HOUSTON (Jan. 11, 2019) -- Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH) today opened USC Shoah Foundation’s Dimensions in Testimony exhibition, featuring Houston-area Holocaust survivor William J. “Bill” Morgan. The pioneering technology of this exhibition allows visitors to have “virtual conversations” with Holocaust survivors by asking questions of their high-definition projections who then answer in real time via pre-recorded video images. HMH’s temporary museum at 9220 Kirby Drive, Suite 100, is a beta testing site for the exhibition that will be on view through April 30, 2019. The exhibition’s final home will be in the permanent Holocaust Gallery at the Museum’s new Lester and Sue Smith Campus, opening June 2019 in the Museum District.
“We are honored to feature Bill Morgan’s personal story of survival,” said Dr. Kelly J. Zúñiga, CEO of Holocaust Museum Houston. “After a treacherous journey that finally led him to Houston, Bill married the love of his life, had five children and built a thriving business. He is a true marvel with much to share about resilience and the power of hope.”
Bill Morgan, now 93 years old, is a survivor of the Stanislawow Ghetto. After obtaining a birth certificate from a Polish Christian, Bill escaped the ghetto and found work as a farmhand in Jezierzany, Ukraine. In 1944, he was drafted into the Russian army and was sent to the frontline. He deserted the army and went back to the farm where he worked until his liberation at the end of the war in 1945.
Dimensions in Testimony revolutionizes the concept of oral history by integrating advanced filming techniques, specialized display technologies and next-generation natural language processing to provide an intimate experience. Each specially recorded interview enables viewers to ask questions of the survivor about their life experiences and hear responses in real-time, lifelike conversation. Questions are answered naturally, as if the survivor is in the room, and through Artificial Intelligence, the more questions asked the better the technology becomes.
“Having a face-to-face conversation with a survivor through Dimensions in Testimony creates a personal connection for visitors in ways that could previously only be done in person,” said USC Shoah Foundation Finci-Viterbi Executive Director Stephen Smith. “The experience is not about the technology, it's about using that technology in the best way possible to provide a meaningful interaction with lasting impact.”
To date, 19 interactive survivor biographies were captured using 19 cameras with each survivor asked more than 1,000 questions addressing topics ranging from pre-war life through the Holocaust and beyond. Holocaust Museum Houston is one of only four locations in the United States hosting this extraordinary learning technology.
Holocaust Museum Houston’s Morgan Family Center is temporarily located one mile south of NRG Stadium at 9220 Kirby Drive, Suite 100, Houston, TX 77054. Museum hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. Museum admission is $12 for adults; $8 for active-duty military and AARP members; free for children, students and college-level students with valid ID; and free on Sundays. For more information, visit hmh.org or call 713-942-8000. To learn more about HMH’s main campus expansion to more than double its size and open in June 2019, click here.
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ABOUT HOLOCAUST MUSEUM HOUSTON Holocaust Museum Houston, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization founded in 1996 by Houston-area Holocaust Survivors, their descendants and members of the community, is accredited by The American Alliance of Museums. Average annual attendance is 160,000 visitors, including more than 43,750 middle and high school students. The Museum is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors’ legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, we teach the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy.
ABOUT DIMENSIONS IN TESTIMONY Dimensions in Testimony is an initiative of USC Shoah Foundation to record and display testimony in a way that will preserve the dialogue between Holocaust survivors and learners far into the future. Collaborating within the project are Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, with technology by USC Institute for Creative Technologies, and concept by Conscience Display. Funding for Dimensions in Testimony was provided in part by Pears Foundation, Louis F. Smith, Melinda Goldrich and Andrea Cayton/Goldrich Family Foundation in honor of Jona Goldrich, and Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Foundation. Other partners include CANDLES Holocaust Museum and Education Center.