Chicago is home to a wide variety of museums and cultural institutions that host millions of visitors each year, yet most of the local area adults I asked hadn’t visited one since a grade school field trip.  I suppose it is true what they say… you’re never a tourist in your own city!

As we encourage folks to get out and discover something new in and around Chicago this winter, I wanted to highlight a hidden gem that I recently had the pleasure of checking out first hand.

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center (IHMEC)

Located in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, IHMEC is actually the 3rd largest Holocaust museum in the world!  In 2017, the Museum was named one of 10 recipients of the 2017 National Medal for Museum and Library Service, the nation’s highest honor given to museums and libraries for service to the community.

I went in prepared for it to be an emotional and educational experience, hopeful to learn something new about this dark time in human history.  What I wasn’t prepared for was leaving with an uplifting feeling of empowerment and encouragement, recognizing that I had the power inside me to affect bullying, bigotry and human rights within our world today.

The masterful design of the museum takes you on a journey not only with the information and artifacts, but also through the thoughtful lighting and design of the building and exhibits.  An early 20th Century German rail car—of the type used by the Nazis during the Holocaust to transport millions to concentration camps—serves as sobering centerpiece.  The stories and artifacts on display are mostly from survivors and families that resettled in the North Shore area here in Illinois.  I found myself completely drawn into the entire experience!

Survivor Stories Experience

The highlight of my trip was the interactive, holographic Survivor Stories Experience.  This ground-breaking technology allows you to feel like you are sitting in the same room with one of the Survivors as they tell their personal story.  Created in California from hours and hours of interviews conducted in a green screen studio, these first-hand accounts are simply mind blowing.  But the most amazing part is at the end when the docent allows you to ask questions – any question – and the hologram answers you!  If you get to see Aaron Elster, ask him how he met his wife … that was my favorite!

As time passes there are fewer and fewer Survivors to tell their stories, and these first-hand accounts will provide a powerful, interactive testament to history that will live on forever.  The Survivor Stories Experience is a permanent exhibit at the Museum and is offered on a set schedule daily (reservations are recommended).  They rotate weekly through different people.  I might go back just to hear another one!

Museum Facts

For those of you planning a trip to visit, here are some important details:

Monday through Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Thursdays: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.)

Saturday and Sunday: 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Happening in 2019:
Explore a current list of events and programs happening at the museum

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

9603 Woods Drive, Skokie, Illinois


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