EHRI Document Blog: Experimenting With Digital Content

EHRI Document Blog: Experimenting With Digital Content
by Petra Drenth

PARTHENOS collaborates with several other European research infrastructure projects, and one of them is EHRI, the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure. EHRI’s research infrastructure is specifically aimed at the Holocaust research communitiy.

EHRI’s mission is to support the Holocaust research community by building a digital infrastructure and facilitating human networks. In 2015, the collaboration of 19 partners from 13 countries, and many others, resulted in the first launch of the EHRI Portal. This portal gives online access to information about dispersed sources relating to the Holocaust. The EHRI Portal also provides tools and methods that enable researchers and archivists to collaboratively work with such sources.

As more and more material becomes accessible online, this also means that archivists and historians have to think up new ways to help users get the most out of the information each document offers and to place that document into its complex historical context. For this purpose, the EHRI Document Blog was launched online on January 27th this year. It was created as a space to share ideas about Holocaust-related archival material and to experiment with the interpretation of archive material using different digital tools, especially when it came to the presentation of information in a visual form.

Terezin Council Elders Blog2Experimental space

It is an experimental space; the bloggers are investigating new ways to present and interpret documents using new online and digital tools that weren’t available just a short while ago. This means they broaden their work and hopefully reach a wider, more diverse audience, finding out as they progress what works and what doesn’t.

Here are some of the approaches that the document blog has experimented with so far:

Digital storytelling and locating documents on a map

The first EHRI Document Blog post was called Reports from the No Man’s Land, and it was written by Michal Frankl, Deputy Director of the Jewish Museum in Prague and Visiting Fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. It tells a story about a topic that is as relevant today as it was in 1938: the fate of refugees caught between different European states. The blog uses several documents to reconstruct the events and has an interactive map that helps visualise where the interconnected events took place.

Annotating scanned pages

The second blog post was based on the death certificate of Gabriel Frankl issued in the Terezín Ghetto. This time it experimented with annotating a scanned page, using the document as a layer instead of a map. The annotations help the user decipher the individual fields of the form. This allows them to find background information about the person on the death certificate as well as the context surrounding the Terezín Ghetto.

Timeline and visualisation on a map

Another blog post dealt with the early testimony (and other subsequent testimonies) of Valerie Straussová, a concentration and labour camp survivor, who gave several accounts of her persecution over a period of decades. As well as telling her story it also gives an insight into the different documentation initiatives after WWII. To visualise the survivor’s fate through the different ghettos, concentration and labour camps the blog post included a timeline to supplement the map.

Mapping correspondence

The correspondence of Hans Frank, a young Czech Jew who lived in exile in Denmark where he was preparing for aliyah was the basis of the fourth blog post. This time a map was used to experiment with showing where letters were being sent from and to, and the links they represented between the countries and family members and friends.

Linking places to old maps

The latest post is based on an “Order of the day by the Council of the Elders” from Theresienstadt (Terezín) Ghetto. This time the blog experimented with annotating scanned pages, while linking places referred to in the document to old maps of the ghetto. This way the blog provides the user with in depth information on Terezín as well as the geography within the ghetto.