Can you get the same experience from an online exhibition as you would from a conventional one? By Todd Andrew Bridges

online-exhibition

 

This blog entry will review an online exhibition called Deadly Medicine, which is being displayed on the United States Holocaust Museum’s ‘Online Exhibition’ site.  Although online museums are different from conventional museums, this particular online exhibition is an archetypical example of how online exhibitions can be just as effective in terms of authenticity.

I chose to review Deadly Medicine because it memorialises one of the most deplorable events of our world’s history.  It offered a variety of artefacts, just as if they were in a building.  What I first saw were actual health cards which contained hereditary information that the Nazis kept.  There were also physician reports which recommended ‘mercy killings’, and warning posters that reminded people to remain faithful to Aryan race.  The way the artefacts were presented made it extremely easy for me to navigate through them.  When I chose Deadly Medicine, I decided to click on ‘artefacts’, which quickly took me to instructions on how to navigate. I clicked ‘start’ and my tour began as if I were there. The curator would provide clear information for each artefact.  The high-quality information also suggests that like other museums, the curators went to great lengths to represent different groups of persecuted people. It is extremely likely that those who planned the exhibition liaised with academic historians such as German LGBT scholar Rüdiger Lautmann, who explained “the Nazis targeted many other groups: for their race, beliefs or what they did”.

The Deadly Medicine exhibition enabled people to view the holocaust from the eyes of those who experienced it themselves in the form of an online Holocaust Encyclopaedia which contains the stories of the survivors of the hideous treatments.  Handicapped people such as Dorthea Buck were stripped of their ability to have children through a process called ‘forced sterilisation.  Buck explained that the process was carried out because the Nazi regime did not want handicapped children to grow up with the ability to reproduce.  Therefore, this exhibition gives a sense that those who were interviewed were talking to them directly. This also means that my experience was linked to authenticity. I was seeing real artefacts and listening to real people.  The difference is that I was not inside the museum where I could touch the cases where the artefacts.  I was not directly in front of the tour guide with other visitors standing near me.   I was however, still able to receive the information.

According to Howells and Negreiros ideas in their chapter about ‘New Media’, The Deadly Medicine, would be an example of the ‘new media’ as it is different from the conventional method of obtaining information which would be the museum with tour guides present.  With Deadly Medicine, the actual medium is my lap top.  However, I received the same information or ‘text’ as I would have at the museum.  There are of course benefits and problems though.  New delivery methods complement the conventional methods in the same way it does with music, film, and television.  Often when people see or listen to a text (information), they are compelled to own the physical or conventional source.  Therefore, the new way of presenting the text can be seen as advertisement. When people see, or hear texts, they are often compelled to own it themselves or see the text (performance or exhibition) themselves and share the same space as the performer or exhibition.  Therefore, new methods of presenting texts let the public know that that information is available in person and live, which of course would draw revenues from the public.  Another advantage to what Howells and Negreiros label as new presentations or ‘new media’ would of course be presenting text (online exhibitions such as Deadly Medicine) and making it available to people who are not able to visit certain locations.  Therefore, it provides a delivery method in order for everyone to have an authentic experience which is an example of Film critic and theorist Andrei Bazin’s theory that technology has evolved in order to create a better illusion or, historical authenticity for everyone to enjoy and use.

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However, there can be disadvantages.  People have been accused of using new delivery methods such as the internet, in order to ‘cut corners’ or save money in order to increase profits.  There are education officials who have been blamed for this as well as national banks.  What sometimes happen is that new delivery methods replace what should not be replaced.  Museums are more than history and can never be rendered obsolete; they immortalise people and pay respects to those who suffered injustice.

In conclusion, Deadly Medicine is an example of how new delivery methods can deliver authenticity.  It delivers powerful messages or texts about the past, just as the actual museum itself does.  Whether people enjoy conventional methods or new methods of presenting information, the text is there; same text, but different methods of delivery.

 

Sources:

http://edutechdebate.org/ict-in-schools/there-are-no-technology-shortcuts-to-good-education/ , accessed 19 December 2016.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/01/27/holocaust-non-jewish-victims_n_6555604.html , accessed 19 December 2016.

http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2014/01/01/255739234/banks-try-to-save-big-with-atms-of-the-future , accessed 19 December 2016.

https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/gallery.php?ModuleId=10007063&MediaType=oi ,accessed 19 December 2016.

Lev Manovich, “New Media”, in The Language of New Media (MIT, Cambridge, MA, 1995), pp.  176-205.

Richard Howells and Joaquim Negreiros, “New Media”, in Visual Culture (Polity, Cambridge, 2012), pp.  263-289.

 

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