The Shoah Foundation's mission is education, which requires distribution. Kimberly Birbrower, the foundation's director of education, explains the initial vision. She says, "We began the process thinking big picture. Fiber optic connects the entire archive. Why would anyone want anything less?" The "everything digital" objective quickly took a back seat with the realization that worldwide computer use and Internet access is rather spotty. The only common denominator among its global audience turned out to be a mailbox.
Distributing collections of testimonies via videotape has become the foundation's best method of education. Larger collections are being developed for institutions, like the Jewish Museum Berlin, which will soon house a collection of 1,100 testimonies. Big is not always better. Small collections of only 28 testimonies in Charleston, North Carolina and 19 in San Antonio, Texas have resulted in some incredible feedback. Plus, they're constantly filling requests from schools and documentary filmmakers.
Repurpose for a Purpose
Another successful method of education is to create products like videos, CD-ROMs, and Web sites from the archive— "Repurposing or packaging pieces of the archive in a way that's accessible to a specific demographic," explains Birbrower.
The Shoah Foundation doesn't have to go it alone. The foundation exists through in-kind donations, $40 million of which came from major technology players, Sybase, Silicon Graphics, Sony, and ADIC. In addition, the organization is always looking for partnerships. "There are a lot of organizations out there that are already doing this kind of work," notes Birbrower, "We don't need to reinvent the wheel, but we can offer our material as a resource. And we've found people are very interested in it." The foundation already has partnerships with the Anti-Defamation League, the Holocaust Education Trust in the UK, and Facing History. "In all three of those partnerships, basically what we're doing is bringing our archive to the table in a facilitated way that will support the programs that are already in place."
Now that The Shoah Foundation is reaching the point of distribution, Gustman realizes the value of the group's work. "Whenever you see a survivor speak at a school it's very emotionally powerful for the students…" But the survivors won't always be around and not everyone can have a survivor come to their school to talk to them. By effectively managing their unique asset collection, The Shoah Foundation can offer the next best thing.