The Student News Site of Indiana University Kokomo

The Correspondent

The Correspondent

The Student News Site of Indiana University Kokomo

The Correspondent

Students explore historical American perspectives


Ty Rodriguez guided the Kokomo community through new perspectives of the American cultural response to the Holocaust via an internship at the Kokomo Howard County Public Library this summer.

Between July 12 and Aug. 17, a traveling exhibition by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the American Library Association visited the KHCPL Main Branch. Rodriguez provided administrative staff support for the overall exhibit.

Centered around the state of American culture in the 1930s and 40s, the project served to highlight recent research through primary sources related to American antisemitism, xenophobia, racism, isolationism, nationalism, and the Great Depression.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website states that the purpose of the exhibit is to examine anxieties that influenced the way Americans reacted to Nazism, warfare, and the Holocaust.

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Rodriguez took initiative in pursuing his role with the USHMM. Through a mutual friend and a job fair at Indiana University Kokomo, Rodriguez made connections with staff at KHCPL.

Five months later, Rodriquez was notified of the position opening and encouraged to apply.

The USHMM is a federal institution created by Congress that serves as the American national memorial to the victims of the Holocaust.

The primary mission of the Museum is to share knowledge of the event, maintain the historical narratives of survivors, and encourage visitors to contemplate their roles and responsibilities as citizens.

By sharing the American cultural perspective of the Holocaust with his community, Rodriguez assisted the primary mission of the USHMM.

Along with giving tours of the exhibition, Rodriguez assisted a second generation Holocaust survivor draft a presentation for the public.

Rodriguez cited community engagement and education as some of the largest takeaways from the experience.

“I wanted to be one of those people that addressed this to the community and share a perspective they may have been unaware of,” Rodriguez said.

As a student in the History, Political Science, and Philosophy Department, Rodriguez felt well prepared for the role.

Rodriguez said a Europe in the 20th Century class taught with the works of George Orwell was one of the classes at IU Kokomo that helped to provide him with the necessary context.

“The class gave you an idea of the rise of fascism in Europe leading up to this point in history,” he said. “It definitely set the tone for what we were going to be discussing within the exhibit.”

Dr. Sarah Heath, associate professor of History at IU Kokomo, visited the exhibition and said it was effective in providing context of public opinion at the time.

“Public opinion polls were displayed to show that there was a broad sentiment that the United States remain uninvolved,” she said, adding that themes the exhibit explored were “the ways in which Americans react to a wartime situation that was clearly remembered as a series of acts of bias and atrocity.”

IU Kokomo alumna Andrea Saylor was also involved with the project and gathered data from visitors for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.

“Our goal was to better understand visitors’ experiences with the exhibit and what information they took away,” Saylor said.

Americans and the Holocaust: A Traveling Exhibition for Libraries is traveling to 100 United States public and academic libraries between 2021 and 2026.

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