May 07, 2020
WASHINGTON — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum earned a 2020 “Excellence in Programming” award from the American Alliance of Museums’ Education Professional Network for its History Unfolded: U.S. Newspapers and the Holocaust citizen history project that led students and others to actively participate in microfilm research, increase their knowledge of the Holocaust and contribute to the historical record, according to the museum organization’s announcement last week. History Unfolded is a key component of the Museum’s “Americans and the Holocaust” educational initiative, anchored by an exhibition of the same name that opened in April 2018, which examines the motives, pressures and fears that shaped Americans’ responses to Nazism, war and genocide.
“How major news outlets covered the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust has been well documented,” says Sarah Lumbard, director of Museum experience and digital media. “What is much less well known is what information was available to Americans living outside of major metropolitan areas. History Unfolded invites citizen historians to help collect this data and make it available to scholars and the public. We are grateful to the more than 3,500 people across the country whose efforts have helped us gain new understanding of how Nazism and the Holocaust was reported to Americans.”
Since 2016, the Museum’s History Unfolded innovative nationwide crowdsourcing project has involved students, teachers, and lifelong learners across the U.S. in researching Holocaust-era events in newspapers from the ’30s and ’40s. The resulting database is allowing Museum historians, scholars and curators to learn what American newspapers reported about the Nazi persecution and killing of Jews. Participants research and upload articles covering 40 specific Holocaust-era events in their own local newspapers, such as the opening of the Dachau concentration camp in Germany on March 22, 1933; Charles Lindbergh’s “un-American” speech on Sept. 11, 1941; and the first public reports of an “extermination camp” at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Nov. 26, 1944. To date, more than 28,000 articles published in newspapers from all 50 states and the District of Columbia have been submitted.
“Museums have demonstrated the critical role they play in our nation’s education as schools, teachers and families have suddenly transitioned to online learning,” says Veronica Alvarez, former director at LACMA and chair of the American Alliance of Museum’s EdCom Awards Committee. “As awards chair, it is a privilege to get to see the depth and breadth of the incredible work being done by education departments in museums. I feel fortunate to be able to recognize, learn from and be inspired by the award-winning practitioners, resources and programs in the field of museum education.”
The Museum’s award was determined by peers in the museum education field, the museum group says.
One judge noted, “From third-party evaluation to having participants’ research valued enough to be of use to curators and scholars, this is a clearly superior program. Participants, especially students and teachers, not only learn but contribute to Holocaust studies.”
Judges were also impressed by one of the key findings of their evaluation: the impact on student participants. Results indicated that “students reported the greatest gains in their understanding of the Holocaust, including specifically how Holocaust-era events were reported in local media in the United States, and that Americans had the opportunity to know what was happening in Europe at the time those events were taking place.”
Finally, another judge commented on the program’s importance, given current events: “The program is making an impact and is relevant in today’s times considering the increase of antisemitism in America.”
Here’s a short video about the History Unfolded project: https://youtu.be/BsRayyKQI1M. The Museum invites the public, especially students, educators and librarians across the country, to continue to participate in helping tell America’s story by going to newspapers.ushmm.org.
About the American Alliance of Museums
The American Alliance of Museums has been bringing museums together since 1906, helping to develop standards and best practices, gathering and sharing knowledge, and providing advocacy on issues of concern to the entire museum community. Representing more than 35,000 individual museum professionals and volunteers, institutions, and corporate partners serving the museum field, the Alliance stands for the broad scope of the museum community. For more information, visit www.aam-us.org.
About the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors nationwide. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.View All Museum News Releases