Museum to honor victims of Oklahoma bombing

The Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation has begun the search for designers to create an interactive museum at the site of the 1995 bombing that killed 168 people.

The $7 million interactive museum represents the second phase of the foundation's memorial project, and officials with the foundation envision computers and other technology playing a major role in telling the stories of the victims and preserving documents and items connected to the worst terrorist attack occurring on U.S. soil.

Designers interested in entering the competition have until Oct. 5 to supply portfolios as well as a summary of their experience in using interactive media. Later in October the foundation will ask finalists to submit proposals based on a story line written by victims' relatives, survivors, rescuers, volunteers and historians, said Kari Ferguson, communications director for the foundation.

Although finalists will not be required to employ computer technology, Ferguson said she does not envision any designs that do not include it. "Whatever proposal that flows to the top will have the phenomenal use of computers," she said.

The concept of an interactive museum incorporating computers and multimedia applications originated from the mission statement of the foundation that calls for an information center that "records important facts and observations about the bombing and teaches visitors never to forget the event or the people it touched."

Ferguson said she envisions a center that will give visitors access to multimedia applications such as a biographical file for each victim that might include a mixture of photographs and video and audio recordings telling the story of the person's life.

"The things that are given to us and have been left at that site are very personal," Ferguson said. "The computerized archive will be a big part of our museum exhibitry."

The nonprofit foundation, which was established three years ago and has a special cooperative agreement with the National Park Service, is already using information technology applications to archive hundreds of thousands of items, from gifts left at the site of the bombing to books and newspaper articles chronicling the tragedy and the trial of the bomber, Timothy McVeigh.

The foundation is in the process of cataloging each item that was left by people at the bombing site and scanning the images into a database that will be stored on a file server with a capacity expandable to 64G of memory, said Jane Thomas, curator of collections for the foundation.

Users will be able to search for items based on simple descriptions and retrieve photographs without having to go to a repository. Other items already in digital form also will go into the archive, and all the data will be backed up on rewriteable CD-ROM, Thomas said.

"We dream that someday we'll be able to put the whole archive on the [World Wide] Web," Thomas said.

The foundation is using an application produced by Rediscovery Software Inc. of Charlottesville, Va., to catalog the 800,000 items. It has been customized for the National Parks Service for archiving historical events, and the agency is training personnel nationwide to use it, Thomas said.

The foundation also is planning a third phase of the memorial, which will include an institute for the prevention of violence and terrorism. Five million dollars has been budgeted for the institute, which planners envision will house an online library that will collect documents and articles to improve anti-terrorism efforts.

Fergason said the foundation already has raised nearly three quarters of the estimated $24 million cost of the entire memorial.

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