One Project Volunteer’s Story

Thousands of project volunteers around the country have contributed to History Unfolded since November 2015. Their motivations for getting involved vary. Some are students working on an assignment. Some already volunteer at local history institutions. Some proudly identify as research or history nerds. Others have a deep personal connection to the history itself. David Laks’s story is one of many we have learned about over the years.

The History Unfolded team met Dave in January 2017 at our third Library of Congress research sprint. Convivial and even-keeled, Dave introduced himself and then immediately got to work. He picked up a reel of microfilm, sat down at one of the Library of Congress’ digital microfilm readers, and began to scan newspapers from Alaska to see how they reported on various Holocaust-era events. While some other participants did come across articles from the newspapers they consulted, Dave found no articles from The Seward Gateway on the Nuremberg Race Laws in September 1935. Though it may not be as exciting as the rush that one gets from finding an article, the Museum is equally interested in knowing if a newspaper did NOT report about an event, too. Dave’s research was invaluable in that regard.

January 2017 Research Sprint Flyer

When the History Unfolded team advertised our next sprint a few month later, Dave was back. He has been a regular contributor ever since. He’s even agreed to take on additional History Unfolded challenges. For example, once Dave found out we were in need of some of our first articles from Rhode Island, he volunteered to research The Providence Journal on his own time at the Library of CongressSince then, he has uploaded several fascinating articles from newspapers in the Ocean State.

One of several Rhode Island newspaper articles David Laks uploaded. "$930,000 Pledged at Jewish Rally." Providence Journal. December 28, 1942.

One of several Rhode Island newspaper articles David Laks uploaded. “$930,000 Pledged at Jewish Rally.” Providence Journal. December 28, 1942.

Dave asked me if he could share part of his reason for participating in the History Unfolded project. Initially unknown to us, Dave’s motivations for involvement include honoring the memory of his family. He’s written a poignant and at times harrowing account of what he knows about his family’s experience during the Holocaust, which you can read here.

Dave’s story provides just a small glimpse into the extraordinary work thousands of citizen historians across the country do for this project each year.  We thank him and all of our other volunteers for helping us build a comprehensive record of US newspaper reporting on the Holocaust. Want to join other volunteer researchers like Dave in this effort? If so, go to newspapers [dot] ushmm [dot] org or contact community manager at https://newspapers.ushmm.org/message/manager.

David Laks (second row, first from right) joins other dedicated citizen historians at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to see the new Americans and the Holocaust special exhibition.

David Laks (second row, first from right) joins other dedicated citizen historians at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to see the new Americans and the Holocaust special exhibition.