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USHMM Internship- Final Reflection

This internship has made me even more aware of the nature of positions in the public history field. Prior to this internship, academic courses prepared me with proper background knowledge to the field including: what to expect, issues of debate within the field, how to handle situations as they arise, and the importance of identifying policies and governance structures within institutions (to name a few). Without that foundational understanding, I would not have been properly prepared to handle tasks at USHMM this summer. Yet, it is also true that those courses can only take me so far before I have to put that knowledge to the test through hands-on experiences. This exposes the true practicum nature of public history. Throughout this internship I was able to make correlations to coursework and readings as I encountered challenges, conducted employee interviews, and dealt with the public on-site at USHMM. I am truly appreciative of the public history courses and service project experiences that laid the foundation for this internship and my future career. (I still remember the comparison of a public historian to a doctor that was raised in one of our first seminar classes. A public historian is much like a doctor, in that a doctor cannot just start operating without adequate background knowledge and training. Yet at some point, that academic training can only go so far because the experience and practice is what helps you excel in your field and understanding.) Therefore, this internship at USHMM was very much a fusion of coursework and readings with the real-life application of that knowledge, creating a fulfilling experience.

In class as well as in several readings, we learned the importance of a mission statement and policies for an institution. During my time at USHMM, I made a point to become acquainted with the museum’s mission and its overall purpose for existence and operation. In identifying the mission statement, I could then be more aware of my role within the larger role of the museum. USHMM’s official mission statement is:

“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.”[1]

While I was with VS, I was able to adhere to and advance USHMM’s mission by acting as a facilitator to the visitors. I could get them acclimated to the museum through answering general inquiries, make them aware of the mission of the museum, and identify what is expected of them while inside through delivering group speeches. I believe that the VS role is essential to forming a positive environment so that the mission can be accomplished as well as to creating a lasting visitor experience.

As Fahy notes, one must also be aware of museum policies when it comes to collections and exhibition work.[2] I was also able to experience first-hand something that I had only previously read about in coursework. A public historian must be familiar with museum mission and policies so that they are aware of their role and expectations inside of the institution. In collections work, one encounters these policies while conducting acquisitions, loans, appraisals, insurance and security arrangements, and record keeping. [3] While working with collection/object rotations within exhibitions, I was able to encounter some of these tasks and the policies that went with them, specifically referring to loans. Through this I was able to witness just how much politics or red-tape exists within the institution which creates schedule delays, troubles in communication, and overall frustration when working with deadlines. These are all concerns we certainly discussed in class, but the experience of it on-site put it into perspective.

Malaro’s work on governance structure was another course reading I often referenced during my internship. The course readings made me aware of what governance structures existed within an institution and the types of hierarchies and roles within that structure. The practicum experience at USHMM, however, transformed the governance structure from what I saw outlined on paper, to people that I could identify and witness as they performed their functions and roles within the institutions. It created a human and visual element while also allowing me to place myself within that structure. (At the beginning of the internship I asked for an outline of the governance structure as VS fit into the institution as well as the structure for Ramee within the exhibitions team)

Another work that was very useful during my internship, which I referenced in my last forum entry, was Barbara Levy’s Great Tours. I used her advice for group speeches, so that I made each orientation my own, a reflection of my interest and personality. When it came to irritating or disrespectful visitors, however, I had to rely on life experience to diffuse situations or problem solve. Again, a lot of the issues that arose in the public were solved using life experience, or just through practice. Answering various questions, public speaking, and problem solving with the visitors was a skill that can only be acquired through hands-on experiences.

My experience with Ramee at portals was very much a mixture of collections and exhibitions. Belcher indicates that this is the nature of the two pillars within any museum, as one cannot exist without the other.[4] Collections are the main resource for exhibitions, which is why Ramee and I had to work so closely with collections as we dealt with loans and object rotations within the P.E. and the special exhibition on Nazi Propaganda. In these instances, I was able to experience different work dynamics and how responsibilities overlap between members of the exhibitions team and collections- something I could not have witnessed within the classroom. [5]

Another aspect of the museum experience I could not have encountered within the classroom, is the environment of USHMM. The environment includes the physical structure, the design, and exhibitions. [6] During my internship I worked among this environment, which is very purposeful to the content as it creates a feeling of alienation to the public. My role in VS often times was to help the visitors navigate through this environment. If I had only served behind-the-scenes, I would have missed the extent to which environment affects the visitor experience and interaction with the museum and its content. By working on both sides I think I have acquired a genuine appreciation for both exhibition/collections work and visitor services. As I pursue a career in collections or exhibitions I hope to carry that appreciation for VS as well as a better understanding of the public and how to connect with them during their visit.

Additionally, the work I helped Ramee with in exhibitions exposed me to the frantic but rewarding nature of rotating exhibitions. There are various life spans to exhibitions within USHMM, and the special or rotating exhibits (like Nazi Propaganda) create a need for more object rotations, loans, and sometimes unanticipated changes in schedule—all of which I experienced while working at portals. [7]

Falk and Dierking’s work on visitor experience, additional readings, and our visitor observations laid the foundation for understanding visitor profiles, motives, and behaviors within the site or museum. [8] Sarah’s ISP project that I was able to be apart of in VS allowed me to gain practicum experience as I directly interacted with the public through conducting surveys to examine visitor reactions to the museum and their conclusions. This opportunity contributed to my knowledge and experience with the visitors and their roles within the museum. Additionally, I was able to learn Survey Pro for data entry which is another skill I acquired that I could not have learned within the classroom.

Finally, the personal connections and overall networking opportunities that were facilitated through this internship would not be possible if I had never moved beyond the classroom into practicum experience. I will treasure the friendships and connections I made that cross generations and professional backgrounds and have only helped to diversify my knowledge and experiences within the public history field and in life.

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[1] United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. http://www.ushmm.org/museum/mission/

[2] Anne Fahy, 29.

[3] Ibid., 19-21 & 30-34.

[4] Michael Belcher, 70.

[5] Ibid., 78.

[6] Ibid., 25-26.

[7] Ibid., 48.

[8] Ibid., 179-187.

USHMM Internship- Challenges

The challenges I faced and attempted to address throughout my internship occurred on both the visitor services front and behind the scenes with my exhibition/collections work. Belcher states that “the interface between the institution and the public” occurs in different points of contact, including hands-on and behind the scenes.[1] I was privileged to be able to experience both sides of museum operations and witness the joys and challenges of both. I also had to remember, while at portals, that although I was not directly dealing with the public on those days, the work I was performing would still affect the public and their museum experience through a different medium.

The biggest obstacle I faced in Visitor Services was overcoming my fear of speaking to large crowds and gaining the confidence to assert myself when needed. To deal with this and deliver group speeches, I relied on past Practicum readings such as Levy’s Great Tours, as well as our practice sessions during class. Based off of these learning experiences and advice, I made my group speeches my own while still covering all necessary topics that VS outlined. Yet, despite all preparations and readings, the best practice and way to overcome this fear was simply by going out there and practicing with the public. The best advice I received for this specific obstacle was from our supervisors. We were told, “Your first group speech will be like making your first pancake- it will be edible but it’s not going to look pretty. Yet, in time, you will learn to get it just right.” (Or something to the effect) This eased my fears because we were not expected to be perfect from the beginning and everyone in this field has to learn by doing in some instances.

Another challenge of working at USHMM was with the content. I have particular interest and conviction in Holocaust and genocide studies but nothing could prepare me for what it would be like to spend at least three days a week amongst such emotional content. I knew what I was getting into, but I suppose I underestimated just how emotionally exhausting it could be inside the museum. A few disrespectful groups who did not appreciate where they were, mixed with the contrast of the Holocaust survivors and my emotional connection to the content, created an overwhelming feeling. I had to realize that not everyone reacted the same way as I did and, unfortunately, not everyone would take something life-changing away from the museum. In order to cope, I found that talking with friends and family was helpful, as well as concentrating on those positive experiences with visitors. Also, working alongside interns, volunteers and staff with the same convictions made it bearable and completely worth it because a positive atmosphere was created where it felt like you could make a difference. While hope may not be a strong message seen throughout the story of the Holocaust, hope can be found within the museum simply by looking at the visitor-ship, the people who work there, and the mission statement for remembrance. We were united by a common purpose and mission- to tell the story- and these positive conclusions far eclipsed those feelings of being overwhelmed.

Finally, I witnessed challenges that Ramee and the exhibition/collections team face behind the scenes. I learned File Maker Pro rather quickly through immersion and spent most of my time helping with database work. Regardless, I could still see the challenges inherent in the position through interviewing Ramee and working with the staff at Portals. The need for efficiency in the face of tight schedule demands as well as effective communication both within and outside of USHMM became all the more apparent to me. (Especially in such a large institution that has a permanent exhibition as well as temporary/special exhibitions which then become traveling exhibitions.)

I spent much of my time tying up loose ends and searching for gaps within the database because Ramee had such a long to-do list on any given day. As I noted, good communication is essential and I experienced this specifically with loans and acquisitions of collections for the exhibitions. This was probably the biggest challenge I actually was apart of rather than just witnessed while at Portals. While Ramee was away, I had to represent USHMM’s exhibition team in communicating with a representative from Minnesota University Libraries. We were in contact for the purpose of borrowing artifacts for upcoming object rotations within the Special Propaganda exhibit. I entered into discussions with the representative, quickly realizing that she had not been in contact with USHMM for some time and therefore had many questions and concerns regarding the loans, transportation, and preservation while in our care. I tried to alleviate the concerns as best as I could over the phone, contacted Ramee, and then drafted a loan letter which was sent out in order to address some of her concerns. This also outlined what artifacts we were particularly interested in borrowing. As Fahy notes, it is important to know specific museum policy towards loans, acquisitions, and so forth.[2] The policy and Ramee’s advice helped to understand what was expected of me in the situation and all future instances.

In the future I believe I will be overcoming many communication challenges, like this, on a daily basis. This experience helps to prepare me for those upcoming challenges and frame what I can expect in general.


[1] Michael Belcher, Exhibitions in Museums, 5.

[2] Anne Fahy, Collections Management, 30-34.

USHMM Internship- Informational Interview

I interviewed Ramee, Exhibition Coordinator at USHMM, who is also my supervisor while I am on-site at the Portals building on Mondays. I chose to interview Ramee because she is not only accessible but is also willing to share wise advice for someone aspiring to obtain a career in the public history field. I am interested in behind the scenes work and, more specifically, I tend to lean towards tasks in collections or exhibitions. I also realize that in various institutions, depending on size and structure, these positions could overlap more than what I see at USHMM and I may need to be prepared to wear multiple “hats”.

Regardless, the advice and information I received through interviewing Ramee gave me much to think about, yet, also affirmed that I have a strong interest in a position like exhibition coordinator. The interview went well and I am still reflecting on the things we talked about and what I desire for my future career.

I learned several things about Ramee as a person, as well as the job she fulfills, through our conversation. Ramee’s public history career has always led her to serve in similar positions and job descriptions as exhibition coordinator. Ramee has served at various institutions with differing content which were not always in her subject area of interest. She decided, however, that she could forgo a position based on content, so long as she held the same position as exhibition coordinator. Also, (although I already knew this through observation) Ramee is a people person. She stated that for this particular job, this characteristic was necessary. Ramee assured me that her position as USHMM’s exhibition coordinator is an example of luck and timing because this was the first coordinator position she found in her content area of interest. Her undergraduate studies seemed to focus on World War II and the Holocaust.

Finally, I learned where her position is located in context to the greater governance structure at USHMM. While she answers to people above her, like the curator or director of exhibitions, she has to be both assertive and organized in her communications with these people. Often times they are involved in script writing or research and Ramee, as exhibition coordinator, must keep them informed and remind them of their roles and deadlines. As the job title infers, Ramee spends much of her time coordinating rotations, changes, and creations of special exhibitions as well as the permanent exhibit at USHMM. On any given day, she will spend much of her time on the database using File Maker Pro. There are many informal meetings that take place with members of the exhibition team regarding planning and communication. Less often, formal meetings are held either outside of the portals building or in the physical space of the exhibitions at USHMM.

After a few weeks of seeing just a glimpse of what Ramee does and through speaking with her in this interview, I believe that I would be fulfilled and interested in serving as an exhibition coordinator. I think the characteristics Ramee outlined as necessary for the position are characteristics which I have. I am an organized person who is detailed oriented and conscious of deadlines. I would like the type of variety that can be found in this position, in that, I could be working in various capacities behind the scenes with the database, artifacts, and the design process. There would be something gratifying and exciting to be apart of the planning process and to see something come to fruition in the physical space at USHMM. I am working on being more assertive and although that would be a growing edge and challenge for me, it is something I can certainly overcome in a position like exhibition coordinator.

With all of that in mind, however, I am in the midst of really assessing my priorities for my career. Ramee pointed out and suggested that someone aspiring to enter the public history field should determine what is more important- content or position? I have to understand that Ramee is an exception and I might not be able to have both. I used to believe that I could fulfill any position or job description so long as it was in the area of Holocaust/genocide studies. Now, I am not so sure. After working with different institutions like Arlington House, I am now challenging my previous assertion. The wayside project at Arlington House was not in my subject area of interest, but I grew to love what I was writing about because I was excited about creating a wayside. This presents a challenge to my thinking yet opens more doors for me in the public history field.

I wish I could tell you what my decision is or where my priorities rank, but I cannot tell you at this moment. I need to think about it some more and experience the rest of this internship as well as take part in more internships or projects with differing institutions. While I am not sure which one takes precedent at the moment- content or position- I am sure that I would be interested in exhibition coordinator and that I could consider positions outside of my area of interest. At least that is a start.

USHMM Internship – Five Week Update

It is already the fifth week of my internship with USHMM and I can honestly say that I continue to love every minute of it. The public presents its unique challenges and tests of patience, but then surprises me with moments of sincerity and appreciation. The experiences this internship is presenting to me- in terms of public interaction and museum management as well as collections work behind the scenes- are proving to be invaluable. Five weeks ago I could not have imagined that I would be doing the tasks I am engaged in daily and I cannot wait to see what the coming weeks will bring in terms of growing experiences and lessons.

In the past few weeks that I have been serving Ramee at the portals building, I have been using the collection database, FileMaker Pro. I use this database to assist Ramee with tasks that she cannot always get to, but have been on her to-list for a while. Specifically I am working on the Propaganda Special Exhibition by helping with its object rotations. I check to see what objects are being rotated in and if they require a new label or “script”. If there are changes or additions to these scripts I make a note that they will need attention and fresh labels. To make this more accessible and to break it down into manageable lists, I created three documents for the upcoming rotations that will run into 2012, when the special exhibiton will close. Also, I look for holes in the rotation schedule and correct them as needed. This proves tedious but I really do enjoy it. There is something satisfying with “cleaning up” a database.

Meanwhile, I have continued to fulfill a variety of tasks specific to Visitor Services. I participate in the opening and closing of the museum, and help in the processes of both while dealing with the public. On any given day I am assigned rotating positions which include manning the information/pass desk, giving group or elevator speeches, roving throughout the museum, and running various visitor facilities and functions such as films and coat check.

As I mentioned in my last response, we are able to be involved in several programs and projects which serve as enrichment opportunities while at USHMM. Since that first response, I have learned what those projects will be. Aside from cross-training with Ramee Gentry, I am facilitating survivors’ speeches, conducting interviews with volunteers in order to improve staff relations, and will be involved in docent training. The docent training will specifically focus on speaking about the architecture of the building. Edward Linenthal’s Preserving Memory is very appropriate and fitting for this program. I look forward to incorporating that reading with my presentations.

In terms of projects, I am now involved with a Book Club which will meet once a month in order to talk about and select either memoirs or academic works regarding the Holocaust. The second project I am currently involved in is writing for Volunteer Voice, the newsletter which is distributed via Visitor Services. At present, I am writing my first article based on observations thus far and will be brainstorming for future article topics. Finally, I will be helping one of my supervisors, Sarah Campbell, with her ISP project in which we will conduct surveys with the public who come to USHMM and try to obtain a better understanding of visitor experience. This project is reminiscent of this past semester’s visitor observations that Jen and I conducted at Arlington. Also, this relates to such works as Falk and Dierking’s article regarding museum visitors and their experience. (Sarah Campbell’s ISP proposal sites these authors)

I have learned a great deal about the public through Visitor Services especially as well as the dissemination of knowledge to the visitors through my database work with Ramee. Through working with Visitor Services, I have obtained a better appreciation for what these staff members do and the patience they have to have daily. I am able to interact with the public, hear their reactions and concerns (some more constructive than others) and help them navigate the museum. I think that what Visitor Services does is essential and I am sure leaves a lasting impression with many of the visitors.

As a side note:  I have noticed that, in general, people do not like to read signs. (This makes me a little nervous about the Arlington Waysides!)

I have also noticed that disseminating knowledge to the public while serving in VS is difficult. Many questions are not historically or content based, so I spend a lot of time answering where things are and how to work through the museum. (While this is necessary, I wish I could talk about content more) Yet, I also think the nature of USHMM is more of an individual experience because it is self-guided, so that the opportunities for that engagement are limited and really less needed. Finally, I can see how Ramee’s job and the work done with the database relate to the public. The work I have been involved in is on a micro-level. While changes may seem minute, it really does affect the end result of what the visitors will see and will shape their experience while in the exhibit/museum.

USHMM Internship – Two Week Update

My internship has taken on two forms since we last met at the end of the semester. I am still serving on the front lines with Visitor Services at USHMM twice a week, while once I week I serve at USHMM’s portals building with Ramee Gentry. This is going to give me much needed experience with presenting and relating to the public while still meeting my needs in terms of behind the scenes work which is my career goal. I think this combination is going to exceed my expectations while keeping me grounded and in contact with visitors and their needs as I pursue behind the scenes work. My future curatorial and collection experiences will ultimately need to effectively relate to the public or else it is lost. Thus far, I have one week completed which was focused on orientation and I am currently in the midst of my second week on the job.

Visitor Services is its own branch within the governing structure of USHMM, answering to Director Sara Bloomfield. (Like all other divisions including Collections and so forth) Visitor Services exists to orient the public to the museum, aid in group reservations and overall experience, facilitate learning and create an environment where the USHMM mission is carried out effectively. During the time I am exclusively with Visitor Services on site at USHMM, I am and will be involved in a variety of duties, programs and projects. On any given day, I am assigned to various and frequently rotating positions within the museum. These positions include: group orientations and speeches, presenting to the general public while manning the elevators and tear pass line, and assisting at the information desk, with films, and other visitor facilities. The Visitor Services Internship Program is also introducing various programs and projects throughout our time at USHMM. The specifics will be determined within the next week or so, but I have the opportunity to participate in: docent training for an architecture presentation, Holocaust survivor facilitation and interviews, as well as projects that may entail writing for the Volunteer/Staff newsletter or assessing visitor experiences/surveys.

The second aspect of the internship is working with Ramee Gentry. I will be assisting her with the time consuming tasks which surround object rotations within the Permanent Exhibition and temporary Propaganda exhibition. I will begin this in earnest next Monday, but I am to work with the Collections Database for USHMM in order to track objects in the midst of these rotation needs. (More information and details to come—but this is so exciting!)

Finally, my goal is to take the most I possibly can out of these amazing opportunities. I still have to pinch myself when I go into work and speak to the students who are the age I was when I sat in the museum for the first time, wondering what I had to do to work there. I am absolutely humbled by the nature of the institution and from the Holocaust survivors I meet daily. The staff is overwhelmingly warm and supportive and I hope that in addition to career goals I may meet personal goals of maintaining a relationship far beyond the limits of this summer internship. (Both with the institution and with colleagues)

In terms of preparing me for my career goals, I think the combination of public work and behind the scenes work will be great for me. I remember that for our first reflection for Public History Seminar, I wrote that I wanted to challenge my comfort zone and work the front lines throughout the course of my graduate career. In this internship I cannot shy away from it even if I wanted to. I hope that this will continue to challenge me as well as increase my confidence in public speaking and relating my passion to the public. In addition to these personal growing experiences and career goals, I hope to walk away with a better understanding (yet still more questions) regarding the nature of visitors and the nature of memory.

Summary of Digital History Project

Much has changed throughout the development process for my digital history online resource since my initial proposal. While the content is the same as in the proposal, it has taken many attempts to decide on an appropriate site design and layout. After several versions of the website, different themes, customizing different headers, and actually moving the resource to its own site rather than stationed on this blog, I have completed a prototype for an academic resource online. Overall, there are 11 pages on this site, 5 of which are the main pages while the remaining 6 are found under “parent pages”. Finally, as I stated in my proposal, the site includes numerous pictures scattered throughout the pages but they are done so in a purposeful and relevant manner. Within the Concluding Thoughts page, there are three pages to refer the visitor to bibliographic information, additional and relevant sites, and links to the oral history transcripts utilized in the research portion of my site.

I loved doing this project because I can no longer say that I am completely technologically illiterate. This digital history course has both challenged and equipped me. I have acquired basic skills and tools for digital history that I can apply to the field with adequate confidence. I also was happy to revisit a previously completed research paper as it took on a new life and completely different form. This website is truly different in the way it engages a reader because of the uses of digital tools in links, videos, and visual evidence that a paper may not effectively convey. I look forward to many new projects that I can engage in where content will meet with digital format and tools.

In time, I believe this skill will develop and provide new opportunities in the history field. Please visit Women in Lodz Ghetto: What Equipped Them for Survival? in order to see my first digital history resource prototype which I will later include in my AU academic portfolio.

Special thanks to my friends and family for advice and feedback throughout the various versions of the site and its development. Also, thank you to Dr. Spicka who was there originally while I researched and produced this paper which serves as the content of this site. Finally, thanks to Prof. Jeremy Boggs for his guidance during the project and his time and patience while he taught this history nerd the importance of being technologically savvy in the field of history.

Projects, Internships, Deadlines… oh my!

I wanted to take a moment to update my blog since the past few weeks I’ve been focusing on the digital history resource website for our class. After meeting with my professor and realizing I was placing my resource within my blog page, I spent the next few days moving it to its own specific site. To see the almost-finished project, “Women in Lodz: What Equipped them for Survival”, go to www.samanthahowell.com/womeninlodz. Any feedback on this site in the next few weeks will be greatly appreciated as I am trying to make some last minute adjustments before the projects and presentations are due.

On another note, the Arlington Wayside project I introduced at the beginning of the semester is drawing to close. My partner and I are currently using Adobe InDesign to layout and create the wayside signs according to NPS guidelines. At this point, we are each doing three signs to be placed at various locations and to honor different events and people at ARHO and Arlington cemetery. The final portion of this project for Public History Practicum, will culminate in a presentation from every group on May 4th.

Finally, I recently found out that I will be serving as a summer intern at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I look forward to the experience and I will update my blog accordingly throughout the summer.

In the next few weeks I will be posting a reflection about my online digital history resource and the development process. I hope you keep reading and check out the new site!

Digital History Website Review

“Give Me Your Children: Voices from the Lodz Ghetto”. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/lodz/

Due to the sheer size and array of links on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s official website, my online web-site review will concentrate on the online exhibit entitled “Give Me Your Children: Voices from the Lodz Ghetto.”

Because the online exhibit “Give Me Your Children: Voices from the Lodz Ghetto” is an extension of the USHMM website, it ultimately advances the mission of the museum as well. The mission of USHMM 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.”http://www.ushmm.org/museum/mission/

The Lodz Ghetto online exhibit contains biographies, interviews, and accounts from children survivors of Lodz.  Additionally, the mixture of media- in the form of text, pictures, and videos- all enhance the content of the exhibit. The content is based on very recent interviews which took place with survivors through the USHMM in 2007. In turn, this contributes to the reputation of the USHMM as one of the most comprehensive resources for Holocaust information and research.

In terms of content, and as the title suggests, the Lodz exhibit focuses on the children of Lodz. The biographies, interviews, and personal accounts all advance the history of the children who lived there. The site’s content and arrangement have a defined purpose and way of interpreting the primary sources included in the exhibit. The children are the focus of the Lodz Ghetto exhibit because “they are the most vulnerable to turmoil…and the future rides on the decisions made for or about them.” The concentration of this specific victim group is yet another way to examine and interpret the Holocaust. This fits in with and expands the greater historical approach of the USHMM. Finally, all of the links to online resources and other exhibits pertain to Lodz, children, ghettos, or all three. These sources are available on online libraries and encyclopedias.

The content and primary sources are collected and support the survivor’s perspective, like most of the material available on the USHMM website. Because the mission is to advance and remember the unprecedented tragedy of the Holocaust, the perspective of the survivors must be a priority. Throughout the website there is some attention to the perpetrators but not much was found on this exhibit site. Yet, because the exhibit focuses on child survivors I do not know how that perspective could be included that would enhance the stories of the children of Lodz. Regardless, whenever possible, multiple perspectives could be included to demonstrate the larger historical background as both perpetrators and survivors interacted with one another.

Accessibility of a website is vital in order to convey any sort of message. Therefore, the Lodz Ghetto exhibit excels in terms of its accessibility. The left toolbar of the website has over ten language options for translating the exhibit. In addition to these language options, the links and resources within the exhibit and beyond are clearly labeled and highlighted in blue. Finally, the layout of the exhibit pages is streamlined to fit the layout of USHMM website as a whole, as it is one of many pages within the site.

The colors are simple and fitting for the content. The presentation of the text, mixed with video or picture links, is simple and minimalist. There is nothing overwhelming or distracting to the eye and the pages are purposefully designed vertically and are to be read in that format. The only concern I had with accessibility was in terms of technology and the connections to the video links. There was a video I could not access because I did not have a version of Adobe. While this may not be an issue for many, for those who do not have advanced computer access or skills, they may miss out on some opportunities and resources. Regardless, there is enough content and transcripts available that anything missed could be supplemented with the abundant amount of resources in the exhibit pages.

Overall, the audience for this website would be anyone interested in Holocaust studies. For those with little background there are links to a beginning or general overview of a topic, like the Lodz Ghetto, which then leads to more detailed events or stories. Although many who visit may have a personal connection or conviction to learning about the Holocaust, academic professionals would certainly be interested in the site as well as educators. The focus of the Lodz Ghetto exhibit is on children survivors, so this could possibly relate to those in secondary schools. The material is accessible enough to those in secondary schools but rich enough with information and nuance that it could be useful to older visitors. Also, because the Lodz Ghetto exhibit is full of primary sources, this site could be a starting point for a person’s academic research.

Digital History Final Project Proposal

“So let us not weep, let us not moan, and to spite all enemies, let us smile, only smile, that they may be amazed at what the Jews are capable of.”—Lodz Ghetto: Inside a Community Under Siege, 230.


The proposal for my final project centers on a research paper which I produced for an independent study during my undergraduate career. I am relying on this previous research material in order to create an accessible website and academic resource. My target audience is fellow history students either of the undergraduate or graduate level. Additionally, this resource could appeal to those interested in Holocaust or genocide studies as well as women studies. Throughout the website, as I did in the paper version of this project, I will refer to an extensive amount of secondary and primary sources including oral histories from the USHMM and online transcripts of survivors.

The following is the introduction of my paper which I plan to use as an introduction to the website and purpose for its existence and the following pages which construct my argument:

Many historians are dedicated to researching the various survival skills which the victims of the Holocaust utilized.  Such commonly recognized survival skills are those that are enacted through a choice or conscious decision of the victim. Smuggling, rebellion, and using personal connections as an advantage, are all such examples.  Undoubtedly, these choices were survival skills, however, historians sometimes apply them to a wide range of victims without proper attention to their location, gender, age, or previous experiences.

After particular examination of the women of Lodz ghetto, one can conclude that there are survival skills specific to this selection of victims and the conditions to which they were exposed.  Among those survival skills, and perhaps the most effective for the women of Lodz, are those which were based on their pre-war experiences. Therefore, the skills which aided survival the most were those which were not made through conscious decisions but as a result of multiple conditions outside of their control.  These conditions include the woman’s geographical location and home origin prior to the war as well as their social background and experiences.  Gender roles, class standing, family make-up, and labor all must be examined in order to further understand their background and experiences.  These factors shaped the survival skills which proved to be most advantageous to the women of Lodz Ghetto.

I plan to set up the website using the wordpress program because it seems the most accessible and what I am most comfortable with for a large project. After an introduction page I plan on having related pages or tabs to construct my argument. These pages will be broken down as follows:

1) There will be a page/tab briefly describing the city of Lodz prior to the war and leading into the German invasion of Poland and this city (enough to provide context to the study and site)

2) There will be a page/tab on ineffective survival skills for women of Lodz ( i.e. smuggling and using relationships/connections as an advantage)

3) There will be a page/tab (probably the largest part of the argument) which will compare the Eastern and Western women who were brought to Lodz. This will examine pre-war gender roles, class, education which were all effected by or different based on their geographic location

4) There will be a page/tab on labor prior to Lodz as well as inside the ghetto

5) There will be a page/tab examining family relations and dynamics within the ghetto (as well as mother to daughter relationships with additional connection because of gender)

6) There will be a page/tab to conclude the argument and refer to the sources, possibly providing links to transcripts, other sites, or used sources.

Also, I want to note that within these pages there will be personal profiles and primary source examples through oral histories and transcripts. This will add a personal connection to the site and argument as well as provide additional resources and materials for the audience. Additionally, I plan to use photos of Lodz Ghetto and archival resources to enhance the site. The web page will be designed appropriately for the content and intended audience.

AU- Voices of Terezin

This past weekend I was able to attend the Friday night performance of “Voices of Terezin” at AU. This was a two part presentation, the first of which was a musical offering while the second portion was a short drama. While the showings of the Terezin performance at AU concluded this past Sunday, I encourage those who were not able to attend or do not know about the project to visit the website…http://www.american.edu/cas/terezin/smoke-video.cfm

“Songs of Children”, composed by Robert Convery, was the first portion of the performance. This included nine songs written by the children of Terezin about their day to day activities and experiences as a coping mechanism. These songs were sung to the accompaniment of a skilled quartet. I cannot put into words the emotions which this portion of the performance evoked. I just kept thinking that these words were written by children and this AU program is trying to do them justice by allowing their words to be heard.

The second portion was a small drama entitled “Smoke of Home”. This was written by Zdenek Elias and Jiri Stein. The purpose of this drama was to expose the silenced voices of those artists and performers of Terezin. “Smoke of Home” was a drama which was to be held in Terezin but deportations occurred before it could ever be seen. The drama was so appropriate in that the characters were dealing with their separation from home, describing what home meant to them, and ultimately realizing that the home they knew and left would not be the same if, or when, they returned. (This experience was parallel to the experiences of the victims in Terezin)

A short essay entitled “The Voice We Knew, Voices We Treasure”, written by Kathleen Schmitt Elias and Dorothy Elias was included in the AU program. I came across this particularly moving excerpt which acknowledges the importance of programs like this Terezin project to the memory and legacy of the Holocaust and its victims…

“Jewish tradition holds that whenever one saves a single life, it is as if one has saved the entire world. By this reasoning, we would say that whoever has helped give voice to the two young playwrights from Terezin has given voice to the hundreds of writers and actors who passed through the ghetto– some few to sound their own voices after liberation but the vast majority to be silenced forever in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.”Kathleen Schmitt Elias and Dorothy Elias