A set of 16 posters based on USHMM’s special exhibition State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, produced in partnership with the The Holocaust and the United Nations Outreach Programme, has been translated into 9 different languages and continues to be used as an educational resource for both students and adult learners across the globe. The poster set defines what constitutes propaganda, and “examines how the Nazis sought to manipulate public opinion in order to attain their goals.” Critically, it interrogates the responsibilities of propaganda producers and consumers, and asks viewers to consider their own vulnerabilities to propaganda.
The continuing use and relevance of the State of Deception poster set make it a valuable analog resource for exploring new digital techniques to create educational experiences that resonate with today’s audiences, both within and outside the Museum. The proposed digital project would leverage Augmented Reality (AR) to bring the State of Deception poster set to life using digital media. Both the physical State of Deception exhibition and its online counterpart have made compelling use of videos, audio, and artifacts. The online exhibition also employs effective instructional design strategies to facilitate a learner’s engagement and understanding, particularly in highlighting the symbolism behind visual elements of propaganda posters and examining the technology used by the Nazi regime to disseminate propaganda.
However, the interactive version of the online exhibition requires Flash, a near-obsolete technology mired in security issues. Flash is no longer the standard for accessing multimedia content online, and this means that many are missing out on the content that the State of Deception online exhibition has to offer. The proposed digital project would translate some of this existing online content into an AR experience that users could access using a mobile device, and would be intended to accompany a physical display of the poster set.
Augmented Reality affords the ability to layer digital information and media over the real, analog world, and an AR experience can be delivered on a mobile device using image recognition and/or geolocation. Tools like HP Reveal, ZapWorks, and WiARframe allow users with little (or no) technical background to design their own AR experiences. Drawing on existing historical content, I would use one of these tools to create an AR experience for the State of Deception poster set.
USHMM, along with other institutions like the Hirshhorn, is already exploring the possibilities that AR offers. The State of Deception AR poster set would offer another way for USHMM to explore the affordances of AR. The primary goal of this digital project would be to create a prototype AR experience that could be tested with its intended audience, educators and learners. Outreach channels include annual summer programs that bring this audience to the Museum, including the Belfer Conference for educators and Bringing the Lessons Home for local high school students. Studio 3 offers a physical space in the Museum for testing prototypes.
Rather than metrics like downloads, page views, or duration of use, the success of this project would be evaluated based on what a USHMM team is able to learn from testing the prototype with visitors. The prototype would allow a USHMM team to explore visitors’ responses to and interest in AR, how AR enhances or detracts from the way visitors experience a poster set, and the strategies and techniques that might be used to strengthen visitors’ knowledge and understanding of Holocaust history. Ultimately, prototyping and testing would provide insight into the question, “What is AR uniquely positioned to do?” so that USHMM can consider the role AR might play in creating engaging and meaningful educational experiences in the future.