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First glimpse of the forthcoming ITS permanent exhibition

Workshop of the ITS exhibition team with Rikola-Gunnar Lüttgenau from the Buchenwald Memorial as curatorial advisor and gewerkdesign as designers. Photo: gewerkdesign

Isabel Panek, Henning Borggräfe and Christian Höschler – advised by an expert team of experienced curators – are developing the first permanent exhibition on the past and present of the ITS, which will open in 2019. In this interview, they explain the focal points of the exhibition and the challenges they face. 

What topics will the exhibition focus on?

Borggräfe: First, the wide-ranging search for missing persons and documents, which was initiated by the survivors of Nazi persecution and the Allies – all the way to the foundation of the ITS. Then we will outline the changes in search technologies and tracing, all the way to the inquiries we receive today. Our third focal point is the archive itself. Another focus will be on the relationship between the ITS and the public. 

So you are not just going to display the most important artifacts in your collection?

Panek: No, and that's what makes this exhibition special. We’re going to illuminate and critically examine the way the ITS works. The exhibition will revolve around the creation of the specific historical ITS archive and the complexity of the workflows, which may initially seem boring to a lot of people. So we have to visualize them well. We’re working with the gewerkdesign agency to design stations which combine documents and animations within the three thematic areas. 

What kind of documents and exhibits will be displayed?

Höschler: We're making facsimiles of documents and photos from the ITS collection and from some other archives. We’ll display extensive transport lists as stacks of paper, for example, to show their dimensions. The central exhibit on the back wall of the room will be the historical cartons of the Central Name Index – the key to the archive.

Borggräfe: Even this 15-meter-long wall will only have space for, at most, one sixth of the 30,000 cartons.

Panek: Of course, space will also be dedicated to the fates of some of the 17.5 million people about whom the ITS has information. For example, we are putting together photos and biographical documents – about stories of persecution, but also about people’s lives before and after. In this way, visitors will also learn about the consequences of the Nazis’ crimes for these people. 

What is the spatial plan for the exhibition?

Panek: The exhibition room is in an old department store on Schlossstrasse with big windows. We can design window displays to give passers-by a glimpse of the exhibition and entice them to come inside – a nice way of depicting the openness of the ITS today. 

Borggräfe: ...and how the ITS is changing – because even though this is a permanent exhibition, it is also provisional until it moves into the new archive building.