How do technological advances and changing archival practices alter historical memory? In what ways have developments in the preservation and dissemination of historical material already impacted how scholars and the public engage with the past? These are questions that Jeffrey Shandler, Professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University, grapples with in his new book, Holocaust Memory in the Digital Age: Survivors Stories and New Media Practices (Stanford University Press, 2017)
Shandler's thought-provoking and skillfully written book addresses these problems through the lens of the Holocaust and Holocaust memory. Specifically, he examines the wealth of material curated by the Shoah Foundations Visual History Archive, which houses a wealth of over 50,000 newly-digitized videos of interviews conducted with survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides. Shandler analyzes this footage by reading "against the grain" and using the testimonies for purposes other than those intended by the Archive's creators when it was founded in 1994.
In addition to considering the collection in its entirety, Shandler underscores the significance of focusing on individual testimonies, as well. By guiding the reader through a captivating selection of case studies, he reveals how narrative, language, and spectacle have influenced, and been influenced by, new media practices.
Jeffrey Shandler is Chair and Professor of Jewish Studies at Rutgers University.
Robin Buller is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.