Saturday, April 22, 2006

Remembering the Holocaust

In April in the U.S., we honor the dead of the Nazi Holocaust. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is a monument to those dead and a memorial to those still living with memories of that time. It also is a resource for educating people about situations in the world today that are startingly reminiscent of those World War II conditions. Being in the museum is an awe-inspiring experience; it is the space itself that creates the feeling or reaction one has, so I was curious how the online pieces of the project would effect the viewer (me). Would I feel moved by searching a website collection? Would I identify the project then as emotional, educational, or other purpose?
I think the whole site is fabulously done, well-thought out and organized and easy to move around in. Visually stimulating, with enough text to give all of the pieces real depth. The Online Exhibitions link, which you can locate in the top left box entitled Inside History, brings you to a beautiful outline page highlighting the online exhibits hosted by this site. Each collection is identified with a picture and a textual description. The Launch link takes you to the exhibits themselves, a variety of collections from Nazi Book Burning in the U.S. to Anne Frank and Darfur.
One of the exhibits is Music of the Holocaust, a collection of songs heard and created around the concentration camps and ghettos of Nazi Germany. Each song is explained with text, photos of the composer or other person associated with it, and is downloadable for listening. Music being one of the ways we are moved emotionally, this collection in particular fosters the mission of the museum (in part):

" The Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral and spiritual questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy."

To reflect upon our past, and move forward in conscience, contributes to our humanity. Digitizing such collections, making them available to millions of people, is important work for institutions like this, and I think, well worth the cost.

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