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Video Sculpture of Survivor Testimony to Be Installed at L.A. Museum of the Holocaust

by Jonah Lowenfeld

June 28, 2011 | 5:51 pm

LA Museum of the Holocaust

LA Museum of the Holocaust

The Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, which opened its new building in Pan Pacific Park in October 2010, has announced plans to install a $1 million “video sculpture” using interview footage from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute.

Composed of 65 flat screens of various sizes, the sculpture will occupy one entire wall of the last gallery a typical visitor sees. Using the handheld audio guides that direct them through the rest of the museum, visitors will be able to listen to audio from any of the interviews being displayed at any given moment.

To make this possible, every one of the nearly 52,000 videotaped testimonies by survivors of and witnesses to the Holocaust in the archive of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute will be transferred to the museum. With the testimonies’ combined running time of about 105,000 hours, it is estimated that the 65 screens, running continuously every day the museum is open, will present the entirety of the institute’s video archive every 10 months.

Each visitor to the museum already receives a personal touch-screen audio guide, and the displays include many interactive elements. But just managing the data from the Shoah Foundation Institute — about 650 terabytes, nearly three times the data holdings of the Library of Congress — presented a remarkable technological challenge.

“The biggest trick is going to be delivering video on demand with streaming audio on demand, which is what the experience needs to be in the space,” Mark Rothman, the museum’s executive director, said.

The testimonies will be presented in their native languages, without subtitles. “That wall is going to be impressionistic,” Rothman said. “It will be an aesthetic and informational experience.” Computers placed elsewhere in the museum will be available for visitors interested in digging deeper into the institute’s archive, Rothman said.

For the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, founded by Steven Spielberg in 1994, the survivor video wall will make the archive of video content available to a wider audience. “This is the first time ever that the entire archive will be displayed in public as a whole, and we are delighted to have it here, in Los Angeles,” Stephen D. Smith, the institute’s executive director, said in a statement.

The project, expected to be up and running by spring 2012, is being funded in large part by a donation from the New Jersey-based Wilf Family Foundation. The museum is working to raise additional funds to cover the rest.

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