Destination Museum

A Conversation with Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett

in Museum Worlds
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  • 1 Victoria University of Wellington
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What was the first museum you remember visiting?

I was born in September 1942 during the war. My parents came from Poland. Three weeks after I was born, 6,500 Jews from my father’s hometown, Opatów (Apt, in Yiddish), 65% of the population, disappeared overnight. All but 500 were sent to the Treblinka death camp, and the rest to a forced labour camp. So I grew up in an immigrant neighbourhood in the immediate postwar years. I went through an ultra-Orthodox period (my parents were horrified). I became not only strictly kosher, but also I observed the Sabbath very strictly. That meant I could not ride, spend money, turn on the radio, write, tear paper . . . I could do almost nothing. Except . . . I could walk to the Royal Ontario Museum. . . . and I did. So this was before the era of helicopter parents. At the age of 10, 11, 12 years old, I would walk out of my house, through Queen’s Park, to the ROM, and that was my beloved childhood museum.

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