The world’s largest collection of Holocaust documents is going digital: Israel’s Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, is teaming up with Google to make its photographs and documents interactive and searchable on the internet.

The project launched Jan. 26 with a collection of 130,000 photos that now can be searched directly from Google, using standard keywords and other data that make it far easier than in the past to find the desired information. The collection is expected to expand to other parts of the memorial’s vast archives in the future.

A social network-like component allows viewers to contribute to the project by adding their own stories, comments, and documents about family members who appear in the online archives. Yad Vashem Chairman Avner Shalev said even though that feature could be misused to post anti-Semitic comments, the risk is outweighed by the benefit provided to future generations seeking information about their ancestors.

“This is part of our vision—to connect Yad Vashem’s knowledge and information to modern technology, and bring it to youngsters,” he said.

The project started three years ago in the Tel Aviv skyscraper that houses Google’s research operations in Israel. It was inspired by a Google initiative encouraging employees to spend 20 percent of work time on projects they feel are important.

Google used experimental optical character recognition technology to make text within documents and photos searchable in multiple languages.

Yad Vashem’s next priority is to digitize its collection of survivor testimonies. http://collections.yadvashem.org/photosarchive/

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Jeff Festa