The Holocaust Materialities Network (HMN) is an international consortium working towards making some of the largest and most unique collections of Holocaust-related material culture in existence interoperable and available as computer-actionable data to be used for sophisticated computational analyses and redeployed for engaging digital exhibitions and other educational programming. I am co-principal investigator alongside Caroline Sturdy Colls, and members include the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center, the United Kingdom’s National Holocaust Centre and Museum, and the Lake District Holocaust Project.
A key motivation for this project is the surge in Holocaust denial and antisemitism in the US, the UK, and Europe. A crucial underpinning of these trends is the public’s diminishing knowledge of the Holocaust, exacerbated by the passing of eyewitnesses, the increase in misinformation and conspiracy theories within mainstream discourse, and the rise of nationalistic political agendas that attempt to unify the majority by scapegoating minorities. Knowledge of what the Holocaust was, who was murdered, how many were killed, and what caused it, are crucial in discrediting mitigation and denial.
While the platform being developed by HMN will initially bring together existing museum collections from world-leading institutions, archaeological data from surveys and excavations at Holocaust sites, textual objects extracted from archived Nazi inventories containing descriptions of tens of thousands of items from Jewish households, and a newly created digital archive of objects in the possession of Holocaust survivors and their families, it will also support the addition of collections by projects and institutions of all scales.
In addition, HMN will not only serve as a research tool, but also as a repository for reusable materials targeted at outreach and educational activities. These materials, produced both by our consortium and the wider Jewish and Holocaust studies communities, will include quality content designed to enrich, contextualize, and showcase the collections, as well as expertly produced multimedia essays, and collaborative digital exhibitions focused on lesser-known aspects of Holocaust history, as told through the objects belonging to survivor communities.