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The Museum is still an active building site filled with scaffolding; carpenters and builders, painters and electricians are everywhere. The exhibition designer, Jisuk Han, is checking specifications, making minor adjustments and making sure that everyone is keeping to the deadlines.

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Carpenters at work

It is a hive of energy.

The archives has turned into a make-shift studio as the photographer sets out her lighting and backdrop, ready to photograph all the artefacts to be used on exhibition. We are looking to photograph familiar artefacts in a different way.

CONSERVATOR AND DESIGNER WORKING OUT BEST WAY TO DISPLAY OBJECTS

Conservator and designer working out the best way to display objects

I think it could be the first time that the photographer has had to photograph items from a concentration camp – a blanket made of human hair, a halved head scarf and a pouch made from scrap materials. I explain the significance of the latter two humble, seemingly ordinary artefacts. The scarf, exchanged for a slice of bread, was worn to cover the donors shaved head as a way of maintaining dignity in an otherwise inhumane environment; the pouch was used to secretly hold a letter and a photo.

Archives turned into a photographic studio.

Behind the scenes, meetings with the conservator have taken place to discuss conservation and preservation of the artefacts. The long-term longevity of documents and fragile textiles really concerns me – fading is a reality and I have seen visible evidence of fading due to too much exposure to light over extended periods of display.

This morning, while examining a cross-stitch blanket donated in 1993 I made a discovery (the kind of discovery that makes curators excited!) We had always known this object as a blanket, but on closer inspection of the back, I noticed a button hole and fabric strip to hold a belt. Else Schwartz must have worn her ‘blanket’ of comfort as a cape.

THE CROSS STITCH BLANKET WHICH TURNED OUT TO BE A CAPE.

The cross stitch blanket, which turned out to be a cape.

During the lonely hours of waiting for her husband and sons to return from the camps, Else made this item; each stitch represents a prayer for their return. They never did return.

Author: Roslyn Sugarman, Curator.