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published: March 2004
analytic scripts updated:  October 28, 2010

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Life in Shadows: Hidden children and the Holocaust
Adele O'Dowd, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, USA

Demonstration: Demonstrations - Session 1

The online exhibition “Life in Shadows: Hidden Children and the Holocaust” uses characteristics of web media to support varied types of learning experiences. This exhibition provides not only the Museum voice but also the survivors’ voice in documentary, interactive and conceptual experiences and is designed to appeal to a variety audience learning styles. This kind of web story telling is a new to museums because it takes these learning styles and media solutions into account at once. As we, museum web site designers and builders, strive to reach our audience, we must emulate the multi-dimensional experience of learning in a museum’s physical setting by offering media appropriate experiences that accommodate all kinds of learners in order to be successful.

Each of the major sections of this online exhibition uses characteristics of the media to support a distinct type of learning experience. The goal is to catch the attention of as many different kinds of learners by offering a highly focused experience for them, which leads to an exploration of greater depth and breadth of the total content.

The "Plight" section is a succinct and detailed historical overview plus an analysis of (historical) evidence. This fact-based information can be conveyed quite nicely with video because it is essentially a documentary.

The "Stories of the Hidden" section is an interactive experience that allows web visitor's the opportunity to sort through and examine the personal items and stories of a few very interesting individuals. The “sorting” activity is especially appropriate to this material since the survivors described within have had to build their own lives out of fragments. Additionally this activity provides the same kind of very exciting experience that move museum staff and historians to build exhibitions in the first place, something that is difficult to translate practically for the general public in any media. It is all about exposing and participating in how history is uncovered.

The "Quest" section by contrast is about difficulties, not on a historical or individual level but rather on the conceptual level, that hidden children faced in the circumstances of their lives. This section is particularly haunting because it includes voices from the past as well as the present collaged together with animated thematic text elements to illustrate particular hardships faced over the course of survivor's lives.

Additionally, in displaying the physical exhibition's text as one document we also are allowing people who did not visit the Museum to feel as though they haven't "missed" any part of the experience.

I believe this online exhibition is successful because we reorganized the material presented in the physical exhibition to convey the history and personal stories for divergent audiences, by appropriately using different web story telling techniques.