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Friday, May 7, 2021

Holocaust Museum LA, Television City, Magnopus Team Up to Develop Virtual Immersive Experience

Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

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Erin Ben-Moche
Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

A new partnership between media campus Television City, Academy-Award-winning tech company Magnopus and Holocaust Museum LA will create new and engaging ways for people to learn about the Holocaust virtually.

On Jan. 27 Television City, the media campus owned and operated by Hackman Capital Partners announced it contributed $100,000 to the museum to sponsor the development of a virtual museum experience, designed by Magnopus. The shared virtual immersive experience will enable individuals anywhere in the world to engage with some of Holocaust Museum LA’s exhibits from the comfort of their own home.

While plans are still in the research and development stages, this is a big step forward for the museum. Beth Kean, executive director of Holocaust Museum LA, was first introduced to Magnopus through Television City and has been actively working with Magnopus for over a year to find innovative ways to incorporate immersive technology into their programs.

“We are deeply appreciative of Television City embracing Holocaust Museum LA’s free education programming aimed at fighting anti-Semitism and hatred not only in our community but throughout the nation, which has become even more important in light of current events,” Kean said. “The combination of Television City’s contribution to the development of Holocaust education experiences via the vibrant imagination of Magnopus is amazing and will be a powerful tool in amplifying our message globally.”

Photo courtesy of Holocaust Museum LA/Tamara Leigh Photography

According to Kean, 99 percent of students who attend tours and programs at the museum are not Jewish. While COVID-19 has temporarily closed many museums in California and the U.S., Kean said virtual engagement at the museum has gone up. While she expects that trend to persist, the museum will continue to offer free education programs and Holocaust education training to educators around the country.

While COVID-19 has temporarily closed many museums in California and the U.S., virtual engagement at the museum has gone up.

Kean added they want to build the virtual experience around the museum’s artifacts and primary sources because it’s one of the ways the museum stands out from others.

“We are starting to do teacher training outside of California and student tours in states that do not have Holocaust museums. We’re working with schools in New York, Alaska [and] Mexico. We also do tours in Spanish and we have survivors who speak Spanish so we’re able to do survivor talks in both English and Spanish,” Dean said. “This Magnopus experience will allow us to really expand our reach and help us educate on a new level.”

The experience-focused technology company specializes in immersive content creation and software development. Its creative and technology teams fuse talent from Hollywood and visual effects, as well as the video game industry, who have served filmmakers like Martin Scorsese, JJ Abrams, David Fincher and Jon Favreau, to name a few.

“We at Magnopus feel fortunate to be working with the Holocaust Museum LA to develop tools and technologies that will deliver enhanced learning experiences for educators and the public,” Craig Barron, creative director of Magnopus and recipient of the 2009 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, said. “Magnopus has created immersive experiences for museums before, but this project is different, as it is about bringing the exhibit directly to the public.”

This partnership is just one component of Television City’s $2 million pledge to help heal and rebuild the local Beverly/Fairfax community. The pledge contains two parts: a $1 million commitment to support local community organizations, businesses and individuals like Holocaust Museum LA; and its “Changing Lenses” initiative, to help the entertainment industry achieve diversity and inclusion behind the lens by creating career pathways for underrepresented communities.

“We’re proud to partner with Holocaust Museum LA and Magnopus, leveraging best-in-class digital media tools to deliver access to and education about historical events whose atrocities echo in today’s context,” Michael Hackman, founder and CEO of Hackman Capital Partners, said. “These issues are of great importance to me personally and we are humbled that Television City’s pledge can be utilized to help build a more tolerant and empathetic generation of citizens and leaders.”

Zach Sokoloff, who serves as Vice President-Asset Manager for Television City, told the Journal that this project is especially meaningful to him as a Jewish Los Angeleno. He noted it is a special opportunity to work alongside Hackman capital, and Michael Hackman himself, to help invest and give back to the community.

“For me and for Michael, two proud Jews, in addition to the community relevance [and] its proximity to Television City, it always is more meaningful when you have that personal connection,” Sokoloff said. “We realized the impact [of the museum’s resources] is not just on folks who walk through its doors, or in the case of our contribution, utilize the virtual museum-going experience, but for students and teachers. Even if they never come to Los Angles, they can get access to these types of learnings and also benefit from the museum in L.A.”

Photo courtesy of Holocaust Museum LA/Tamara Leigh Photography

Sokoloff also mentioned, noting his own Holocaust education experience, that when students learn about the bystander effect through Holocaust education, “it builds tolerance and empathy” for communities beyond the Jewish community. It’s a major reason Television City wants to continue investing in the museum.

Kean sees this as well and is excited to continue working to ensure everyone around the country has access to Holocaust Museum LA’s educational resources through this new avenue.

“The Holocaust didn’t just happen in a vacuum,” Kean said. “We know from the Holocaust what can happen when hatred and bigotry go unchecked. It’s not just Jewish organizations that are interested today it’s all organizations. This sends such a strong message to our community. Television City is committed to fighting anti-Semitism by making an investment like this. And Magnopus is really a true part of this and also believes in our mission. [We’re lucky] to have that kind of support.”

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