The developers endeavored to find ideas to keep young minds interested in the Holocaust story
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26 October 2015
This evening, at an exclusive gathering at Yad Vashem's Edmond J. Safra Lecture Hall, the winners of the Yad Vashem-HP Big-Data Hackathon were announced. The aim of the Hackathon, launched two weeks ago at the HP Israel headquarters in Yehud, Israel, was to leverage HP's big data analytics to explore Yad Vashem's vast collection of more than 125,000 written, audio and video testimonies and present them in new and compelling ways for future generations.
"Yad Vashem is relentless in its pursuit of innovation in the service of memory," explained Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev before the event. "For decades, we have looked for ways to make our immense archives and collections, which we have amassed over the years, more easily accessible to a global audience. We have already digitized our entire Names Database - consisting of over 4.5 million names of individual Holocaust victims - as well as much of our collection of some 450,000 photographs. It is our hope that together with our own experience and knowledge in the field, the ideas and solutions presented at the Hackathon will bring the voices and stories of each individual survivor to the masses."
Out of some 200 applicants, 17 teams were chosen to present their ideas to the esteemed panel of judges, which included Yad Vashem's CIO Michael Lieber, Archives Director Dr. Haim Gertner and Communications Division Direcctor Iris Rosenberg, as well as the Director General of HP Israel David Lander, Director of HP Labs Dr. Ruth Bergman and Raffi Margaliot, Senior Vice President and General Manager, ADM, HP Software. The teams analyzed thousands of hours of audio and video content, as well as text and images to identify ways of presenting the information in a modern, accessible, social media-friendly manner. While all of the ideas presented were innovative and pioneering, the panel was clear in its choice of winner: "Testimonials become Searchable," presented by Omer Barkol. Second place went to "Testimonies to the ADHD Generation," presented by Amitay Korn, and third place to "Testimonies in Context: An Interactive Timeline over a Dynamic Map," presented by Uri Kalish.
At the Hackathon, Israel's Education Minister Naftali Bennett spoke of the Holocaust as an "unprecedented event," which needs to be remembered for future generations. Discussing how the Exodus from Egypt, a seminal episode in Jewish history, has been seared into Jewish consciousness, the Minister underlined that this memory has been engendered by three main elements: an interactive dialogue with the younger generations; an experiential Seder; and a communal experience, one which we share with family and friends. All of these elements can be integrated into Shoah remembrance with the use of technology, and thus keep the Holocaust relevant for millennia to come. "There is no more important goal for the Jewish people and the whole of humanity," he said, "than to remember the Shoah."
Yad Vashem Director General Dorit Novak spoke of the importance of the process, and not only the results. "Some 15 million people visit the Yad Vashem website every year," she pointed out. "We must engage with the younger generations to harness the language of technology in order to continue to piece together the stories of the Shoah and make them accessible to everyone."
Dr. Bergman, a daughter of two Holocaust survivors, was particularly moved at the event. She recalled participating in a tour of the Holocaust History Museum some 18 months ago, after which she realized that HP could assist Yad Vashem in "reproducing that life-changing experience in the digital world." Praising all of the candidates, she expressed her wish that the partnership will continue in the future, using all of the original ideas presented to the audience. "This is the beginning of something much greater," she said.
"HP Enterprise wouldn't be who we are without partnerships," concluded David Lander. "But the partnership with Yad Vashem is something very special. This is my proudest moment - and I look forward to continue working together."