Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Museum of Tolerance

The Museum of Tolerance is SAD y'all.

Why you ask?

You have to go through metal detectors to enter the Museum: SAD.

The docents all seemed either frightened and very depressed or angry at you for being a human being and it made me: SAD.

There is a Holocaust exhibition where you start out in a happy, culturally rich, thriving Jewish city and end up in a life size replica of a gas chamber at Auschwitz: BEYOND SAD.

Worth it? 100%.

The whole Museum seems designed to make you feel and think, and totally confuse the crap out of you. The exterior of the building is that of a normal, modern museum, but inside it houses a giant, free standing spiral staircase that looks like a white conch shell. You are admitted into the conch shell by one of the aforementioned docents, and then you either descend into hell (where the exhibits are), or to heaven(where talks are given daily by survivors and repentant sinners, and educational programs are held).

Being the gluttons for punishment that we are, Sophia and I chose hell(we did briefly take a look at heaven but it was rather boring- just lots of lecture halls and classrooms with pics of smiling kids), and let me tell you it was terrifying for two 20-something women, so I can't imagine what it must be like for little kids. We found ourselves in a silent, dark room standing in front of two doors- one marked "Prejudice" and one marked "Unprejudiced." We clasped hands (which happened several times throughout the day) chose "Prejudice," and were immediately inundated with Neo-Nazis screaming obscenities on a giant TV.

This part of the museum is about prejudice in its many forms, and it is highly interactive, albeit in a pretty dated "Disney's World of Tomorrow" way. Case in point: A mock 50's restaurant called "The Point of View Diner" which houses a bunch of touch screens and you have to chose questions to ask fake lawyers and then make decisions about gang injunction laws(!?!). There are lots of touch screens games like this, many well produced short videos about violence, hate and hope (a very moving one features MLK's "How long? Not long." speech), a lot of noise, and many school groups who look either slightly bored, dazed or overwhelmed.

You then enter the Holocaust section, which is amazingly informative, haunting and beautifully done, with ghostly statues standing in front of screens playing short documentaries tracking the history of the genocide, replica gates of Auschwitz, and a chilling model of a Nazi conference room, accompanied by the sound of actors reading actual transcripts from a meeting about gassing Jews. Of course, Sophia and I somehow managed to enter the Holocaust section at the exit, so we did the whole tour backwards, and being us, did not realize the fact till half way through, because like I said, this place is confusing, and I hate guided tours, so I didn't listen to what the docents had to say.

I would say- go, go, go but don't be silly like us- follow the docents instructions, no matter how annoyed they may seem, or take a group tour, so you don't feel confused and off balance the whole time like we did. This place, with its chopped off ribbon-tied braids, images of bloody violence, and it's unrelenting focus on incomprehensible tragedy is befuddling enough as it is.

Postscript: It was pouring rain when Sophia and I arrived in North Beverlywood, the modest, historically Jewish Westside neighborhood that houses the Museum of Tolerance. As we looked for parking, we were shocked to see signs in front of almost every home shaming the Museum of Tolerance, and urging the public to say no to their expansion. Apparently the Museum has been wanting to expand for years, which homeowners think will cause more traffic and more noise. The Museum has also been allowing more groups to rent the space for parties and the like, which religious groups find super inappropriate. It's all very strange when you think about what the Museum stands for, but ain't it grand to live in America where public dissent reigns loud and clear.

Travel: C ( I hate driving in Beverly Hills)
Ease: B
Content: A+
Subjective coolness: B-
Overall: B

Directions: Take Santa Monica Blvd. for around 7 miles and turn left on Beverly. Beverly will turn into S. Beverwil Drive, take an almost immediate right onto Pico and then your second left onto S. Roxbury Street. There is two hour street parking. There is also a free parking deck on
Pico, but it was closed off when we went.
Hours: Mon-Thurs 10am-5pm. Sunday 11am-5pm. Closes at 3:30 on Fridays till March.
Price: Pricey! $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, $11 for kids.

Worry not friends...more pictures next time(no photography is allowed in the museum).

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