After months of planning, a year ago today the freight car artifact from the Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. exhibition was installed in front of the Museum.
Getting the freight car from Madrid to New York City was no easy feat, involving a crane lift in Madrid, an Atlantic crossing, storage in New York state, and then, on March 31, 2019, the last piece of the puzzle: transport of the freight car on a flatbed truck to the front of the Museum, where a crane operator lifted the artifact onto the train tracks assembled earlier in the morning.
Heavy rain was forecast, but the bigger concern was wind. New York City doesn’t allow cranes to operate if winds are gusting more than 30 mph. The forecast was for wind gusts of … 29 mph.
So, with fingers crossed, we gathered early that day, a Sunday morning, and waited for the rain, and the wind, and the freight car. To our great relief, the rain and the wind were nowhere near what had been forecast. The freight car was placed in front of the Museum seamlessly, taking less time than we’d expected, thanks to the great work of everyone involved with the planning and the installation.
And then, seeing the freight car in person, we were all able to truly feel the enormity of what the freight car represents. Holocaust survivors who were on hand to watch the train car installation walked around the freight car, some with their families, some by themselves. Neighborhood residents who had turned out to see the crane operation talked with each other about what the freight car was, and what it symbolized. Museum staff, focused prior to the installation on the complexities of the project, started to fully understand that the Auschwitz. Not long ago. Not far away. exhibition would personalize, for us and our visitors, the experience of so many millions during the Holocaust.
It was an emotional day, and a day of community. It was a day when many different groups of people – different departmental staff at the Museum, fine art handlers, transportation experts, video crews and press, Battery Park City residents, Holocaust survivors – worked together to make a difference. It was a day that helped prepare us for days like the ones we are in now, when we must work together – #togetherapart – for a greater good.
Watch the video below for an overview of the freight car installation.