How do the Arolsen Archives use AI to digitize their documents? Why does the online archive keep growing? And which new research options are there? Answers to these and many other questions were provided at this year’s annual user workshop in Bad Arolsen, which was attended by 20 representatives from various institutions in the USA, Israel, Austria, Germany, and Poland.

Two days of intensive discussions have come to an end. Around 20 participants traveled to Bad Arolsen to attend the workshop on June 4 and 5, 2024. They came from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, the Institute of Remembrance (IPN), the Wiener Library, the Luxembourg National Archives, the memorials for the Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, Flossenbürg, Mauthausen, Buchenwald, and Neuengamme concentration camps, and the Wolfenbüttel prison memorial. They were joined by a #StolenMemory volunteer from Poland.

Diane Afoumado from USHMM enjoyed the first face-to-face event after a long break due to the pandemic: “It was useful to get some update after more than four years, and to catch up with colleagues from other countries and from German memorial sites. As always, everything was perfectly organized.”

Staff from our Cataloguing and Historical Context Unit informed the guests about new collections that have been made accessible and catalogued since 2020. Kim Dresel’s presentation on the Arolsen Archives’ collection on prisons met with great interest. Uwe Ossenberg, Giora Zwilling, and Achim Link presided over sessions on the latest developments in the archive, the OuS database, and the introduction of new archive software. Other subjects of topical interest were the increased use of AI and OCR as well as data protection issues. Finally, the participants heard an exciting report from Hanna Lehun on the support provided to archives in Ukraine and the acquisition of documents. Silvia Rathmann from the Bergen Belsen Memorial was “enthusiastic about everything we were shown.”

The program also included hands-on research workshops with employees from the Tracing and Reference Service units as well as guided tours of the exhibition “A Paper Monument.” Franziska Thiele from the Neuengamme Memorial found the visit to the Arolsen Archives “super exciting” and the exhibition “very impressing.”

At the end of the workshop, there was ample opportunity for in-depth discussions about the participants’ current projects, and they are already looking forward to the next meeting: “This is the first user workshop for me, and I am looking forward to it taking place again next year. I will definitely be back,” promised Alex Pearman from the Dachau Memorial. Franziska Schubert, one of the organizers, struck a similarly positive note: “The user workshop is a great opportunity to start talking to institutions, memorials, and researchers directly. Networks are formed and strengthened, knowledge can be exchanged, and we receive direct feedback on our work. Complementing digital exchange formats, workshops constitute an important component of the support we, as an archive, provide to our users to help them with their research and projects.”

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