Rebranded Toronto Holocaust Museum launches awareness campaign

Who: The Toronto Holocaust Museum, with Field Trip & Co for brand design, creative and brand identity; Epitaph Group for media; and Heads+Tales for PR.

What: A new brand identity and awareness campaign for the Toronto Holocaust Museum, which is re-opening next month after a three-year, $30 million upgrade that includes a new physical space and a series of technological enhancements.

When & Where: The museum is set to open on June 9, with the awareness campaign in market now—running across digital and out-of-home.

Why: Holocaust museums across the country have announced major overhauls in recent years, with The Canadian Jewish News ascribing it to two key factors: aging survivors, and a rise in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial.

Previously known as the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre, the Toronto Holocaust Museum has moved into a new 10,000 square-foot space in North York that is approximately three times larger than its previous location, and is  trying to expand its core audience beyond school groups.

Executive director Dara Solomon said that the word “education” in the museum’s previous name implied that it was restricted to school groups, even though it was actually open to the general public.

In its previous guise, the museum attracted between 12,000 and 15,000 students a year from the Toronto, York and Peel regions, but Solomon said that with its renewed emphasis on attracting the general public, the museum is hoping to eventually push its annual traffic to as high as 70,000 people .

“We really felt it was important to boldly put ourselves out there that we are the Toronto Holocaust Museum, the premiere destination for Holocaust education in the city,” she said.

How (the brand): The brand identity features the words Toronto Holocaust Museum rising above dark boxes that are intended to signify a truly dark period in human history. “The idea is that even if this is not your history or something you’re connected to personally, there’s something relevant about the Holocaust that you can relate to in society,” said Solomon.

The typography, meanwhile, pays homage to the metal type frequently leveraged on memorial walls.

The font is Garaje, which Field Trip & Co principal and creative director Alison Garnett said had the appropriate feel. “We didn’t want something that felt too perfect, as it is reminiscent of the typography used at the entranceway of concentration camps,” she said. The infamous “Arbeit macht frei” (work sets you free) sign at Auschwitz, for example, was  made by prisoners in the camp’s metalworking labour detail.

Survivor testimony remains an important aspect of the museum’s experience, but with their numbers dwindling—there are currently about 10,000 Holocaust survivors in Canada, according to the Azrieli Foundation—the museum installed modern technology capable of providing visitors with what Solomon describes as an “immersive” experience capable of replicating their presentations.

The museum claims that it is the “most technologically advanced” facility in the region, utilizing testimony kiosks, interactive maps, and augmented reality screens, for example. “You’re going to a place that is conceptually very rich, but also accessible because of the technology,” said Solomon. “There are layers and layers of content that exist through the technology.”

How (the advertising): The creative shows grainy, pre-World War II imagery (static and video) of young people enjoying life, unaware of the terrible fate that awaited so many of them.

The visuals are accompanied by words including “Undeniable,” “Unimaginable” and “Unthinkable,” before Elly Gotz, a 95-year-old Lithuanian Jew who was imprisoned in Dachau and came to Canada in 1964, appears on screen. “We want you to remember what we have been through,” he says. “Not because of our history, but because of your future.”

The creative campaign is being complemented by an extensive PR component led by Heads+Tales, the Toronto-based shop co-founded by former Middle Child leaders Amanda Shuchat and Katie Muir earlier this year.

And we quote: “We know that within the Jewish community there’s been a desire to have a museum dedicated to this history, and especially now with this rise in anti-Semitism and all forms of hate. At the same time, our survivor population is declining, so now is the time to make sure this happens.” — Dara Solomon, executive director, Toronto

Chris Powell