Courtroom 600: An Educational Virtual Reality Encounter with the History and Legacies of the Nuremberg Trials
Courtroom 600 is an immersive learning experience to be developed using virtual reality (VR) technology, game design and public history methodologies, and archival materials from executive trial counsel Thomas J. Dodd’s papers in the University of Connecticut’s Archives and Special Collections (ASC). The narrative-driven VR exploration will provide an interactive means of engaging learners in the history of the Holocaust as interrogated by the International Military Tribunal (IMT) held in Courtroom 600 of the Justizpalast in Nuremberg, Germany. The trials, which held Nazi military and political leaders accountable for war and other crimes, represented a first successful effort to forge standards for international criminal law in support of universal human rights.
The finished research project will place learners in a three-dimensional, human-scale reproduction of Courtroom 600, where they can interact with the historical participants as well as pause the courtroom action to delve into contextual information and archival materials related to the people, places, and events central to the trials. VR technology, with its use of visual, audio, and psychosomatic stimuli, will heighten the learner’s sense not only of being a witness to history but of being a participant in it. Game mechanics will enable learners to hear testimony, interrogate witnesses and defendants, query prosecuting attorneys about strategy, and interact in real time with archival documents from the ASC’s online digital repository. Throughout the Courtroom 600 experience, the game-derived structure will foreground decision points. This will foster participants’ historical awareness, underscoring that the IMT trials were not simply a sequence of events but the outcome of contingent processes occurring not only in the drama of the courtroom but, as revealed through the Dodd papers, behind the scenes as well.
With the help of a 2018/19 Digital Projects for the Public award from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the team brought together an international board of advisors in summer of 2019 to review early-stage work and to discuss issues surrounding the adaptation of serious historical subject matter to this digital genre.
This project is made possible thanks to generous support from a University of Connecticut School of Fine Arts Dean’s Grant, the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, and the UConn Office of Global Affairs.
Courtroom 600 in the News:
- UConn Today: Engaging Holocaust History with Virtual Reality
- The Conversation: Digital technology offers new ways to teach lessons from the Holocaust
- The Times of Israel: The ‘virtual’ future of Holocaust education is already here
- Monitor on Psychology: Games with Impact
- Clarissa Ceglio / Associate Director, Greenhouse Studios
- Greg Colati / Assistant University Librarian for University Archives, Special Collections & Digital Curation
- Stephen T. Slota / Assistant Professor-in-Residence of Educational Technology, Department of Educational Psychology, Neag School of Education jointly with the Digital Media and Design Department
- Graham Stinnett / Archivist for Human Rights and Alternative Press Collections
- Ken Thompson / Assistant Professor, Digital Media and Design Department
- Graduate and Undergraduate student researchers in game design, Digital Media & Design Department