Digital Curation: Visual History of the Holocaust
“Visual History of the Holocaust: Rethinking Curation in the Digital Age“ was awarded €5 million in funding through the European Union‘s Horizon 2020 program. It will commence in January 2019 and run for four years. The Holocaust has been a central reference point for European history and a ‘negative founding myth’ of European integration. Now that digital technologies and the internet have profoundly transformed particular concepts of history and visual evidence the question of its representation becomes more pertinent. How do you digitally curate filmic records that bear witness to the darkest chapter in recent European history? A consortium consisting of 13 Austrian, German, Israeli and French research institutions, museums, memorial sites and technology developers together with American partners will develop models and applications to respond to this challenge.
The visual representation of the Holocaust has been a contested issue for artists, historians, educators and curators for decades. Today it also raises more general questions on what ‘digital curation’ entails. The project focuses on filmic records produced by Allied forces and relating to the discovery of Nazi concentration camps and other atrocity sites. Although these films only capture a certain aspect of the Holocaust, some of their images have become canonical. Due to the scarcity of visual records a few images, often presented out of context, have shaped our collective imaginary of the Holocaust. In the course of the project these historical films, which currently are dispersed across archival institutions in the US, Great Britain, Russia and other former Soviet Republics, will be aggregated, digitized, analyzed and annotated. The resulting digital repository will allow researchers to dynamically link film images with photographs, text-based documents and oral histories, as well as with images from subsequent filmic representations of the Holocaust.
”Visual History of the Holocaust” will make groundbreaking use of existing and emerging technologies, including advanced digitization, automated analysis of images and text, time-based annotation and location-based services. It is an aim of the project to establish new contexts of meaning to be explored in history, film and media studies, cultural studies and computer science. Based on this technology-enabled research new communication strategies will be developed for memorials, museums and educational institutions. The project is supported by a number of memorial institutions, three of them being part of the consortium: Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial Site, Mauthausen Memorial, and Bergen-Belsen Memorial.