OSWEGO, NY – For the first time since its opening in 2002, seventeen years ago, the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum will have a completely redesigned exhibit space.
The museum, located at 2 E. Seventh St., tells the story of the nearly 1,000 refugees who fled Europe to escape the atrocities of the Holocaust during World War II.
The refugees were allowed into the United States as guests of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and were housed at Fort Ontario in Oswego from 1944 – 1946.
Dismantling of the current museum exhibits began on December 9, with help from Oswego CiTi-BOCES students and staff.
Safe Haven is collaborating with Bob Davidson of the Liverpool firm, Exhibits and More to develop a brand-new updated museum space containing hands-on exhibits, a new state-of-the-art video theater, new electronic stations, and more efficient use of the museum’s floor space.
At the center of the main exhibit hall will be a walk-in replica of a living quarter from the refugee shelter that will allow visitors to see what life was like during the refugees’ time at Fort Ontario, and a facsimile piece of the shelter fence will stand nearby.
“As the only shelter in the entire United States for refugees of the Holocaust, the Safe Haven story is unique both within the context of World War II history and United States history,” said Kevin Hill, president of the board of directors for Safe Haven. “We have something here in Oswego that no other community in the entire United States can lay claim to and we have an obligation to preserve and protect this important piece of history for generations.”
“For more than fifteen years our exhibits have remained substantially unchanged, and thanks to the generous support of a substantial grant from Senator Ritchie and a grant from the Oswego County community Foundation, we were finally able to begin the process to completely renovate and upgrade our exhibits, to attract new and younger visitors, and to allow us to continue telling this story well into the future,” Hill said.
“The Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter and all those who called it home will forever be part of the fabric of the City of Oswego,” said State Senator Patty Ritchie. “I am honored to be able to assist the Safe Haven Holocaust Refugee Shelter Museum with its efforts to keep alive the memories of the nearly 1,000 refugees who made their home at Fort Ontario and to continue to highlight the role Oswego played during this important time in our nation’s history.”
The museum will remain open from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. Thursday through Sunday during the renovation with no admission fee and a temporary exhibit on display.
The new exhibits are expected to be completed by the end of May 2020.