In February U-M History’s graduate-level HistoryLab students visited Washington, DC, to continue their collaboration with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM). The students are developing digital collections for the museum’s Experiencing History: Holocaust Sources in Context online project.
After weeks of videoconferencing, they received in-person guidance from museum staff and input from museum stakeholders. The stakeholders were an array of scholars from different backgrounds—Holocaust studies, Judaic studies, and education—who are affiliated with the USHMM and provided vital insights into the construction of the museum’s exhibits. Above is the project team, including students, faculty, museum stakeholders, and museum staff.
The students are divided into two teams. One is preparing a collection on American support for Nazism prior to and during the Holocaust, while the other is crafting one focusing on European support for fascism within the same period. When the class arrived at the museum they first met with the stakeholders. Each team presented their collection, including sample items and a summary of the issues and questions they had encountered in their work. In this photo, Gianna May Sanchez describes an object used by the group exploring American support for Nazism in the 1920s and 30s.
The project participants critiqued the proposed collections, and each student group exchanged ideas and suggestions to help the other improve. Stakeholder Daniel Greene, a professor at Northwestern University, is pictured here on the video monitor. He offered advice based on his experience curating the USHMM exhibit “Americans and the Holocaust.”
The students also had an opportunity to experience the USHMM’s collections for themselves. Rebecca Erbelding provided a detailed tour of “Americans and the Holocaust,” including insights on its construction. In this photo, a group of students explore an interactive display where they could learn about individuals who were victims of the Holocaust.
The students also had the opportunity work on their collections for the online project. The museum’s rich and varied sources provided new opportunities for investigation and analysis. In this photo, historian J. Luke Ryder consults with Keanu Heydari and Lediona Shahollari, two members of the group exploring the appeal of fascism in Europe.
The USHMM archives contain millions of primary-source documents relating to the Holocaust, including photographs, films, testimonies, and artifacts. Before their visit, the students had selected primary source documents that they wished to see in person. These files contain what the students had wanted to see—and much more. In one prominent Jewish activist’s personal papers, one student found a carefully preserved “ghetto dollar,” the currency imprisoned Jews created as part of their attempt to survive life in the ghetto. Two students, Émilie Duranceau and Marina Mayorski, examine a set of documents in the USHMM archives in this photo.
This is the second in a series of articles on U-M History's first graduate-level HistoryLab program, History 716: Collaborative Research in the Holocaust, taught by Jeffrey Veidlinger and Rita Chin. Read the first article in the series here.
All photos by Chloe Thompson.