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We Were There - Interactive Biographies Featured at The National WWII Museum

Ideum worked with The National WWII Museum and StoryFile to create immersive interview stations featuring women who served
Authored by
Jim Spadaccini
Founder & Creative Director

This past weekend, I had the distinct honor to attend the Our War Too: Women in Service exhibition opening at The Natiional WWII Museum in New Orleans. Ideum worked closely with the museum to design and develop an interactive exhibit called We Were There, which allows visitors to hold conversations with three WWII servicewomen. It uses the women's own words and AI technology developed by StoryFile to provide video responses to natural language questions. 

All centenarians now, each of the three servicewomen worked in a different branch of service during World War II. Romay Johnson Davis was a Women’s Army Corps driver in the segregated African American 688th Central Postal Directory Battalion, Virginia Leeman Wilterdink was a US Army Nurse who served with the 314th General Hospital Unit, and Florence Smith was a baker for the US Coast Guard Women's Reserve. 

This was one of those rare occasions where the subject of the exhibit could interact with themselves. We had a similar experience several years ago when artist Jamie Wyeth interacted with a photo kiosk, making his own portrait in his own style. It was a great pleasure and deeply meaningful to meet Ms. Davis and Ms. Leeman Wilterdink at the opening of the museum's new exhibit on Veterans Day. 

It was great to talk directly to the veterans to hear their stories and to see their impressions as they experienced the gallery for the first time. Ms. Leeman Wilterdink told me about when she first heard about the Pearl Harbor attack on the radio. In her first year in nursing school at that time, she would end the war as an Army Nurse stationed in the Philippines. She worked her way home on the USS Hope, a hospital ship. She then became a flight attendant for United Airlines which, she explained, required a nursing background at that time. These fascinating women and their unique experiences will now be a permanent part of The National WWII Museum's collection, where visitors can continue to ask questions through the interactive stations.

The StoryFile technology is really fascinating, and we enjoyed working on this exhibit. The experience is somewhere between a traditional question-and-answer station and a “real” conversation. It has more depth, and I felt like I knew these women before we actually had our in-person encounter. Each interview includes hundreds of questions about the subject’s life and experiences. The AI software helps provide the best responses to the natural language questions that visitors ask.

As always, it was great to work with The National WWII Museum and support their mission. I know I speak for all of the folks at Ideum who worked on this exhibit when I say we are extremely grateful for the opportunity to work on this important project. If you are interested in seeing other work we’ve done with The National WWII Museum, please see WWII Museum Visitors Experience Bob Hope’s Wartime USO Tours and the Bayou to Battlefield interactive in our portfolio.