As you descend down a flight of stairs in the Anne, you start to hear Anne’s diary narrated by actress, Hailee Steinfield. Anne’s diary comes to life as you hear the “voice” of Anne with the tone she conveys through her written words. This video of the Director of the Museum, Leibe Geft, speaking about Anne provides an overview of the exhibition and emphasizes the importance of using Anne’s own words to drive the exhibition.
Driven by Anne’s voice, part of her story is told in an immersive room. To enter the room with other visitors, the visitor must pass through a replica of the bookshelf in the Annex. As I entered the room, I imagined how it must feel to pass through a bookshelf and into a smaller space and not knowing when you would be able to leave. When the projection starts, Anne is brought to life through an intimate life-like video of her life in the Annex. You can see the Annex as it once was and the events are reenacted different rooms. You feel as if you are in Anne’s room writing in her journal as she shares different emotions and experiences.
The 260 degree screen, the appearance of 3D objects, cued lights, and music create an effect that you are in the Annex with Anne and her family and acquaintances. Anne’s handwriting that appears across the screen and documentary footage add to her story and connect to the history of the Holocaust as told by Anne. By the end of the fifteen minute video, I could not help but feel impacted by her story and felt emotional. Once I looked around, I noticed I was not the only one teary-eyed. Other visitors and I had all gone through Anne’s journey in the Annex together. Through the use of a visceral and immersive experience, Anne’s story became personal and real. As Elana stated in my interview, we need to go on Anne’s journey in a personal way and this allows the visitor to learn more about her life and the historical events taking place at the time.
The museum wanted the visitor to create a personal connection to Anne and make her story relevant. Also, the exhibit encourages participation from the visitor instead of passively learning about Anne and the Holocaust. After learning about Anne’s story and her tragic fate, the museum gives the visitor an opportunity to participate in continuing Anne’s legacy and make a pledge based off the universal themes touched on by the exhibit. Four multiuser touchscreens display floating leaves and text encourages the visitor to touch to activate.
The themes to create a pledge include: honoring identity, promoting human dignity, earning respect, fighting discrimination, keeping faith, etc. On the bottom, there are options to post the pledge through social media outlets such as Facebook or Twitter or through your personal email. Meanwhile, a mounted screen next to the touchscreens display who has made a pledge.
The interactives encouraged social interaction by allowing up to four users per screen and by connecting the submissions to social media. As Elana mentioned in my interview, she hopes the pledges serve as a type of reflection and hopefully Anne’s legacy will carry on through the visitor. I noticed people as a group browse through the content on the screen but noticed most people did not submit a pledge. But the themes are reiterated through the touchscreen and this reinforces the exhibit’s messages. I think the touchscreen tables allow the visitors to reflect and regroup after the exhibit successfully. Although, I do not think the museum follows through with encouraging active participants after one’s visit. The conversation between the visitor and the museum to carry on Anne’s legacy stops after posting a pledge. Once a tweet or Facebook post is submitted, the museum does not engage with the visitor.
I think the museum could engage with its visitors after their visit by creating a space on social media and their website to share everyone’s personal pledges and create suggestions on how to carry out one’s pledge. Elana says their social media is evolving and I hope they can utilize their online outlets to encourage others to enact their pledge and share when one follows through on one.
I believe the museum effectively makes Anne feel like a close friend through the use of the immersive theater and other elements of the exhibit but does not fully realize its vision to create active participants during and after their visit. Engagement with visitors after the exhibit can help continue Anne’s legacy and her story.