Skip to main content

Museums and the Web

An annual conference exploring the social, cultural, design, technological, economic, and organizational issues of culture, science and heritage on-line.

The Secret Annex Online

People's Choice:
14 votes

Institution: 

Anne Frank House

Designer: 

LBi Lost Boys

Category: 

Exhibition

Why

 The Anne Frank story has captivated audiences worldwide. Her wartime diary, written in hiding in Nazi occupied Amsterdam is one of the most translated and best read books in the world. Almost 70 years later the Anne Frank story still evokes many reactions.

The Anne Frank House museum on the Prinsengracht 263 in Amsterdam, houses Otto Frank’s wartime business premises and the secret annex, the hiding place where Anne wrote her diary. The secret annex was emptied of possessions after the arrest of those in hiding. It was Otto Frank’s wish that it remains empty to this day. He was the only member of the family to survive the horrors of the concentration camps.

In 2010 the Anne Frank House celebrated its 50th anniversary as a museum. During those 50 years millions of visitors from all over the world have climbed the steep stairs and taken a step back in time behind the moveable bookcase into the empty rooms of the secret annex. There are still many who will never be able to visit Amsterdam. Added to this the museum has almost reached its full capacity of visitors per day. There is very little space to exhibit the museum collection or house temporary exhibitions. It was for this reason that the Secret Annex Online was developed.

The Secret Annex Online is a 3D version of the whole building. In this three-dimensional online environment, visitors from all over the world are able to explore the business premises on the canal side and the secret annex as it was during the wartime hiding period. But this is not just a 3D experience. The story of the people in hiding is told in the place where it happened and the visitor is able to experience the atmosphere with actresses’ voices recreating the fear, misery and grief as well as the humour of being in hiding for 2 years making it almost tangible. Ambient sound and music by Mark Isham accompany the narration.

For the English version of The Secret Annex Online, the voice-over was done by Tamsin Greig, a British actress known for her role as Edith Frank in the BBC series The Diary of Anne Frank, made in 2009. Anne's voice was done by Ellie Kendrick, who, among other things, played Anne in the BBC series.

History comes alive for the visitors as they wander through the furnished rooms of the secret annex. Historical film footage creates a context for the story and shows the impact of history while adding to this rich emotional experience.

Annually about a million people visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. The Secret Annex Online is a not only a wonderful medium for education, but can be used as  preparation prior to a museum visit or to enhance and enrich the experience after visiting. The visitor can choose whether to be guided through this virtual environment or to embark on a journey of discovery by navigating  through the rooms themselves.

Reactions

Beth Calloway, 57 years old – February 6 2011: After visiting the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, I've been inspired to teach the Holocaust in my English class! The online exhibitions are truly helpful in bringing the Anne Frank House to my students, most of whom will never have the opportunity to see it otherwise! Thank you, BC                

Nicholas, 14 years old– January 19 2011: This is an amazing collection of Anne Frank information. The interactive Secret Annex tour was not only informational but also fun. It made writing my WWII report much easier.

Results

At its launch in April 2010, the Secret Annex Online received immediate and substantial attention form national and international media. Since its launch almost 800,000 people have visited the website. On average visitors spend around 17 (!) minutes on the site.