Downtown News

It's hard not to take a shine to new Holocaust Museum in Dallas' West End

It's hard not to take a shine to Holocaust Museum in Dallas' West End

Holocaust Museum
The copper cladding is already catching many a passersby eye. Photo courtesy of Steven Briggs

After three years in the works, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum in downtown Dallas is nearing the finish line toward its opening in September 2019.

The museum will be moving into a new 52,000-square-foot facility at 300 N. Houston St., at the corner of Record Street. Facilities will include a plaza, courtyard, lobby, exhibits, a 250-seat theater, reflection area, library, and classrooms.

It will honor both human rights and the memory of the Holocaust, a unique mission among 21st century educational institutions.

Meanwhile, its eye-catching exterior, enclosed in a shell of brilliantly shiny copper, is already turning heads.

It's all a significant step up from its former location at 211 Record St.

Backers raised $73 million in a campaign to grow the organization: $56 million for the building, and $16 million for endowments and acquisitions.

These additions are long awaited, as the museum has relied on rental spaces since its inception in 1984 and cannot accommodate large groups and schools. Their Upstanders Speakers Series has grown so popular that it, and many other programs, are frequently held offsite.

"These are all wonderful problems to have, but we urgently have to address our community's need for education surrounding the history of the Holocaust and its all too relevant lessons," says museum CEO Mary Pat Higgins.

Copper band
Construction remains underway, and the exterior design is already on full display. The museum was designed both to tell a story and fit in with the surrounding West End red-brick vibe.

Its striking facade is marked by a colossal band of copper encircling the top floors — a feature that's intrinsic to the design, says lead architect Mark Holsinger.

"The entire building is a beacon of civil rights," Holsinger says. "Using copper is intentional as its appearance changes as it ages. It's the idea of perseverance and weathering the storm."

The outside of the building sets the stage for what's inside.

Once open, visitors will be guided through 27 historical and contemporary exhibits. These displays will tell the story of the Holocaust and human genocide, as well as the human-rights struggles of modern-day America. The exhibits will highlight experiences of Dallas survivors and liberators with testimonials and photographic displays.

The architecture of the facility was informed by the exhibits and mission of the museum, Holsinger says. "It was truly built from the inside out," he says.

Open spaces and design elements are meant to complement the exhibits. The plaza and lobby are bright and airy; the museum is more intimate with darker lighting through the exhibits.

"We have been enthralled with this building and designing how space can influence the people through compression and expansion throughout the passageways in the museum," Holsinger says.

Residents will get their first look inside during a grand opening tentatively scheduled for September 18.