National Holocaust Centre and Museum

The historic institution will develop new programmes that preserve the voice of Holocaust survivors for generations to come

Image credit: Students at the National Holocaust Centre and Museum looking at the Star of Photos. Photo © The National Holocaust Centre and Museum

National Holocaust Centre and Museum

Region: East Midlands
Art form: Museums
Investment size: £200,000

The National Holocaust Centre and Museum is a vibrant memorial and a place of testimony and learning for communities of all faiths, and none. Dedicated to Holocaust remembrance and education, its work promotes an understanding of the roots of discrimination and prejudice, and the development of ethical values, leading to a greater understanding within society.

The Centre was the brainchild of brothers James and Stephen Smith who in 1991 visited Yad Vashem – Israel’s national Holocaust museum – and were left stunned and deeply challenged by their experience. James and Stephen believed their education should have provided the opportunity to consider what the Holocaust might mean for them as individuals. The trip forever changed the lives of the family and led them to establish the National Holocaust Centre and Museum, a registered charity, in 1995.

The organisation approached Arts Impact Fund for £200,000 to support the development of two projects it will be pursuing over the next 18 months. After specialising in Holocaust education for over 30 years, it is looking to build on recent areas of work further afield, with both projects focusing on using new technologies (including AI and 3D imaging) to expand on current exhibitions. The Forever Project is an ambitious 3D interactive programme, preserving the voice of Holocaust survivors for generations to come, allowing the audience to ask that survivor questions and hear them giving answers to hundreds of frequently asked questions. The Journey tells the story of Kindertransportee Leo, exploring his home, classroom and day-to-day life. 

Having received few enquiries from the museum sector, Arts Impact Fund was encouraged by the National Holocaust Centre and Museum’s detailed business model as well as the dedication of its staff and Board in taking the projects this far, with many trustees having given pro-bono time and expertise to the new ventures and supporting the organisation’s move to this new area. The management’s confidence in the business model and track record of fundraising combined with the profitability of the existing work suggests that this plan is achievable; the organisation will also explore a staged process to support revenue generation through increased trading and earned income. Like many other charities, the National Holocaust Centre and Museum is working towards diversifying its income streams to become more financially resilient in the current economic climate. The organisation sees this as an important part of future-proofing its work and continuing its core mission for years to come. This also ties in with its efforts to increase audience reach and grow beyond its current geographical boundaries.

"The National Holocaust Centre and Museum's exploration of natural language processing, the integration of technologies and projection mapping is a giant leap forward in the adoption of high-spec technology, marking it as a beacon of expertise."

At point of investment, ten Holocaust survivors’ stories had been filmed for The Forever Project, using 3D filming techniques. One of these has already been turned into a working model and the National Holocaust Centre and Museum now plans to finish and install the other nine. This enables he organisation to recreate and preserve the experience of the remaining living survivors for generations to come, making a vital contribution to children’s understanding of the events of the Holocaust and their connection to it as they will be able to hear first-hand from the survivors.

The National Holocaust Centre and Museum is an accredited museum with internationally acclaimed exhibitions and initiatives, but it has taken a huge leap forward since beginning work on The Forever Project. Its continuation of work in this area is significant as across the heritage sector organisations’ take-up of digital initiatives is low. As evidenced in the 2015 Digital Culture museums factsheet from Nesta and Arts Council England, the majority of museums stated that digital was seen only as a marketing tool, and felt it was least important for content creation. Museums have continued to struggle with seeing digital as a means to create new products and modes of cultural engagement, and identifying themselves as late-adopters of technology. The National Holocaust Centre and Museum’s exploration of natural language processing, the integration of technologies and projection mapping is a giant leap forward into content creation and adoption of high-spec technology, marking it as a beacon of expertise in the sector.

Arts Impact Fund is confident in the National Holocaust Centre and Museum ability, pipeline of funding, reputation in the industry and solid management performance. The new projects we are supporting with our investment are innovative ventures for the charity, building on its participation in the Digital Arts and Culture Accelerator, and we are positive that they will contribute to creating a resilient organisation that is able to thrive in the future.