“We share a commitment to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust and to honour those who stood against it.”
-- Declaration of the Stockholm International Forum on the Holocaust
From 13-17 June 2016 IHRA Executive Secretary, Dr. Kathrin Meyer, and Communications Officer, Laura Robertson, had the opportunity to visit the USC Shoah Foundation in Los Angeles, California.
Over the course of the five days, Kathrin Meyer and Laura Robertson were introduced to the USC Shoah Foundation’s multiple collections, their archiving process as well as the institutes programming and evaluation procedures.
The visit was coordinated by the USC Shoah Foundation Director of Education, Dr Kori Street, and Managing Director, Kim Simon.
Laura Robertson was additionally able to spend a day working with the USC Shoah Foundation Communication department, learning about best practices in the field of non-profit communications and getting advice on communications related questions to help the IHRA professionalise its own approach to communications.
The visit culminated on Friday 17 June in a public conversation with Kathrin Meyer, which was led by Kori Street.
The USC Shoah Foundation has been involved with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance since the first Stockholm International Forum which took place in the year 2000. This visit marked the first time that an IHRA representative had visited the institution.
Following the visit, Kathrin Meyer said “I am thrilled to have finally had the opportunity to visit the USC Shoah Foundation after all these years. I was always aware of the work they were doing, but coming here has really opened my eyes to the exemplary way in which the USC Shoah Foundation plans and evaluates its programmes.”
She continued “One thing that will stay with me is a visit to the department responsible for processing and restoring old testimonies before they are absorbed into the archive. We saw old tapes, almost damaged beyond repair, which were tirelessly restored. For me, this is representative of the USC Shoah Foundation’s whole approach: each testimony is of crucial importance and every programme, every event and every decision comes back to testimony.”
Kathrin Meyer also had the opportunity to see a demonstration of the New Dimensions in Testimony project. NDT uses groundbreaking natural language software that allows audiences to interact with the recorded image of a Holocaust survivor, who responds in real time, powered by complex algorithms providing realistic conversation. During the IHRA visit, Executive Director of the USC Shoah Foundation, Dr Stephen Smith was in Sheffield where the project took the audience and jury prizes in the Alternate Realities Interactive categories at the Sheffield Doc/Fest.
The visit provided the IHRA Executive Secretary with in-depth knowledge of the institutes approach to planning, monitoring and evaluation which provide important input at a time when the IHRA is undergoing an external evaluation of its own programmes and working methods.
Steven Smith, USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director, and Kim Simon, Managing Director, are both members of the United States delegation to the IHRA.