The Artifacts Collection
Haviva Peled-Carmeli (z"l)
Senior Curator and the first Director of the Artifacts Department in the Yad Vashem Museums Division
Haviva Peled-Carmeli was the Director of the Artifacts Department in the Museums Division at Yad Vashem until December 2013.
Since joining the Museums Division in 1995, Haviva has been pivotal in the development and expansion of the Artifacts Collection (which today numbers some 27,500 items). Her input and expertise were critical to the curatorial team’s efforts in creating the new Holocaust History Museum, which opened in 2005.
When Haviva started working at Yad Vashem, the Artifacts Collection was extremely limited, but in the course of her nineteen years as Department Director, tens of thousands of artifacts were collected, which are now preserved in a number of storerooms at Yad Vashem. Under the leadership of Haviva, artifacts collection began with applications to other museums and the extermination camp memorial sites, and expanded to include outreach to the survivor community, which was asked to donate its Holocaust-related artifacts to Yad Vashem for posterity, together with the stories behind them.
For Haviva, the artifacts offered a more effective and experiential means of explaining the different elements of the Holocaust to the visitor. She believed that artifacts have an important role to play in bringing the events of the Shoah to life, and that contact with the different artifacts would help the visitor to identify with the individuals they belonged to. For this reason, she insisted on collecting original, authentic artifacts, and wanted to preserve them in the state that they had been donated.
To her mind, an essential element of Holocaust remembrance is an awareness of what is missing, of what isn’t there, and she therefore aspired to preserve each artifact as it was, without attempting to restore it or make it whole.
Haviva was personally involved in the collection of many of the artifacts, both in Israel and throughout Europe. She met with countless Holocaust survivors in her efforts to piece together information about their priceless relics, and developed a unique approach to artifact collection, which focused on the story behind the artifact and the deep significance each object held for its owner. The Artifacts Collection that she dedicated herself to building serves today as the foundation and cornerstone of Yad Vashem exhibitions.
In the words of Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev, “Haviva did an excellent, professional job, both as a researcher and a detective. She would go to survivors’ families and persuade them to part with the artifacts, and it was always done in an empathetic and humane manner.”
In 2013, Haviva was cited by the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport for her professional achievements in the field. Special mention was made of the “first rate” treatment and research that was invested in each artifact in the collection, a testament to her impressive professional qualifications in the discipline, which combined vision, imagination, historical research and in-depth knowledge of museology.
Over the last two years, Haviva wrote the book “Silent Witnesses”, comprising stories behind many of the artifacts in the Artifacts Collection at Yad Vashem. The book will be published in the near future.
In January 2014, Haviva Peled-Carmeli passed away after a prolonged battle with cancer.