The Story of 6 million+
In 2005, Kirklees Council initiated a project to collect over 6 million buttons to illustrate the industrial scale of the Holocaust and other genocides. The public collection began in West Yorkshire, but word soon spread and many of the buttons were collected regionally, nationally and even internationally. Leeds based artist Antonia Stowe was commissioned to design the installation for Huddersfield Art Gallery. 6 million+ had a huge impact on visitors and toured nationally for the next five years to places including Ripon Cathedral and Brent Cross Shopping Centre in London.
The project has involved thousands of young people, community groups and individuals in the process of collecting buttons and thinking about genocide and discrimination. The installation included a film featuring conversations between Holocaust survivors and asylum seekers and poetry written in response to their experiences.
6 million+ was perceived as:
- a stunning artwork
- a memorial to those who died in the Holocaust and more recent genocides
- a stimulus for discussion about identity and difference
- an educational tool for students of history, citizenship, art and RE
- a context in which to think, reflect and make promises to take positive action
In 2011, the buttons returned to Huddersfield. Comments written on luggage labels made it clear that thousands of people still felt a sense of ownership of the buttons and expressed a continued interest in their future. In 2013, Kirklees Council, supported by Arts Council England, delivered a research and development project to look at the feasibility of identifying a public site and new design for a permanent memorial sculpture using the buttons.
The project included :
- commissioned appraisals of 3 potential sites, conducted by landscape architects
- research trips in England and in Berlin to look at memorials
- an extensive community consultation programme with local people
- regular meetings with the 6 million+ Advisory Forum
The result of the site appraisals and community consultation strongly suggested that the University of Huddersfield would be the best location for the memorial sculpture and associated programme of education, community activities and events.
Since then a number of developments have helped to mould our plans, not least the new Heritage Learning Centre at the University of Huddersfield. The Centre has been established by the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association (HSFA) as a permanent home for the archival material collected by their members and as a permanent educational resource to perpetuate their member’s experiences.
As a result of these developments, the aims of 6 million plus have evolved to the following:
- Reaching into and bringing together disparate communities
- Informal education, leading and participating in projects to stimulate thinking and discussion on the continuing relevance of the Holocaust and other more recent genocides
- Organising specific memorial events, for example Holocaust Memorial Day or events commemorating other genocides
- Creating changing temporary art installations using the buttons as a resource as both an act of memorialisation and as an aid to stimulating cross-community discussion