Display Comes to Holocaust Museum

 By Josh Handler and Raquel Moore
The Red Line Project

Posted: Sunday, Nov. 25, 2012

In one corner of the exhibit stand three imposing Ku Klux Klan robes. In another pieces of one of the planes used to wreak havoc on the United States in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Across the room is a firefighter’s helmet from the Oklahoma City Bombings of 1995 and at the exhibit’s entrance is a recreation of the fire that was set to the White House by British troops during the war of 1812.

All of these serve as reminders of catastrophic events in the past in the U.S. and through its exhibit “Spies, Traitors and Saboteurs: Fear and Freedom in America,” the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie hopes to offer memories of the past in order to prevent the same mistakes from being made in the future.

“It deals with 10 moments in American history where something has caused great fear in the country,” says Arielle Weininger, chief curator of collections and exhibitions at the museum, “We are a Holocaust museum but we also emphasize the education of other genocides, human rights violations, human rights atrocities.”

The exhibit was brought to Skokie in association with Washington D.C.’s International Spy Museum.

“They (the International Spy Museum) decided, because of 9/11, that their first temporary exhibition would look at terrorism in the United States,” Weininger said. “It’s important that we be aware, as Americans, about our rights and when they are violated we push back.”

In addition to a timeline, highlighting the history of suppression in American culture, the entrance to the exhibit displays a newspaper headline from Sept. 11. The exhibit progresses through the years, displaying artifacts and replicas of several impactful events in American history.

Behind the trio of KKK robes, one women’s, one men’s and one child’s is a slideshow that includes graphic, haunting images of the Klan’s terror from lynched African Americans to video clips of the Klan marching while holding their children’s hands and carrying babies, all clad in robes.

“In terms of objects, second to the 9/11 plane parts, I would say is the Ku Klux Klan uniform that’s on display," Weininger said. "I think it’s very rare, especially for Northerners to see an object like that."

The exhibit goes on to examine a series of American atrocities, including mail bombs, accusations of spying and World War II Japanese internment camps.

As the exhibit progresses chronologically, several images from the Vietnam War bring visitors to the seventies.

The final room in the exhibit shows a helmet worn by an Oklahoma City firefighter in rescue efforts following the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and two pieces of one of the planes from Ground Zero in 2001.

Weininger explains the exhibit, saying, “they look at, within the exhibition, investigations of American Muslims post Sept. 11, the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II and wide arrests during the anarchist period of the 1910s and 1920s, basically most of them were just immigrants, they weren’t anarchists.”

In addition to the visuals that the exhibit provides for visitors, a series of Gallup poll questions are presented on touch screens throughout concerning certain rights for people in America and where people feel the line should be drawn for the American government.

“Typically within each section of the exhibition the government is covered in two different ways. One is in the development of the protections that we have in our society, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice itself, CIA and police departments and then it also looks at how the government at points in time has overstepped their boundaries and often times its been unconstitutional,” according to Weininger.

The special exhibition will remain on display until Jan. 6, 2013 at the Skokie-based Museum located at 9603 Woods Dr. General admission is free for museum members and $12 for the public with discounts offered to seniors, students and children.

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