The Who, Where, Why and What about Dimensions in Testimony
1. What is Dimensions in Testimony?
USC Shoah Foundation developed the Dimensions in Testimony interview, an interactive biography, to give people the opportunity to have conversational experiences with survivors of the Holocaust and other witnesses to history, far into the future. Each specially recorded testimony enables viewers to ask questions of the survivor and hear responses in real-time, lifelike conversation.
2. How do you refer to Dimensions in Testimony?
Dimensions in Testimony is a collection of interactive biographies. The collection of interviews was previously known under the name “New Dimensions in Testimony,” and in 2018 USC Shoah Foundation updated the collection name, dropping “New” and now it is formally USC Shoah Foundation Dimensions in Testimony.
3. How does Dimensions in Testimony work? How is it recorded and how does it play back?
The Dimensions in Testimony interviewee is recorded in a green-screen1 environment surrounded by cameras and in front of a microphone. The interviewer asks questions. Each answer is recorded as a separate video clip. Up to 2,000 questions may be posed – and answers given. This results in a list of responses that can be prompted by questions posed verbally by audience members.
Using natural-language technology, the Dimensions in Testimony system transforms asked questions into search terms. The system then matches the search terms to the most appropriate interviewee response to your question and plays back the associated video clip, resulting in a conversational-like experience.
The system logs every question and answer. To improve the accuracy of the system, trained staff at USC Shoah Foundation periodically review the system logs to make sure the most appropriate answer was chosen for each question. When necessary, staff manually link to the more appropriate response. As a result, the quality of the system improves with every question asked. The results are not immediate; rather, improvements take several days or weeks to process.
4. Is Dimensions in Testimony meant to replace speaking to a Holocaust survivor?
Nothing can replace the ineffable, dynamic interaction between two human beings. Dimensions in Testimony is a different type of engagement meant to preserve the opportunity to have a dialogic experience, and facilitate the documentation of survivors’ lived experiences as they remember them in their own words.
5. Why is there a need for such an approach?
Dimensions in Testimony is a very effective way to approach a public engagement with people in numerous museum settings to enable them to be agents in their own learning. Dimensions in Testimony encourages audiences to be active participants in driving the direction and nature of the interaction based upon who they are, and in what they are interested.
6. Are Dimensions in Testimony interviews holograms?
What you are seeing is a 2-dimensional display of video clips rather than a hologram. Holograms, or 3-dimensional videos, do not yet exist. However, research and development is being done at a handful of institutions around the world to develop 3-dimensional video projection, and USC Shoah Foundation has worked with leaders in the field of 3-dimensional video capture, referred to as volumetric capture, to ensure that we are future-proofing our filming so that the Dimensions in Testimony interviews can be projected as holograms when that technology is available. USC Shoah Foundation developed and built one of the first-ever mobile volumetric capture filming rigs, with 23 4K cameras circling the interviewee in 360 degrees.
7. What is a Pepper’s Ghost holographic display?
Some of our museum partners have installed a holographic Pepper’s Ghost theater for their visitors to interact with. Pepper’s Ghost displays are visual illusions that use lighting, specialized glass, and high-definition projection to give the appearance of depth to 2-dimensional videos, making it seem like a 3 dimensional hologram.
8. Where did the concept of Dimensions of Testimony come from?
In 2010, the exhibitions development organization, Conscience Display, led by Heather Maio originated and brought the concept for Dimensions in Testimony to USC Shoah Foundation. Maio also brought USC’s ICT in to the partnership to help develop the technology. In 2014, USC Shoah Foundation began recording Dimensions in Testimony interviews.
9. Where is Dimensions in Testimony currently available?
Dimensions in Testimony is designed for exhibitions in museums, memorial sites and other appropriate public spaces. To find out how to bring it to a museum near you, click here.
Follow this link to find where you can experience Dimensions in Testimony.
10. Is Dimensions in Testimony available in classrooms?
USC Shoah Foundation recently piloted the Dimensions in Testimony Educational Program. Suitable for smaller centers and museums who primarily work with students, the Educational Program integrates Dimensions in Testimony with lessons on the Holocaust using primary and secondary sources, active learning experiences enhanced with a single interactive biography. The educational Dimensions in Testimony program allows students to develop a deepened understanding of the Holocaust and its human impact, as well as reflect on the importance of active citizenship.
11. Are there plans to expand the distribution of Dimensions in Testimony to the internet or a mobile app?
Eventually, when technological advancement permits, Dimensions in Testimony will be integrated into USC Shoah Foundation’s educational platform IWitness (iwtiness.usc.edu). Once this integration occurs, the Dimensions in Testimony collection will be available online to students and teachers in a curated, moderated capacity. There are not currently any additional plans to distribute Dimensions in Testimony in an online or app format, but USC Shoah Foundation will continue to evaluate other distribution pathways in the years to come.
12. What assurances are made to ensure that Dimensions in Testimony is ethically produced and displayed?
Dimensions in Testimony is often introduced as a technology project, but USC Shoah Foundation sees the technology as secondary to the collection of survivor and eyewitness stories.
Since the concept was developed in 2010, Holocaust survivors have been intimately involved with the process, and several served on the initial consulting committee. Their guidance has shaped the principles that govern all aspects of the Dimensions in Testimony program.
The research and interview phase of the project is highly collaborative between the USC Shoah Foundation team, the interviewee, and the family of the interviewee. Whenever possible, the team meets in-person with the interviewee and family members to develop strong professional and personal relationships that will enable the interviewee to feel comfortable answering over 1,000 questions. During the interview, it is the interviewees themselves retain control of the interviewing process, so they can take breaks, stop recording and make other requests as needed. Dimensions in Testimony interviewees’ family members and other members of their support group receive an open invitation to the studio as they tell their story. The Dimensions in Testimony team members and the interviewees often eat meals together, and make sure to spend informal time together talking, laughing, crying, and even singing! Life-long bonds are often created as a result of the interview process.
During the post-production phase, USC Shoah Foundation takes care to not edit, alter, manipulate, or sensor any response the interviewee gave. The Dimensions in Testimony post-production methodology has been entirely created to preserve the integrity of the interviewee’s voice, a promise made to the interviewees and their families.
We also closely monitor the exhibitions, which are governed by formal agreements to ensure that partner institutions present Dimensions in Testimony as intended.
13. How can I nominate someone for Dimensions in Testimony?
While we would like to capture as many stories as possible, Dimensions in Testimony is a resource and labor intensive process, and USC Shoah Foundation is limited in the number of interviews it can film for its collection. If you know someone who should be considered, complete this form.
USC Shoah Foundation is still collecting traditional oral history testimonies. If you would like to receive more information on that process, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
14. How can I bring a Dimensions in Testimony to a location near me?
If you are interested in bringing Dimensions in Testimony to a location near you, please fill out our form.
15. How can I bring Dimensions in Testimony to my school?
If you are interested in bringing Dimensions in Testimony to your school, please fill out our form.
16. Who has been filmed for Dimensions in Testimony?
Over 25 interviewees representing three experience groups and seven languages have participated. For a list of Dimensions in Testimony participants, see the website.
17. How is Dimensions in Testimony funded?
USC Shoah Foundation is fortunate to be supported by a variety of donors to the Dimensions in Testimony collection. For the full list of donors associated with the collection, click here.
18. How can I support Dimensions in Testimony?
To donate to USC Shoah Foundation and the Dimensions in Testimony collection and ensure that survivors’ voices continue to be heard, click here.
19. Is USC Shoah Foundation open to the public?
USC Shoah Foundation's George and Irina Schaeffer Hall for Genocide Study and Jona Goldrich Center for Digital Storytelling are open to the public Monday-Friday 9AM-5PM. If you are interested in visiting, please email email@example.com.
Unfortunately, like all public spaces at USC, USC SF is closing to support the important measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. Please refer to our website for opportunities to learn about and experience the work of the institute.
20. Where can you learn more about USC Shoah Foundation?
To learn more about the institute and ways in which you can engage with us, visit our website at sfi.usc.edu and follow us on social media:
- Facebook: USC Shoah Foundation
- Instagram: @uscshoahfoundation
- Twitter: @USCShoahFdn
- YouTube: USC Shoah Foundation
For any other questions, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
1 A green background in front of which moving subjects are filmed and which allows a separately filmed background to be added to the final image.