Chartered by a unanimous Act of Congress in 1980, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in April 1993 just off the National Mall near the Washington Monument. The museum's mission statement lays out goals of educating the public about the tragedy through programs and exhibitions; preserving the memory of the victims, partly through annual commemmorations known as Days of Remembrance; and causing visitors to think about their own place in society as well as the moral and spiritual questions raised by the Holocaust.

The most readily accessible way to follow the museum's mission is through its many exhibitions. The Permanent Exhibition takes up three floors of the main building, and is presented as a narrative history that journeys from "Nazi Assault" to "Final Solution" and then "Last Chapter." There are 900 artifacts, 70 video monitors, and four theaters in this exhibition, which generally takes between two and three hours to tour. The Permanent Exhibition is best for children over age 11, though more violent and graphic displays are kept behind partitions so a sensitive person can choose to avoid them. Families with younger children can tour the Children's Exhibition, called Remember the Children: Daniel's Story. This is the main feature for elementary and middle school field trips to the museum, and it presents the story of the Holocaust in a way more suited to a child's understanding. Three child psychologists reviewed the entire exhibit before it opened. There is also a rotating Special Exhibition, which has included features such as Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals, Oskar Schindler: An Unlikely Hero, and The Art and Politics of Arthur Szyk. The Online Exhibition includes condensed versions of these and several other Special Exhibitions, including Poetry of the Holocaust and Hidden History of the Kovno Ghetto. More than 6,000 photographs from the museum's 70,000-image collection may also be viewed on the site. Finally, the museum also produces Traveling Exhibitions to bring parts of the Permanent and Special Exhibitions to the American public.

The museum's mission of preservation is maintained through its vast archives and collections. There are more than sixteen million archival materials, including more than 8,000 artifacts and artwork, and 44,000 library holdings in over fifteen languages. The museum also has over 550 hours of historical video footage, and more than 7,000 oral histories. The Meed Survivors Registry lists 170,000 survivors and their families, from all fifty states and 74 countries.

The museum building itself was designed to resemble a concentration camp, with architectural features echoing the smokestacks and barbed wire and electrical fencing.

Admission to the museum is free, but timed passes are required for the Permanent Exhibition. It is possible to become a member of the museum, which provides benefits such as a discount in the gift shop and a subscription to the newsletter; membership currently stands at 200,000. The museum has a staff of nearly 450 individuals, who are assisted by more than 300 volunteers (including 64 Holocaust survivors).


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