EHRI and MediaLAB: Resonance Project
In 2017, the European Holocaust Research Infrastructure (EHRI) embarked on a special mission: To find out how to reach out to a broader audience than our current one.
Although EHRI is in principle open to everyone, it is probably true that most of our resources and activities are more geared towards a professional crowd of researchers, archivists, information and cultural heritage specialists and digital humanists. This goes for the EHRI Portal that gives access to Holocaust-related sources, but perhaps even more for the EHRI workshops, seminars and fellowships. The EHRI Document Blog is one way of trying to connect to a wider audience.
However the Holocaust and its lessons is a subject that touches society as a whole. EHRI therefore would like to translate some of what it has to offer to communities outside of academia. Of course in an indirect way, EHRI already reaches more people than just its core users. After all, the professionals who use our infrastructure often disseminate their research findings widely, by writing books or blog posts, through films or exhibitions.
To find out what EHRI can do to connect to new audiences, we started a special project and struck up a collaboration with MediaLAB Amsterdam, an interdisciplinary studio which is part of the University of Applied Sciences of Amsterdam, where students and researchers work together on innovative and interactive media research projects. Students work in multidisciplinary teams guided by experts from industry and the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences. These experts are a mix of designers, programmers, social/digital media experts, researchers, copywriters and storytellers. In twenty weeks (one semester) the team develops a working prototype in co-creation with a client, in this case EHRI.
EHRI met its MediaLAB team for the first time in early 2017. The four members were Sangheeta van Beemen (Media and Culture), Claire Farbrace (Heritage and Memory Studies), Grace Houghton (Interaction Design) and Bodgan Moroz (IT), and a mentor, Pavel van Deutekom. In six so-called ‘sprint sessions’ this team, together with EHRI, embarked on a mission to design a prototype that aimed to connect EHRI with a bigger, more general audience.
This process emphasises lessons learned along the way as much as the final product, and this certainly was true in EHRI’s case. In addition to designing a working prototype, our collaboration with MediaLab enabled us to greatly clarify our goals and approach in regards to increasing public engagement.
See the prototype Resonance