HOUSTON – After two years of construction and a $34 million expansion, Holocaust Museum Houston reopened its doors to the public Saturday.
The new Lester and Sue Smith Campus is located at 5401 Caroline St. in Houston’s Museum District.
Here's what you need to know about the reopening:
- The museum more than doubled in size to 57,000 square feet.
- The new facility will rank as the nation’s fourth-largest Holocaust Museum.
- The museum will be fully bilingual in both English and Spanish.
- The new, three-story structure will house a welcome center, four permanent galleries, two changing exhibition galleries, classrooms, a research library, a cafe, a 200-seat indoor theater and a 175-seat outdoor amphitheater.
- Rare artifacts, including a fishing boat like the one used by Danish fishermen to ferry Jewish neighbors to neutral territory, will be on display.
- The museum will debut the nation’s largest gallery of artwork by Holocaust survivor and painter Samuel Bak.
- The museum houses the Butterfly Loft Sculpture, a kaleidoscope of 1,500 butterflies that connects each floor of the museum. Each butterfly represents 1,000 children who perished in the Holocaust.
What they said
Many people who attended the opening Saturday said the exhibits were impactful.
"Watching the video, listening to the audio and looking at the person, you could really just feel the struggle in their eyes. You can reach into their soul," said visitor Manuel Romero, who saw the museum for the first time Saturday.
"It inspires us to keep looking for signs in the modern world where we might see things like this on the rise and how we can prevent that from becoming a reality," Emily Pyle, another visitor, said.
In addition to the exhibits, there is also art, including more than 1,000 butterflies hanging from the top of the three-story building. They're symbols to remember children who passed away during the Holocaust.
For Holocaust survivor Ruth Steinfeld, Saturday's public opening was very meaningful.
"It is so unbelievably beautiful," Steinfeld said.
Steinfeld shared her story with a packed room of visitors, some of whom were brought to tears.
"The Nazis came into our home and destroyed everything," Steinfeld said.
Steinfeld and her family were taken to a concentration camp. Her mother made the difficult decision to let them go with strangers who promised to try and keep them alive. From there, Steinfeld said she and her sister went to France and were disguised as Catholic children of a poor French family who owned a farm. Because of that family and many others, she said she survived.
"It's been important to share these stories," Steinfeld said. "I have gone all over the world to share mine."
For ticket and event information, visit the Houston Holocaust Museum website.
Check out the five photos below to get a look at some of the new features.