After settling into their seats, the students and faculty introduced themselves. It was like any other first day, but it was unlike any other graduate-level U-M History class. Participating via video conference, two curators from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM) in Washington, DC, greeted the class and welcomed them to the new project.
History 716: Collaborative Research in the Holocaust is the department’s first graduate-level HistoryLab. A partnership between U-M History and the USHMM, the ten enrolled students will be developing digital collection for the museum’s Experiencing History: Holocaust Sources in Context online project.
As with other U-M HistoryLab projects, these students are taking their state-of-the art classroom training into the real world. They will learn to write for general audiences; they will develop sophisticated knowledge on digital research and communication platforms; and they will gain valuable experience collaborating with both their U-M peers and outside institutions. These experiences will prepare them for an incredible variety of careers.
Each week in History 716, students meet with the two professors running the class, Jeffrey Veidlinger and Rita Chin, to discuss their progress. Using the USHMM archives, one student team 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.
“The HistoryLab class so far has provided an excellent opportunity to work with an actual institution and use our skills as historians in more inclusive and creative ways,” said Gianna May Sanchez, a member of the group examining American support for Nazism. “I’m excited to create and share the final product!”
The course has been meeting for only a few weeks, but students are already developing their collaborative skills. The digital tools that they are creating are intended for use in college classrooms around the world to teach undergraduates about the nuances of World War II and the Holocaust. The students must present primary sources in a way that makes sense to a general audience while opening up avenues of critical analysis.
They’re also learning to work in close consultation with non-academic partners. Museum staff are the final arbitrators of what makes it into the collections, and their goals and objectives may differ from an audience of faculty and graduate students.
In a few weeks, the class will travel to Washington to present their work to museum stakeholders, meet with staff, and investigate the museum’s archives.
“I’m glad to know that our project for 716 will be of immediate benefit to the USHMM and future students,” said May Sanchez.
Stay tuned for additional updates about this HistoryLab in future editions of History Matters.