The concept - Memory makes us free

The concept

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Primo Levi
Realtà virtuale
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perchè!
Memory Makes Us Free
Memory Makes Us Free
To the visitor - A Letter by Primo Levi
To the visitor - A Letter by Primo Levi
Virtual Reality
The banality of evil
Evidence of crimes
Why did the Shoah happen?
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Memory Makes Us Free
Memory Makes Us Free
To the visitor - A Letter by Primo Levi
To the visitor - A Letter by Primo Levi
Virtual Reality
Virtual Reality
The banality of evil
The banality of evil
Evidence of crimes
Evidence of crimes
Why did the Shoah happen?
Why did the Shoah happen?
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I am Roberto Castaldo, an ICT teacher, I have been working for more than 30 years in a Technical and Professional Institute – ISIS EUROPA www.isiseuropa.edu.it – which has always been at the forefront for the adoption of student-centred teaching methods and for the creation of innovative learning paths based on Learning by Doing and Service Learning.

In my professional life I have trained hundreds of colleagues, met thousands of students, and as a teacher, as a father and as a human being, I believe that ethical and moral values should be the pillars on which  the personality, behaviour, skills and professionalism of our students should be built. Tolerance, inclusion, cooperation, respect, memory, solidarity, and responsibility are much more important than any traditional school subject. 

In March 2019 I went to Krakow and visited Auschwitz / Birkenau camps; those few days I spent in Poland were able to mark the way I live my life and the way I teach, and since then an ambitious and challenging dream came to my mind: to leave a small but concrete contribution in communicating and strengthening the memory of everything that really happened there, using new media such as the Web and virtual reality.

My students, my colleagues and I firmly believe that the recognition of the value of historical facts is the only way to avoid that someone could repeat the horrible acts that human beings have been able to perform against other human beings, and that active memory must be continuously nourished with information campaigns and informative, exciting and reliable stories that allow anyone to understand and remember what happened.

If it is true, as it is true, that 2 out of 3 Americans do not know what Auschwitz is, and that only 2 out of 100 Italian students have read a book on the Shoah, and if it is true that 10 out of 100 Italians justify the extermination of the Jews, then it is clear that “Memory Day” is not enough, and that school books themselves are not enough! Maybe we need to have the courage to talk every day about what History should teach us, and maybe it is time to try to do so using different linguistic and communicative registers, adapting the story of historical truth to the language of multimedia and the Web, without losing the rigour of the treatment.

This is the reason why I believe in this project, “Memory makes us free“, a project in which I have involved not only my students and colleagues, but also historians, actors and musicians who have given their willingness to work for this product.

Memory makes us free” is a story, a unique, technological, immersive, and emotional story about the Shoah, the Auschwitz and Birkenau extermination camps and all the people who died there. It is certainly not a game or even a virtual tourist route: it is instead a real virtual pilgrimage to the places of the Shoah, and a concrete tribute to Truth and Memory.

From a purely technical point of view, “Memory makes us free” is a Web application built with 360-degree photos and a complex Web development environment:

  • It is available free of charge for anyone, simply using any type of device connected to the Web (PC, notebook, smartphone, tablet …);
  • It is also visible with a virtual reality viewer, such as Google Cardboard, Oculus Rift;
  • It is completely immersive: all the 360° photos have been organized in a virtual path that guides the users to get in touch with the historical truth, to read, see and listen, and to immerse themselves in a world that is artificial, but made of original testimonies, photos, paintings, videos and music that will predispose young users, and not, to face with the right eye the evidence of the massacre of the Jews; 
  • It is currently available in Italian and English
Everything in “Memory makes us free”, the photos, the editing and development of the virtual path … everything is written and made by Italian students, who took care of making videos, taking panoramic and traditional images, collecting historical multimedia material and creating the Web application, coordinated by myself and my colleagues.

The historical validation of our virtual story is guaranteed by the long-term collaboration that our institute boasts with the Istituto Campano per la Storia della Resistenza, dell’Antifascismo e dell’Età Contemporanea “Vera Lombardi“, in particular by the historian Mario Rovinelli, and will be further strengthened by the Auschwitz Memorial which has publicly supported our project and has made itself available to correct our drafts.

We are also proud to have been able to count on the precious contributions of the Italian actor and director Giulio Base who donated his voice to our videos and main narrations, and the great musician Mario Fasciano who composed and performed the soundtrack of our Web application.

A virtual application like the one we developed does not have a linear plot, any user is able to follow a different path thanks to the hypertext approach that the Web allows us to adopt. The story being unravelled is strongly connected with the facts and events that every virtual room or real place can narrate.

The user who connects to “Memory makes us free” can find himself/herself on a website, and choose to:·

  • Explore the work in HTML format, moving from one page to another and enjoying the content arranged in a simple, intuitive and quickly usable on any device;·
  • Enter the application in virtual reality, perhaps wearing a VR viewer; in this case he/she will find himself/herself immersed in the forests surrounding the Auschwitz camps, and can decide how to continue his/her virtual experience:See a short introductory video, which summarizes the spirit of the whole work;
    • See and listen in a video the letter "To the visitor", which Primo Levi wrote in 1980, on the occasion of the inauguration of the Italian memorial in Auschwitz ;
    • Visiting the camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau virtually, walking inside virtual space by virtual space, following a suggested route or choosing the place to visit, reading, seeing and listening to all the available information;
    • Visiting the "Questions Room", a virtual room whose walls are literally covered with the most common questions about the Holocaust: where, who, why, how, how many, when... For each of them texts, images and videos are available, whose purpose will be to try to suggest clues and evidence, in order to encourage the achievement of an adequate level of understanding and empathy;
    • Visit the virtual room "Stories of the Shoah", which contains stories and testimonies about Auschwitz and the Shoah;
    • Visit the "Media Room", another virtual room containing not only all the images, audio and video used in this application to correctly narrate the Shoah and Auschwitz / Birkenau, but also original works created by our students / artists, such as "Arianne's drawings";
    • Visit the "garden of gratitude", a virtual garden where we thank all the people and organizations involved in realizing our idea in a tangible way.

 

Memory makes us Free - ISIS Europa