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Tausendfreund, D. (2016). The Online Archive “Forced Labor 1939–1945. Memory and History”. A digital Application for Research and Education. In Digital Humanities 2016: Conference Abstracts. Jagiellonian University & Pedagogical University, Kraków, pp. 375-376.
The Online Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945. Memory and History". A digital Application for Research and Education

The Online Archive "Forced Labor 1939-1945. Memory and History". A digital Application for Research and Education

1. Research

This presentation will focus on the development of the Online-Archive “Forced Labor 1939-1945. Memory and History”.

The collection of narrative interviews was compiled in 2005 and 2006 by the Institute of History and Biography at FernUniversität Hagen. In a joint project, the Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future”, the Freie Universität Berlin, and the German Historical Museum aim to safeguard and provide easy access to these multilingual audio and video interviews and accompanying materials for research and education.

The online archive contains 583 comprehensive life story interviews with concentration camp survivors, prisoners of war, and “civilian” forced laborers. In 27 countries, mainly in Central and Eastern Europe, 192 video and 391 audio interviews were conducted in the native languages of the witnesses. Each interview is accompanied by additional material: a short biography, a transcript of the interview, a translation of the transcript into German, a table of contents showing the structure of the interview, additional photos and documents, as well as basic biographical information. All content is accessible worldwide for any users who registered with the site.

So far there are no standards on how to document and index Oral History Collections and we will show examples of different approaches which are used at the moment.

In this context we will describe our indexing method, with its internal working interfaces and the process involved, as well as the public online application and its functionalities. We will present the different functionalities (content-based indexing, full-text search and an interactive map application) that enable a targeted search that leads directly to individual passages of the interviews.

We will also discuss considerations involved in designing an online platform to avoid the use of the interviews as a mere quotations quarry and instead supports a comprehensive understanding of the whole testimony in its narrative structure and its biographical meaning.

An annotation function will be presented. The function is meant to benefit from the specific knowledge of users to add to the understanding of the interviews.

Finally, the archive has been designed multilingually and runs in German, English, and Russian in order to accommodate the needs of a greater international audience.

This presentation doesn´t focus on a special research problem. Instead it shows a powerful tool which enables academics to work effectively with testimonies to answer their own research questions.

2. Education

The online-platform aims to support education as well, and there is the option to give an overview of our approaches in this context, too.

We created an online-learning-environment for the use in the classroom which will be available from the beginning of 2016. Based on short biographical films (half an hour) and additional provided material (maps, documents, photographs, additional films) students are asked to work on a number of didactically framed tasks. Most tasks are historical in nature and working with them is useful for the teaching of history. But also for other school subjects exercises are available as for example in language education or religious instructions.

The pupils are asked to write their answers in an online-editor and combine them with selected materials which are easy to import. The results can be saved and printed individually.

  • Teachers have additional options and can for example create their own questions based on the films and the materials.
  • The software offers versions of the learning environment for different countries. These versions vary in language and content and are drawn up by experts in the respective countries. From the beginning of 2016 a Czech and a German version are available. A Russian version is on the way.
  • The online-learning-environment is responsive and can be used with different mobile devices.

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