Anne Knowles believes that places provide important information about historical events. The University of Maine professor and graduate studies co-ordinator in the history department has made an academic career studying the relationship between geographic circumstances and major societal changes, exploring topics ranging from Welsh emigration to the United States why American contractors found it difficult to match the productivity of British iron. industry. Today, Knowles is working with a team of historians and geographers to create a digital platform for students and educators to trace the geographies of the Holocaust and connect the stories of the victims to the places where they happened. .
The project recently received funding of $150,000 Grant for the Advancement of Digital Humanities from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)which supports innovative, experimental, or computationally complex digital projects that can scale to improve academic research, teaching, and public programming in the humanities.
“I was very fortunate to receive several NEH grants for my Holocaust research. This one will allow me to share the results of years of work with a global audience. Mapping history with GIS is now common in the digital humanities. It’s exciting that the University of Maine can contribute to this important trend,” says Knowles.
While Nazi actions were often recorded and can be mapped with geographic coordinates, the locations of Holocaust victims’ experiences are difficult to map because their locations are vague or unknown and can only be located relatively.
Knowles is working with collaborators including Paul Jaskot, professor of art, art history and visual studies at Duke University, to create a website that will share 14 years of data combining GIS analysis with corpus and computational linguistics to explore the geographical links between 1,111 SS camps, 1,142 Jewish ghettos and approximately 4,000 testimonies of Holocaust survivors.
Although there are now many Holocaust websites, none have provided detailed data on the camps and ghettos that users can explore, as the Knowles Project will.
“Our project aims to teach spatial thinking while allowing students and scholars to do geographic research. By connecting personal stories to particular places, camps and ghettos will gain meaning and emotion,” says Knowles.
Knowles is co-founder of the Geographies of the Holocaust Collaborative. In 2014, this interdisciplinary group produced the first book showing how geographical methods could shed light on Holocaust places and spaces. This website, however, will host the most comprehensive data and maps of SS-administered camps and ghettos in German-occupied Eastern Europe, as well as links between the actions of the perpetrators and the testimonies, provide educational assistance and will support online mapping capabilities.
The website will allow users to switch between close reading of personal accounts of the impact of changes to living spaces from interview transcripts and regional and continental models further removed from these changes implemented by the Nazis. and their collaborators. The website’s goal is to encourage users to think about the Holocaust in new ways by highlighting the shocking number, ubiquity, and variety of SS camps throughout the Reich beyond the notorious Auschwitz, and ghettoization throughout occupied Eastern Europe beyond the major urban areas. like Warsaw and Lodz.
All data on the website will be publicly available and downloadable. The website will also include material suggesting ways to use the website in class assignments and in research.
“After years of writing and public speaking about the deep geographies of the Holocaust, I want to share the spatial knowledge I have gained with the digital generation. Maps are a great vehicle for visual learning. We want also that the website improves geographic knowledge Americans can better understand current events in Europe – such as the current war in Ukraine – if they are informed of previous struggles in the region,” Knowles said.
Knowles says his Holocaust research at UMaine involved more than a dozen undergraduate and graduate students. This project will strengthen student participation by employing two PhD students. students and allowing Knowles to hire several new members of the student team.
The final product will be on a public website hosted by the University of Maine. It will also be promoted on the websites of partner institutions such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the USC Shoah Foundationʼs Visual History Archive, Facing History, and Northwestern University’s Holocaust Education Foundation.
Contact: Sam Schipani, [email protected]