We all know places where people gather at certain times to commemorate. The National Monument on Dam Square during May 4. The National Monument Slavery History during Ketikoti. But how do you commemorate online? How do you translate the monument feeling into a website? How do you make a digital monument? With that challenge, the 15 August 1945 Commemoration Foundation approached us.
National Remembrance 15 August 1945
15 August 1945 marks the formal end of the Second World War. It is the day Japan capitulated. Every year the foundation organizes a commemoration of this event at the Indies Monument in The Hague. All victims who died in the former Dutch East Indies during the war are commemorated. The ceremony is broadcasted live by the NOS. Present are ministers, the presidents of the Senate and the House of Representatives, ambassadors, generals, thousands of people who had to leave the Dutch East Indies after the war and whose stories were often concealed, plus their younger relatives and other interested people. The National Remembrance on 15 August helps the two million Dutch people with an Indies family story to discover their diverse identity.
The idea of the National Commemoration Foundation 15 August 1945: in addition to the physical ceremony and the memorial site in The Hague, also create something to commemorate online. A virtual place that feels like an accessible, modern monument. A place of contemplation and reflection, but also of connecting and sharing stories. All year round.
We took on this challenge together with design agency Fabrique. We have devised a digital way of commemoration centered on the Melati, the Indies jasmine. Introduced in 2005, the flower has quickly been embraced as a symbol of respect, commitment and compassion. On indischmonument.nl, visitors can share their stories by leaving their own Melati. A personal experience, a memory of loved ones, a memento of victims. By combining the many Melati's with historical images and film material, the website grows into a living monument. A monument that does not appear heavy and stately, but light and lively.
We have achieved this by bringing the Melati together in the organic form of a flower. On the flower, all added Melati's are shown as small dots. Subtle animations accentuate the lively character of the memorial. And the form emphasizes how closely all experiences, stories and events are connected with each other.
That connection comes about because we intertwine three levels throughout the site: the personal Melati's that people can add, curated stories from the organization itself, and historical events (themes). For example, personal circumstances appear to be linked to other people and experiences. It turns out that commemorating is a common cause.
Curated stories and historical events
Hundreds of photos, films, interviews and in-depth texts have been collected for the curated stories and historical events. The image and film material is partly commissioned by the foundation and partly from public image banks. This content serves as context for the personal Melati's.
The aim of the Virtual Indies Monument is to create a lively web of Melati's. Anyone can add a Melati. Adding a name and a short description is enough to make a personal memento blend into the flower with all Melati's. A smart tagging method automatically links words from the Melati's to relevant stories and themes, creating cross-connections. In this way we ensure that shared memories become part of a larger story.
"The people of the first generation who can tell the stories first hand are getting older. And I think it's important that these stories are passed on. To keep that shared history close. Indischmonument.nl is a monument where all those stories come together and are linked."
Singer Sjors van der Panne
Visitors to indischmonument.nl can discover personal Melati's, curated stories and historical themes on the flower. A search filter makes it possible to focus on a specific type of content. In addition to free exploration and filtering, the content can also be viewed chronologically. To add more experience and emotion to this mode, we have made a concatenated stream of images instead of a simple timeline. While scrolling through the history, the visitor 'flies' through the years, seeing the content coming at her in the form of large photos. No matter how the digital monument is visited, it is always apparent how rich it is in personal and historical stories.
Mobile, accessible and public
With a separate navigation we have ensured that indischmonument.nl also works on mobile. During the Indies Commemoration on August 15, people can add their own Melati on the spot. Moreover, we have thought about accessibility of the website from the start of the development process. So, navigating with a screen reader or keyboard is possible, despite the complex animating and interactive elements. Finally, we have taken into account that the website basically meets the requirements of Linked Open Data. The data is therefore not locked in a silo, but can be reused publicly, which is good for a possible follow-up phase.
Indischmonument.nl shows how much the internet can be a memorable platform for personal stories. Already during development we realized that we were working on a special project - one of the reasons why we put a lot of our own Passietijd (Tinker Fridays) into extra features. So take a look at this online commemorative monument with its impressive and instructive stories!