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2023 Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar

Pedagogical Approaches to Material Culture and the Holocaust

Eight-year-old Helene Chajet made this doll in 1943 while living in hiding with a foster family in Arleuf, France. She is among those pictured (front row, far right) in 1944. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, gifts of Elen Chajet Murad


Seminar Dates: January 3–6, 2023

The process of documenting, analyzing, memorializing, and educating the public about the Holocaust has gone hand-in-hand with the collection, conservation, preservation, and display of artifacts that Jewish victims made, carried with them, hid away, repaired, and repurposed as they struggled to survive. Such artifacts have afterlives that raise a range of ethical, moral, and practical questions. Whose items should be preserved? Those of both perpetrators and victims? Who decides what should be preserved? Does that impact how this history is remembered? Where should they be preserved? In public institutions or private collections? How do we ensure their longevity? Does that effect who has access to the original objects? How might such objects aid our understanding of the Holocaust (in isolation, in conjunction with, or over and above other sources)? And what other materials are needed for their robust interpretation? This Seminar addresses these questions by drawing on the vast resources of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which holds one of the largest repositories of Holocaust artifacts in the world. Over the course of this program, the Seminar leaders will engage the ethical debates surrounding the collection, conservation, preservation, and display of Holocaust material objects. Readings will, furthermore, provide examples of how these objects have been used by scholars to advance our knowledge of the Holocaust.  The Seminar leaders will also devote time to the introduction of pedagogical approaches and creative methods for bringing this important aspect of the Holocaust into the undergraduate college classroom. Finally, the Seminar will include resources on other genocides as well, and discuss the particular ethical and intellectual issues raised by the material remains of extreme violence.

This Seminar will take place at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the David and Fela Shapell Family Collections, Conservation, and Research Center in Bowie, Maryland. Participants will have the opportunity to examine material objects, learn about their provenance, and gain insights into some of the current research that is being conducted to reproduce them using 3-D scanners, printers, and other cutting-edge technologies. Among other questions, we will consider how such technologies can be used to assist in the analysis and digital preservation of artifacts, as well as how these new approaches might help overcome or present new pedagogical techniques and ethical issues.

The 2023 Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar is designed to help faculty, instructors, and advanced PhD candidates who are currently teaching or preparing to teach courses that focus on or have a curricular component relating to the Holocaust, internment, genocide, trauma, material culture, and/or the collection, preservation, and memorialization of artifacts. Applications are welcome from instructors across academic disciplines including but not limited to: Anthropology; Archeology; Art; Conservation Studies; Disability Studies; Gender and Women’s Studies; German Studies; History; Holocaust and Genocide Studies; Jewish Studies; Law and Human Rights; Material Culture Studies; Museum Studies; Philosophy; Political Science and International Relations; Psychology; Sociology; and Theology and Religious Studies. The seminar aims to deepen, broaden, and enrich how we approach teaching the Holocaust and material culture across these diverse disciplines and fields.

Seminar Facilitators

Leora Auslander, Arthur and Joann Rasmussen Professor in Western Civilization and Associate Chair and Professor in the Department of Race, Diaspora, and Indigeneity, University of Chicago

Leora Auslander has been a visiting professor at the Frankel Center for Advanced Jewish Studies at the University of Michigan and held fellowships at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute for Advanced Study. Her relevant publications include three co-edited volumes: Objects of War: The Material Culture of Conflict and Displacement; Judaïsme(s): genre et religion in Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire 44, 2016; and Objets et Fabrication du genre in Clio: Femmes, Genre, Histoire 40, 2014.  Relevant articles include: “Holocaust Lists and Inventories:  Recording Death vs. Traces of Lived Lives,” Jewish Quarterly Review; “Negotiating Embodied Difference: Veils, Minarets, Kippas and Sukkot in Contemporary Europe,” Archiv für Sozialgeschichte; “Archiving a Life: Post-Shoah Paradoxes of Memory Legacies,” in Unsettling Histories; “The Boundaries of Jewishness or when is a Cultural Practice Jewish?” Jewish Social Studies; and “Coming Home? Jews in Postwar Paris,” Journal of Contemporary History. She is currently at work on three books: a co-edited volume entitled, The Jewish Home (with Federica Francesconi and  Joshua Teplitsky); Strangers at Home: Jewish Parisians and Berliners in the Twentieth Century;  and, Atlantic Crossings: The Production and Reproduction of Race in the Atlantic World (with Tom Holt).

Caroline Sturdy Colls, Professor of Conflict Archaeology and Genocide Investigation and Director of the Centre of Archaeology, Staffordshire University

Professor Caroline Sturdy Colls has expertise in the investigation of Holocaust landscapes and other sites of mass and interpersonal violence using forensic archaeological approaches. Since 2010, Professor Sturdy Colls has conducted the first archaeological investigations at Treblinka extermination and labor camps, and she is currently working on a monograph Finding Treblinka, which will provide new historical, spatial, and material perspectives on the crimes perpetrated there and will be published in cooperation with the USHMM. She has also conducted fieldwork at more than 50 other Holocaust sites and has published extensively on the subjects of Holocaust archaeology, forensic archaeology, and missing persons. Her notable and recent monographs include Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions, the Handbook of Missing Persons, and ‘Adolf Island’: The Nazi Occupation of Alderney. Professor Sturdy Colls was a 2016 Visiting Fellowship at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and delivered the USHMM’s prestigious Joseph and Rebecca Meyerhoff Annual Lecture in 2020. In 2016, she was awarded the European Archaeological Heritage Prize for her work in modern conflict archaeology.

Tentative Program Schedule

  • January 3: Participants Arrive in Washington, DC, Optional Evening Meet & Greet

  • January 4: Participants Meet at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

  • January 5: Participants Meet at the Shapell Collections, Conservation and Research Center

  • January 6: Participants Meet at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Additional asynchronous activities will include independent readings, pre-recorded lectures, and syllabus design work. All assigned readings and course materials will be made available to participants in advance of the program through the Seminar’s digital platform.

Application Details

Seminar applicants can be at any career stage but must be teaching or anticipate teaching relevant courses at accredited institutions in North America, including colleges, universities, and community colleges. Applications must include: (1) a curriculum vitae; (2) a 1-2 page statement of the candidate’s interest in strengthening their background in the areas of material culture and the Holocaust (details below); (3) a letter of support from a dissertation advisor, departmental chair, or dean addressing the candidate’s qualifications and the institution’s commitment to Holocaust-related education; and (4) a draft syllabus with content relating to the seminar topic that the candidate has taught or anticipates teaching.

In your statement of interest, please specifically address:

  • How the Seminar would augment or impact the course(s) you anticipate teaching;

  • How the Seminar would help to meet your institution's needs and/or expand your institution’s curricular offerings;

  • How your perspective, experiences, and/or disciplinary approach will enhance the Seminar discussions.

This Seminar aims to convene scholars from various career levels, disciplines, regional locations, academic institutions, and backgrounds. Participants must commit to attending the entire Seminar. After the conclusion of the Seminar, participants are expected to submit a preliminary version of a revised syllabus. The Seminar will include designated working sessions for participants to revise and expand their syllabi content.

Travel and Lodging

For non-local participants, the Mandel Center will cover the cost of (1) direct travel to and from the participant’s home institution and Washington, DC, and (2) lodging for the duration of the Seminar. All participants will be provided $250 to defray the cost of meals and incidentals.

COVID-19 Safety Measures

The health and safety of Museum guests and staff is always the Museum's top priority. The Museum takes all reasonable safety precautions but cannot guarantee the safety of any participant. Participants acknowledge that their risk of COVID-19 exposure may increase by participating in the program or by engaging in any other travel. By participating in the program, you voluntarily assume all risks related to COVID-19 exposure and release the Museum from any associated liability.

Per guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Museum encourages all participants to stay up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations. The Museum’s safety measures are based on CDC COVID-19 Community Levels and will be adjusted to reflect any changes in the level. Prior to the program, the Museum will provide updates regarding the latest guidelines related to health and safety protocols. Participants agree to abide by all health and safety protocols required by the United States, the Museum, and/or the local jurisdiction rules applicable to the program.


Deadline Extended: Applications must be received in electronic form no later than October 28, 2022. The application form is available online. Letters of support may be uploaded electronically or sent directly to Dr. Katharine White at

Admission will be determined without regard to race, color, religion, sex, gender (sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, or reprisal. The Museum also prohibits any form of workplace discrimination or harassment.

This Seminar is endowed by Edward and David Hess in memory of their parents, Jack and Anita Hess, who believed passionately in the power of education to overcome racial and religious prejudice.