Institute News

Stephen Smith Talks Future of Holocaust Education and Armenian Genocide








(Stephen Smith and Michael Abramowitz at CAJM's Open Source: Jewish Museums and Collaborative Culture conference. Photo by Elizabeth Rynecki)

USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Stephen Smith was invited to speak at two events this week: the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM)’s annual conference and the Ararat Home of Los Angeles’s Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration.

CAJM’s 2015 conference, “Open Source: Jewish Museums and Collaborative Culture,” explores new models and methods of participatory programming and audience engagement in all areas of the museum industry, from exhibits to fundraising. The conference is in San Francisco March 8-10.

Smith was part of a session on Tuesday, March 10, titled “The Future of Holocaust Education,” chaired by Arielle Weininger, Chief Curator of Collections and Exhibitions at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, and moderated by Jack Weinstein, Director of the San Francisco Bay Area office of Facing History and Ourselves. Smith was joined by Michael J. Abramowitz, director of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Levine Institute for Holocaust Education

Smith and Abramowitz considered how Holocaust interpretation and education are evolving in a changing landscape, and discussed how Holocaust museums and institutions can ensure that they remain relevant and meet the needs of diverse audiences.

In particular, Smith talked about New Dimensions in Testimony, a program currently in development with USC’s Institute for Creative Technologies (ICT) and Conscience Display in which Holocaust survivors will be recorded in 3D so they can interact with people in museums and classrooms around the world long after they’re gone. Voice recognition software will allow viewers to ask them questions about their experiences during the Holocaust and their 3D, virtual double to answer in real time.

Smith noted that high-tech educational projects must always be led by content and supported by technology – not the other way around.

On Sunday, March 15, Smith will deliver the keynote address at Ararat Home of Los Angeles’s Armenian Genocide Centennial Commemoration. Ararat Home was founded in 1949 as a safe haven for elderly Armenians in Los Angeles, many of whom are Armenian Genocide survivors. The event on Sunday will be a “celebration of life” of Ararat Home’s 11 centenarians. These remarkable individuals include Rose Garjian and Yevnigue Salibian, who were each honored by USC Shoah Foundation in 2012 and 2014, respectively.

In addition to Smith’s keynote, the event will include opening remarks by Gerald Papazian, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Armenian Film Foundation, which partnered with USC Shoah Foundation on the Visual History Archive’s new Armenian Genocide Collection.