Americans and the Holocaust: Traveling Exhibition Application Guidelines

Americans and the Holocaust: A Traveling Exhibition for Libraries. What did Americans know? What more could have been done?

Date posted: June 17, 2019 
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Questions? Contact the American Library Association (ALA) Public Programs Office at 1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045, or

I. Project Overview
II. Award Information
III. Eligibility
IV. Application and Submission Information
V. Application Review
VI. Award Administration Information
VII. Contact Us

I. Project Overview

With support from  the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), the American Library Association Public Programs Office (PPO) is seeking sites to host Americans and the Holocaust, a traveling exhibition that examines the motives, pressures, and fears that shaped Americans’ responses to Nazism, war, and genocide in Europe during the 1930s and 1940s. The exhibition will travel to 50 sites, and public and academic libraries are invited to apply. 

The 1,100-square-foot traveling exhibition is based on the exhibition that opened in April 2018 at the USHMM in Washington, DC. Americans and the Holocaust examines various aspects of American society: the government, the military, refugee aid organizations, the media, and the general public. It aims, like all of the USHMM’s exhibitions, to motivate audiences to think critically about the history as individual citizens, as a country, and as members of a global community.

This traveling exhibition is made possible by the generous support of lead sponsor Jeannie & Jonathan Lavine. Additional major funding was provided by the Bildners—Joan & Allen z”l, Elisa Spungen & Rob, Nancy & Jim; and Jane and Daniel Och. 

Substantial support was also provided by:

  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP       
  • Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP
  • Ruth Miriam Bernstein
  • Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation
  • In Memory of Simon Konover
  • Philip and Cheryl Milstein Family 
  • Benjamin and Seema Pulier Charitable Foundation
  • David and Fela Shapell Family Foundation
  • Deborah Simon
  • Laurie and Sy Sternberg
  • Gary and Cathy Jacob

The Museum's exhibitions are also supported by the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund, established in 1990.

Americans and the Holocaust will tour from March 2020 through March 2022. Selected libraries will host the exhibition for five to six weeks and will also be required to implement a minimum of four public programs to accompany the exhibition during the display period. The exhibition requires approximately 1,100 square feet of space for optimal display. Each site will receive a programming allowance of $2,000 to support public programs related to the exhibition.

The Americans and the Holocaust Exhibition

Exhibition Content

The Americans and the Holocaust traveling exhibition addresses many important themes in American history, including Americans’ responses to refugees, war, and genocide. It also provides a comprehensive look at what shaped American attitudes and actions towards the escalating persecution of Europe’s Jews. 

Drawing on a remarkable collection of primary sources from the 1930s and ‘40s, the exhibition dispels the myth that Americans knew little or were indifferent to the threat of Nazism and the plight of Europe’s Jews. It directly challenges the commonly held assumption that Americans did nothing about the Nazi persecution and murder of Jews as the Holocaust unfolded. 

The exhibition will introduce prominent individuals to a new generation of young people: Dorothy Thompson, Jesse Owens, Edward R. Murrow, Charles Lindbergh, Theodor Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”), Eleanor Roosevelt, and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It also includes stories—sadly too few—of exceptional actions undertaken by some members of civil society, a few government officials, and various ordinary citizens to try to promote a more vigorous response to Nazism and, in some cases, even to save Jews. 

Americans and the Holocaust showcases reproductions of historic artifacts, documents, photographs, and period film footage. Focusing on the stories of individuals and groups of Americans who took action in response to Nazism, the exhibition challenges visitors to consider the responsibilities and obstacles faced by individuals—from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to ordinary Americans—who made difficult choices, sought to effect change, and took significant risks to help victims of Nazism. 

Although this exhibition focuses on Americans’ lives in the 1930s and the 1940s, the resonances for our culture today are apparent throughout. The USHMM and ALA PPO hope to challenge people to not only ask “what would I have done?” but also, “what will I do?”

Physical Details

  • The exhibition requires 1,100 (max) square feet of floor space for optimal display. The panels will be capable of multiple configurations to adapt to a variety of floor plans. See some sample configurations and required square footage for reference.
  • The exhibition is composed of 18 exhibition panels (9 double-sided, freestanding units), 4 media programs, and 1 touchscreen interactive. One panel unit will be curved (2.7’ D x 10’ W x 7.9’ H), and the remaining 8 panel units will be flat (1.1’ D x 9.8’ W x 7.9’ H).
  • Each panel side will be composed of 3 vertically-oriented graphics. The graphics hang from steel hubs and lock to the seams via vertical magnetic strips. The exhibition will be accompanied by a thorough set up guide. For more information about how to set up the exhibit panels, please watch the video provided by the manufacturer.
  • Host sites are asked to provide extension cords, power strips, and electrical floor cord covers beyond those supplied, as needed. The exhibition will not require any additional lighting.
  • The exhibition will travel in 9 rolled containers (42” x 26” x 22”) and 5 cases for media stands, monitors, and tablets (size TBD). All containers are expected to fit within a 9’ x 12’ storage space.
  • The exhibition will require approximately one day for two people to set up.
  • While the exhibition panels are capable of being arranged in multiple configurations in order to accommodate different library floor plans, the entire exhibition must be displayed at the same host site. Exhibitions panels cannot be shared among different library branches, partner organizations, etc.
  • The exhibition will include 4 films and 1 touchscreen interactive. One film is expected to be displayed by a monitor no larger than 32” that will be mounted to the introductory panel. The remaining 3 films and touchscreen interactive will be displayed on tablets mounted to freestanding kiosks. A specific type of tablet and kiosk has not yet been selected, but each tablet will likely have an 11-13” screen and each freestanding kiosk will likely be about 50 lbs. and ADA compliant.
  • The media programs are:
    • A brief, 90 second film (silent) showing the context of the United States during the 1920s and 1930s (especially isolationism in the aftermath of World War I; prejudice, antisemitism, and xenophobia in the US; and economic insecurity during the Great Depression) that informed and shaped Americans’ responses to Nazism. It will be displayed on a monitor no larger than 32”.
    • A touchscreen interactive map (silent) showing visitors that American newspapers reported on many stories related to the Nazis’ persecution and murder of Jews in Europe, specifically: the boycott of Jewish businesses (April 1933), Kristallnacht (Nov 1938), public reporting on mass murder (Nov 1942). This interactive will be displayed on a tablet mounted to a freestanding kiosk.
    • A short, animated film (audio) showing visitors that many ships carrying refugees crossed the Atlantic Ocean between March 1938 and October 1941 and reminds visitors of the story of the St. Louis while placing it into an historical context. This film will be displayed on a tablet mounted to a freestanding kiosk with headphones or other individual listening devices.
    • A mini-documentary depicting Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s efforts to move the United States toward intervention in World War II, beginning on September 1, 1939, when Europe went to war and concluding in December 1941, at Pearl Harbor. This film will be displayed on a tablet mounted to a freestanding kiosk with headphones or other individual listening devices.
    • An animated map (silent) overlaying the movement of Allied troops during World War II and the locations and opening / closing dates of six major Nazi killing centers. This film will be displayed on a tablet mounted to a freestanding kiosk.
  • The films with audio will have closed captioning and will utilize headphones or other individual listening devices. There are currently no plans to localize the media or exhibition into other languages.
  • Since all of the above media programs are currently in production, all descriptions are subject to change.

Orientation Workshop

There will be an in-person orientation workshop, facilitated by ALA and museum project staff, held at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC in January 2020 (exact dates TBD). The project director from each exhibiting library must attend this full-day session. Attendees will receive a stipend to cover the costs of travel to and from Washington, DC, and two nights in a hotel. Meals and snacks at the workshop will be provided.

At this training, librarians will tour the onsite version of Americans and the Holocaust, learning about the exhibition content and themes. They will also learn about how to set up and take down the traveling exhibition and about resources to support their programming needs. Lastly, they will learn about the required program requirements and reporting.

Support Materials

  • An online Site Support Notebook will include:
    • Critical ALA contact information, shipping information and other logistical needs.
    • Instructions on how to properly set up and take down the exhibition.
    • Parameters on programming requirements, suggested book lists, programming ideas and other helpful resources.
    • Reporting requirements and instructions.
  • An online press kit will include:
    • A press kit including a template press release, social media posts, public service announcements and media alert to share with local media.
    • A collection of digital elements to share on their website and via social media (e.g., web banners, images sized for use on social media).
    • Downloadable promotional items to print and distribute to program attendees (e.g., posters, flyers, brochures).
  • An online community discussion group will allow exhibiting libraries to share programming ideas and experiences.

Requirements for Host Sites

All libraries chosen to host Americans and the Holocaust will be required to do the following:

  • Sign a contract with the American Library Association agreeing to programming, publicity, reporting and other project requirements.
  • Present a minimum of four public programs, events or activities related to the themes explored in the exhibition, which can include programs with scholars, community or civic organizations, family programs and other public events. 
    • As part of their project agreement, all selected sites will be required to host at least one program for high school or university students as part of their minimum of four public programs. Program plans may include (but are not limited to) an opening event for the exhibition, featuring a speaker or presentation; a media discussion program, such as a film or television series screening or book club discussion that centers on titles related to the exhibition themes; a program centered on the USHMM project History Unfolded: US Newspapers and the Holocaust; a panel discussions or lecture series on topics related to the exhibition, such as the historical debate of whether or not the United States should enter World War II, how popular culture shaped Americans’ understanding of World War II, the emergence of public opinion polling, and the stories of Americans who tried to rescue victims of Nazism, and how women’s roles changed during this era; or a community conversation on exhibition themes — such as what was reported on the Holocaust in the region — and their relevance to your community today.
  • Collaborate with local high schools and/or universities to engage students with the exhibition and/or its related programming.
  • Market the exhibition and programs in the community.
  • Allow the public to view the exhibition and attend programs free of charge.
  • Provide three reports throughout the project period: a pre-program form; an exhibition condition form; and a final programming report to the exhibition sponsors. ALA will provide the necessary forms and will send periodic reporting deadline reminders.
  • Appoint one staff member as the Project Director of the exhibition. The Project Director is responsible for attending the orientation workshop in January 2020 at the USHMM in Washington, DC, overseeing programming and marketing of the exhibition, and assuring that the exhibition is set up, displayed and taken down according to the project guidelines.
  • Agree to all publicity requirements, including use of designated exhibition credits and/or logos on all local publicity materials, both print and online.
  • Show that the library has sufficient space to display the exhibition (approximately 1,100 square feet in one area of the library, plus space to store the shipping crates), and can provide security for the exhibition (by monitoring the exhibition at least every half-hour during peak times and every hour at less busy times).
  • Provide sufficient electrical outlets nearby to power the exhibition components requiring electricity. Be responsible for the condition of the exhibition. Sites will be held responsible for damage to or loss of the exhibition when it is under their control. Minor repairs will be carried out and paid for by the ALA.
  • INSURANCE: Each host library must add the exhibition to its institutional insurance coverage or purchase an insurance rider. The value of the exhibition is approximately $75,000. The exhibition should be insured from ten days before the first day of the exhibition period to ten days after the closing date.

II. Award Information

Fifty public and academic libraries will be selected to host the exhibition, starting March 2020 through March 2022. Each host will receive the following:

  • The traveling exhibition for a five- to six-week loan period (shipping costs are paid by ALA and the USHMM).
  • A $2,000 allowance for exhibition-related programming. Libraries are encouraged to use a portion of the funds to transport local students to see the exhibit or attend a program, if needed. 
  • An online Site Support Notebook, with shipping and installation instructions, suggestions for programming and a full publicity kit, including downloadable promotional materials and templates for press and social media outreach.
  • Logistical and programming support from the ALA Public Programs Office throughout the tour, including participation in an online discussion list for sites.
  • Expenses for the library project director to attend an orientation workshop at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in January 2020 in Washington, DC. 
  • Repair of reasonable wear and tear to the exhibition.

III. Eligibility

Americans and the Holocaust is available to public and academic libraries in the United States. Individuals and federal entities are not eligible to apply.

IV. Application and Submission Information

Applications will be accepted June 17 – August 9, 2019. Applications must be submitted online by 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time on August 9, 2019. Late or incomplete applications, and applications from ineligible institutions, will not be reviewed. Applications and support materials may not be submitted by mail or e-mail.

To begin the application process, go to

Before applying, we strongly encourage applicants to:

V. Application Review

Each application will be assessed by a review panel of librarians and staff of ALA and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Applications will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Clarity and completeness of the application. Has the applicant supplied all required information, including all sections of the proposal narrative? 
  • The quality and variety of proposed programming to accompany the exhibition. 
  • The availability of appropriate exhibition space, and the library’s ability to provide security for the exhibition.
  • The involvement of appropriate programming partners. 
  • The quality of the marketing and outreach plans, and the likelihood of engaging the target audiences in large numbers. 
  • The community’s interest in and need for quality Holocaust educational resources.

The panel may take geographic and demographic distribution into consideration when selecting exhibition sites.

VI. Award Administration Information

Application Deadline: August 9, 2019
Award Notification: By September 20, 2019
Orientation Workshop: January 2020 (specific date TBD), Washington, DC
Final Report Due: 30 days after completion of the exhibition display period.

VII. Contact Us

If you have questions about the exhibition or the application, contact:
American Library Association Public Programs Office
1-800-545-2433, ext. 5045