Sunday, November 4, 2007

Website Review: Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race

Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race, online exhibit from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race is a chilling online exhibit that draws on resources from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The website utilizes a generally easy to navigate system that allows a viewer to read about the development of Nazi eugenics programs, as well as analyze artifacts from the museum in minute detail, providing a clear context for each item. The stated purpose of the exhibit is to, “provoke us into thinking about questions today: the relationship between the needs and rights of individuals as weighed against the larger concerns of the society.” Deadly Medicine provides students, teachers, and anyone with an interest in the subject with an accessible and interesting overview of eugenics as it was practiced by the Nazis.

The form of the website deserves special mention, outside of a discussion of content. Deadly Medicine is an extremely attractive website which has made effective use of video and Flash applications in order to present their subject. Even those who are unfamiliar with digital resources should have no problems accessing the interactive areas of the site, due to the easy-to-use Flash interface. Using videos, the curator explains the purpose of the exhibit and narrates each of the artifacts as you explore it. These helpful explanations assure that the viewer is given a kind of context for each artifact, and not left to interpret it on their own. The interactive nature of the website is most effective in the artifact exploration presentation, where users have the opportunity to zoom in and take a good look at artifacts relating to the eugenics program.

The artifacts and documents themselves are a small but interesting selection of pamphlets, propaganda posters, and family trees. These items provide an engaging look at one small area of eugenics. However, the selection of artifacts is too narrow to provide a view of the entire scope of the project; a more diverse selection of artifacts and documents would have greatly enriched the sight and given it more depth. The ‘Exhibition Narrative’ provides text on three subjects: Weimar Eugenics, Nazi Racial Hygiene, and Murderous Racial Hygiene. These areas provide a good broad overview of the eugenics program as a whole, without overloading the reader with too many details on one area. The text on the website is highly accessible, using more complex terminology, but taking the time to explain it. The text portion of the website also contains photographs to make the narrative more interesting and affecting.

This website would be most useful for getting an overview of the entire issue, and a scope for some of the sources and artifacts that are available elsewhere. The narrow range of artifacts and shallow depth of text ensures that the site be considered as an introduction, not a true scholarly source. However, Deadly Medicine does acknowledge its own shortcomings by providing an extensive bibliography of further readings, useful websites, and archival documents. The selection of other websites is particularly impressive, and includes links to other sites within the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, as well as other private and scholarly websites on the subject. When viewed in connection with this bibliography, and the depth of information already available on the subject, Deadly Medicine can be seen as a welcome “collection point,” piquing the interest of the viewer, and then sending them off to do some serious research.

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