The Ela Area Public Library in Lake Zurich received an LSTA grant for $25,000 to host the exhibit Anne Frank: A Private Photo Album and to provide programming on related topics. This exhibit, on loan from the Anne Frank Center in New York, featured seventy photographs taken by Otto Frank of his family before they went into hiding. The photographs elicited a tender rendering of family life – a world that should not have been destroyed by the effects of war, intolerance, and prejudice.
Our hope was to introduce Anne Frank to the public, and especially to children, in a gradual, engaging, and personal way. Otto Frank’s love for his children is apparent in the photos depicting scenes of a typical childhood: a baby being held by her mother, bath time, visits with grandparents and friends, and vacations on the beach. The public easily related to these photos and made their own conclusions, which were shared so movingly in our comment books:
“Doesn’t this exhibit just put the humanity into the history? The tears well up as you look at Otto Frank’s girls and their friends and family. Happy faces, good times, yet the darkness approached. I am so glad my own girls (11 and 14) saw this exhibit. They need (we all need) to be reminded of what happened to the Jewish people.”
“This was wonderful! Well worth the two busses, train, and cabs it took me to get here from Wrigleyville in Chicago.”
“Absolutely phenomenal exhibit. This is a celebration of life in all its simple glories. The horrors of the depth and breadth of the Holocaust are beyond comprehension. Its enormity is beyond the fathomable. Your focus on one family makes for a very powerful experience; and, for me, makes the tragedy of the Holocaust more visceral. All that was precious, the spark of the individual was trampled to death . . “
“Thanks to the state and to you at Ela for making this wonderful exhibit available and the amazing selection of books.”
“A moving exhibit that brings a real family to life and as importantly the times they lived in. It is difficult to accept the brutality and inhumanity of those years which is so contrary to how we view ourselves as a civilized society. Why hasn’t this experience taught us any lessons to scream in outrage at the continuing brutality of today in places such as Africa and the Middle East?”
“It was nice to see how someone my age from a different place and time acted and thought. It makes me feel like such a spoiled brat. I can’t help but think how Anne would have written her other books if she had survived.”
“Thank you for this exhibit—this is so needed now more than ever. How little changes—while in other ways, so much changes in 60 years! It’s given me much to ponder.”
“The power and breadth of this exhibit is to remind us all this must, this travesty, never be allowed to occur again. We must learn tolerance and love. Thank you for such a captivating exhibit. We drove here from the southwest side of Chicago to see this and it was so worth the drive.”
“Dear Anne, I have a lot of books about you and I know so much about you but I would love to learn more. I am 11 years old and I wish you would have lived longer.”
“Anne, you are a true hero in my eyes.”
In addition to the exhibit itself, the library hosted a variety of related programs and provided tours of the exhibit for local school and community groups. As interest in the exhibit grew, we also provided tours for school and senior groups from the Chicago area and Wisconsin as well.
Our visitors were overwhelmingly appreciative of the quality and content of this exhibit and related programming and materials. Over 3,000 visitors attended the exhibit opening, and crowds continued to pour in all month. We believe that many came to understand the value of what public libraries can provide to their communities. One visitor wrote,
“This exhibit was very moving. It’s great to have a library that goes beyond books to educate the public.”
On the other hand. other visitors appreciated the exhibit’s connection to a favorite book and praised the book displays and collections related to the exhibit. The success of this program may have stemmed from the project beginning with a book, expanding on the content and perspective of that book, and then broadening our view even further by offering materials and programs that branched off in other directions on the Holocaust, World War II, diaries and their place in history, freedom and its possible suppression, and the importance of family life and love.
Overall, this LSTA grant enabled the Ela Area Public Library to offer an exhibit, programming, and materials to allow our public the opportunity to have educational experiences and engage their minds to become more informed and compassionate citizens.