Accessing Yad Vashem’s massive store of photos and documents is about to get as easy as typing into a search bar. According to a report in The New York Times this week, the Jerusalem-based “keeper of the world’s largest Holocaust archive” is expanding a partnership with Google to digitize about 130,000 photographs — and give users the option to add commentary, historical backgrounds, and family stories.
The long-term goal, said the Times, “is to include Yad Vashem’s larger archive of millions of documents, including survivor testimonials, diaries, letters and manuscripts.” A Yad Vashem press release proclaimed the initiative “will not only bring this valuable information to a much wider audience worldwide, but it will allow people around the world to contribute, by identifying the stories behind photos and documents, adding their own stories and knowledge to the site.” Google — whose founders are Jewish — “is an integral partner in our mission, as they help us to reach new audiences, including young people around the world, enabling them to be active in the discussion about the Holocaust,” Yad Vashem chairman Avner Shalev said in the release.
In the Times story, an Israeli Google employee named Doron Avni demonstrated how the archive works by searching for — and finding — a photo of his grandfather taken in 1941, just after his release from a Nazi-run prison in Lithuania. “Under the photograph of his grandfather, then 27, dark-eyed and gaunt, Mr. Avni was able to type in details of his grandfather’s story. Icons on the page from Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets allow for immediate sharing of the images and attached information.”
Yad Vashem’s photos, reports the Times, “have been scanned using optical character recognition, which identifies any text in the pictures, making it searchable. So if Mr. Avni’s grandfather’s name had not been listed in a document but had been inscribed on a photograph, whether in Latin or Hebrew letters, he would still have been found.”
Two years ago, Yad Vashem launched a YouTube channel to showcase a series of videos of Holocaust survivor testimonials. The YouTube channel is available at www.youtube.com/yadvashem.