Project results are helping curators create the Museum’s next exhibition
WASHINGTON — The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is asking for the public’s input in helping Museum historians and curators learn what American newspapers reported about the Nazi persecution and killing of Jews. History Unfolded: U.S. Newspapers and the Holocaust is an innovative nationwide crowdsourcing project that invites students, teachers and others to contribute to ongoing research on how pivotal events from the Holocaust period were first reported.
More than 900 articles have already been submitted by contributors all over the country, pulled from newspapers including the Bangor Daily News in Maine, the Baltimore Afro American, the Youngstown Ohio Vindicator,the Sanford Herald in Florida and the Santa Cruz Sentinel in California.
The project is a major component of the Museum’s initiative focusing on Americans and the Holocaust, which will be anchored by a new special exhibition opening in April 2018.
“The project’s goal is for contributors to explore Holocaust history as both an American story and a local story,” says Michael J. Abramowitz, director of the Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education. “We expect that some will be excited about using primary sources in historical research, but we also hope, through their involvement, people will challenge assumptions about what Americans knew about the events that came to be known as the Holocaust.”
The Museum invites the public, especially students, educators and librarians across the country, to participate in helping tell America’s story by going to newspapers.ushmm.org.
History Unfolded participants research particular Holocaust-era events in their own local newspapers. Some of these papers are available online, and others are available on microfilm in libraries and archives. While scholars have extensively surveyed how major newspapers covered the Holocaust, local news coverage has not been heavily studied by scholars. As a result, the database into which contributors upload these articles will inform both the development of the new special exhibition and research for scholars in the future.
The project highlights 20 Holocaust-era events for users to research, 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.
Participants look for local news articles, op-eds, letters to the editor and political cartoons addressing specific domestic and European events that shed light on how Americans perceived the threat of Nazism; the debate over isolationism vs. intervention; national security concerns; and the country’s attitudes toward immigration and refugees. Additional topics will be added over the life of the project.
After browsing these events, contributors are invited to submit articles from local papers as found in online databases, on microfilm or in archival collections. Once they find an article, they enter data (headline, byline, page number, etc.) and an image of the article on the website, which is then reviewed by a community manager. Each contributor has a profile page, in which they can track their submissions and searches on the site. They will also be able to search the entire database of published articles to see what others have found.
Abramowitz says, “Already, a few articles from History Unfolded contributors have made their way onto the storyboards for the new exhibition.”
What History Unfolded contributors are saying:
“This is such an important project for my students as they learn about the history and the lessons of the Holocaust,” says Lisa Henry, an English teacher for MLK Jr. Academy for Excellence in Lexington, Ky. “Through History Unfolded, my students have spent a great deal of time discussing primary and secondary sources while they diligently look for articles published in our state. I’m so pleased that they’ve been so engaged, and I see more students join every day.”
“I am thrilled that the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum is allowing everyday people to become historians,” says Mindy Golub, a history and English teacher from Buffalo Grove, Ill. “I look forward to submitting more in the near future!”
“I came across the History Unfolded newspapers project on Facebook and the concept of letting the public submit their research sounded really intriguing to me,” says Charles Stern, a government research analyst from Overland Park, Kansas. “I’m fascinated by this period in history and having a personal connection to some of the events listed in this project makes it a great learning experience, so I’m glad I can participate.”
“The greatest surprise for me is how much information on the Holocaust was reported in this one little Wyoming town [in Laramie],” says Chad Gibbs, a graduate student in Holocaust and genocide studies at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. “I had no idea that so much reporting on genocide and German atrocities actually reached the rural American newsreader as the war was still raging.”
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. For more information, visit www.ushmm.org.