Skip to content

“An Immersive Journey:” Analyzing the Use of Survivor Testimony in Holocaust Museums

Thesis by Sydney Dratel (2018)

The purpose of this study was to identify interpretive strategies used by museums in connecting visitors to Holocaust survivors through testimony. As the Holocaust recedes further into the past and Holocaust survivors get older, Holocaust museums must find new ways to stay relevant and connect visitors to survivor testimony. Studies have indicated that meeting a survivor and hearing their testimony firsthand can be the most salient part of visiting a Holocaust museum, and therefore understanding how museums use survivor testimony now can help develop ways to continue to use it in the future. Two data collection methods were used: semi-structured interviews and exhibit analysis. The sample for the interviews was five museum professionals at different American Holocaust museums that use testimony in innovative ways. The sample for the exhibit analysis was three of these five museums that use new technologies to make testimony more immersive. This study’s results suggest that new technologies make testimony more accessible and less strenuous on survivors, that museum professionals see testimony as an impactful and unique museum experience, and that interpretive planning and design impact how these stories are told in Holocaust museums. Since this study’s sample was purposive and sites were chosen for their use of interactive testimony features, these results may not be generalizable to all Holocaust museums.

Keywords: Class of 2018, Holocaust Studies, museology, Museum Studies, Communication and the Arts, Social Sciences, Immersive, Survivor, Technology, Testimony


Dratel, S., O’Donnell, Wilson, Cone Kennedy, Ilana, & Magelssen, Scott. (2018). An Immersive Journey:” Analyzing the Use of Survivor Testimony in Holocaust Museums. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.