For Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 28th, Minneapolis-based agency Olson has created an interactive experience that will allow anyone, anywhere in the world to tour the Riga Ghetto and Latvian Holocaust Museum.
Through a combination of Google Street View, museum archives, survivor interviews, as well as archival audio from the USC Shoah Foundation, it uses your tablet or phone to transform your apartment or neighborhood into the Riga Ghetto, with each real step taking you through a virtual, educational experience.
So how did a Minnesota agency meet a Latvian Holocaust museum? A senior interactive digital artist at the agency, Cory McLeod grew up in an ethnic Latvian family, speaks the language and has lived in the country. On vacation last summer he visited the museum. "Going to the Riga Ghetto Museum is not like going to any other museum," says McLeod. "It feels like you're visiting someone at home. Rabbi Barakahn, who runs the museum, introduced himself, a guide gave me a tour of the museum and then the Rabbi invited me into his office for tea. He told me about some of the challenges the museum faces—lack of funding, competition with other museums. But mostly he told me the stories of people who lived in the ghetto and what happened to them during the Holocaust. For the Rabbi, these stories are lessons that pave a path to a future filled with more tolerance."
When McLeod got back to Olson he told executive creative director Mike Fetrow about it. "We were both so inspired that we decided we had to make a website for the Museum," says McLeod.
The site was conceived and developed by Olson on a pro-bono basis. Fetrow says the biggest challenge was getting all the details right through painstaking research, verifying facts that will be scrutinized by the entire world. "Add to that, the sensitivity of one-to-one phone calls with survivors and their families brought with it its own set of challenges," says Fetrow. "We wanted to convey these stories with the dignity and compassion that the museum gives to the story of the Riga Ghetto and the Holocaust in Latvia."