In a groundbreaking exhibition, audience members can interact with holograms.
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JOSHUA LOTT/AFP/Getty Images
The exhibition’s creators hoped to preserve Holocaust survivors’ stories in their own words.
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Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.
Each participant answered more than 800 questions about his or her life.
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Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center.
Storytelling With a Twist
A museum in Illinois is using futuristic technology to teach students about the Holocaust

Alexandra Franklin | for Scholastic Art

It’s one thing to learn about history from textbooks, and an entirely different experience to hear about it from those who lived it. But what happens to people’s stories when they are no longer with us? At the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, the Abe and Ida Cooper Survivor Experience uses groundbreaking holographic technology to create opportunities for dialogue between audience members and 3-D projections of Holocaust survivors, preserving their voices and their stories forever.

Conversations With a Hologram

The project, which took nearly three years to complete, combines high-definition holographic video with voice-recognition and machine learning technology to create responsive, interactive holograms. The team at the museum recorded video interviews with 13 Holocaust survivors from around the world. They captured each participant from multiple angles to create 3-D images.

The interview process was extensive. Participants answered more than 800 questions about their lives, memories, and personal philosophies—questions likely to come up in a conversation. Then, when the holograms are projected onstage, the computer uses the interview footage, creating the illusion that each individual is telling his or her story right there. The voice-recognition and machine learning technology allow audience members to ask questions, engaging in one-on-one virtual “conversations” with the holograms. The effect is immersive and realistic; viewers can see and interact with a hologram as if the survivor were really in front of them onstage.

Keeping Stories and Spirits Alive

The creators of this exhibition—the first of its kind—aimed to preserve the ancient tradition of oral storytelling through the use of revolutionary technology. Years from now, when the last of the Holocaust survivors has passed on, museum attendees will still be able to interact with them and hear their stories firsthand. The exhibition’s creators hope that this project will keep their memories and their spirits alive for many generations to come. For more information, visit: www.takeastandcenter.org.