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Meet Our New Director

Alessandro Bucci

My name is Alessandro Bucci and last week I had the honour of being appointed Director at the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA).

I am a museum and heritage professional, with interest in historiography, audience engagement and development, and a specialism in Holocaust collections. I have a strong passion for making collections accessible, highlighting their relevance in the present, and encouraging meaningful and multi-layered encounters with heritage so that it can help us inform our understanding of the world around us.

Transdisciplinarity has defined my education and professional experience, and it informs the way in which I look at collections and my approach to programming. I come from an unusual place for this field: I studied English and Russian at BA and MA level at the University of Bari in Southern Italy. I then completed a MA in History of Art at Stockholm University.

I came to the HSFA from Imperial War Museums, but my earliest professional experience was in artist-led organisations. It was here that, I developed an interest in art and in particular an interest in co-creative artistic practice – an approach which is increasingly defining the cultural sector and which can take a variety of forms.  As a practice it concerns itself with the output, but also with the process through which ‘art’ comes together. This attention to processes enables it to evaluate what it means to ‘curate’ something for other people and how we create value – historical, educational, artistic or otherwise – in the contemporary society.

Generally speaking, I see ‘co-creation’ as a form of research wherein audiences are involved as participants in creative processes. I soon became interested in how co-creative practice could be used in heritage organisations and museums: to explore and respond to historical sources to create something new, such as an artwork, an exhibition, an installation or a digital output. This led me to undertake a PhD at Edinburgh College of Art (The University of Edinburgh), where I looked at the historiographical approaches underpinning different strategies of display in museum exhibitions.

I came to the HSFA originally as the Learning and Audience Development Manager. When I first visited the HSFA’s exhibition and learning centre on the campus at the University of Huddersfield, the unique positioning of our organisation in the landscape of Holocaust organisation became immediately clear. ‘Survivor-led’ was the adjective that was used by colleagues and partners to explain the work of the HSFA to me on that occasion.

Initially, I thought that it referred to how the exhibition came to exist, particularly because of its focus on the experiences of persecution of survivors and refugees who made a new life in Leeds and West Yorkshire. However, I soon realised that ‘survivor-led’ identified so much more than the innovative curatorial approach that characterises our exhibition. Instead, ‘survivor-led’ is an indication about the values underpinning the institutional history of the HSFA, which came together in mid 1990s in Leeds as West Yorkshire-based survivors and refugees self-organised into a safe space where they could discuss their experiences during the Holocaust and provide support to one another. They soon started delivering talks in schools and other educational settings, aiming to educate about the value of freedom and equality through their experiences of being deprived from these values.

It is a true honor for me to continue reflecting on this important and unique aspect of our organisation– and I intend to do so not in isolation, but rather by working collaboratively with our members, trustees, colleagues, critical friends, the students on campus, and, indeed, audiences at large.

I believe that by reflecting on the meaning of being a ‘survivor-led’ organisation, we will be able to tell the global history of the Holocaust through local stories from the North of England and to project this geographical and emotive area as a shared space of history and loss, but also of friendship, community support and life.