The world’s largest collection of Holocaust documents is going digital. Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, is teaming up with Google to make its photographs and documents interactive and searchable on the Internet. The first 130,000 photos hit the web Wednesday.
Although much of Yad Vashem’s archive was already available through its formidable website, the new project enables users to search keywords and data just like a Google search.
A social network-like component allows viewers to contribute to the project by adding their own stories, comments and documents about family members who appear in the online archives.
Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said even though that feature could be misused to post anti-Semitic comments, the risk is outweighed by the benefit provided to future generations seeking information about their ancestors.
“This is part of our vision – to connect Yad Vashem’s knowledge and information to modern technology, and bring it to youngsters,” he said.
The project started three years ago in the Tel Aviv skyscraper that houses Google’s research operations in Israel. It was inspired by a Google initiative encouraging employees to spend 20 percent of work time on projects they feel are important.
Google used experimental optical character recognition technology to make text within documents and photos searchable in multiple languages.
The move is just the latest in Yad Vashem’s digital outreach. Earlier this week, the memorial launched a version of its YouTube channel in Farsi to educate the country’s most bitter enemy – Iran – about the Nazi genocide of 6 million Jews.
Yad Vashem’s next priority is to digitize its collection of survivor testimonies.
The launch comes a day before the U.N. marks its annual Holocaust remembrance day.