Work on the £1m Centre will begin in the University summer and is due for completion in early 2018

WHEN the new Holocaust Heritage and Learning Centre (HHLC) opens at the University of Huddersfield, the 20,000 visitors expected annually might find some of the exhibits rather mundane at first glance.  But these will be among the most powerful items on display, according to the Centre’s newly-appointed director, Emma King, an experienced museum professional.

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New HHLC Director Emma King with Holocaust survivor Iby Knill during construction of the new centreNew HHLC Director Emma King with Holocaust survivor Iby Knill during construction of the new centre

The HHLC – to be created with £1 million in funding, including £604,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund – is an initiative of the Leeds-based Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA), in collaboration with the University of Huddersfield, which provides 300 square metres of exhibition space plus archival expertise and facilities for school and community education.  Work on developing the centre begins in July, with opening scheduled for March 2018.

Liversedge-born Emma King, the first director, has degrees in archeology and history and in museums studies, and has worked in the museum sector since the late 1990s, holding posts in Kirklees, Liverpool and Sheffield before becoming a freelance consultant.

At the HHLC, the archival material, the oral testimonies and the special displays will focus on the experience of Holocaust survivors and refugees from the Nazis – including survivors of the camps and children who came to Britain on the Kindertransports – who found refuge in the North of England.  The new centre will be the only facility of its type in the region.  It will be a major educational destination for schools and will provide academic research opportunities, as well as being open to the general public.  The themes raised at the Centre will also be relevance to contemporary debates over the treatment of refuges, said Emma.

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Holocaust Heritage and Learning CentreThe new Holocaust Heritage and Learning Centre, (HHLC)

At the heart of the Holocaust Heritage and Learning Centre will be material collected by the HSFA, which was set up in the 1990s by a group of Holocaust survivors.  It is hoped that research will be triggered by the newly-catalogued archive, not least because the oral history material consists of interviews in English.

“We have a growing collection of testimony from survivors that hasn’t been used for academic research so far.  It’s waiting to be discovered.  Another strength of the archive is the large number of photographs, images from pre-war Jewish life,” said Emma King, who will be joined at the centre by specially-recruited staff, including an administrator and learning volunteer manager.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Huddersfield, Professor Tim Thornton, who has been closely involved in the HHLC project and its location at the University, said that he welcomed the appointment of Emma King.

“She’s a great addition to the project and her work promises to enrich opportunities for our students and for the wider public.”