A newly launched partnership aims to broaden the Jewish genealogy database and preserve it digitally for future generations. The collaboration between MyHeritage.com, the worldwide genealogical social networking site based in Bnei Atarot, and Beit Hatfutsot (The Museum of the Jewish People, formerly Museum of the Diaspora) will help provide a resting place for hard-won data from and for families around the world.
"I want Beit Hatfutsot to be the storehouse for the Jewish people," says museum CEO Avinoam Armoni, while MyHeritage.com founder and CEO Gilad Japhet, an avid genealogist, says: "We see it as a privilege to cooperate with Beit Hatfutsot, help it collect family trees from people who wish to participate, and preserve them for eternity."
Both men feel strongly that family history should not fade away in someone's attic or basement, but rather be stored and shared properly. "Family history is an enriching and bonding human experience," adds Japhet.
Previously, said Armoni, the museum did not have a proactive approach toward enriching its databases. At the museum's recent board meeting, a resolution passed making genealogy part of a strategic resolution. "It's mindboggling what you can do with a little money and strategic thinking," he added.
According to Armoni, "the future of Beit Hatfutsot is technology." He adds that the museum is unusual as it has no artifacts, but serves as a discussion and education platform, with its crown jewel - their Mona Lisa - being its collective multimedia database. It includes Jewish genealogy, surname and community databases, films and videos, photographs and a music archive.
MyHeritage.com, founded in 2003 by hi-tech expert Japhet, has provided free family tree software to millions of international members who create family sites to connect with relatives, share information and collaborate on research. As a leading world network for families, it is also the second largest family history website, according to various surveys.
The immediate benefits of the project, says Armoni, is providing free software to the public to create trees, with an option to donate and share the trees with Beit Hatfutsot. Japhet adds that "we are taking part in a project of significance on a historic scale, fulfilling our own goal of proliferating family history."
Trees will only be transferred to the museum for inclusion in its database when their creators provide consent by signing the agreement to share their trees. Those who submit trees register to create free family sites at MyHeritage.com, which provides opportunities to share information, research, and store priceless family documents, photographs, videos and more, as members take full advantage of innovative technologies in face recognition and other tools.
With the free software from MyHeritage.com, family trees will be digitally preserved for future generations, making it easier for descendants to learn more about their families. This adds to what the museum has been doing since 1978 - collecting digital information to preserve Jewish history and heritage.
The museum's best-known genealogical project is the annual "My Family Tree" international competition. Over 14 years, some 200,000 students in Israel and abroad have participated - the event culminates in an award ceremony each spring. Now, participants will create their trees on the MyHeritage.com software - Family Tree Builder.
"Since Beit Hatfutsot is a national institution," says Armoni, "the public should know that entrusting their heritage will preserve it forever."
The museum is planning a major campaign to raise money and sponsorship, with the goal of building the "global world family tree together." For Jewish genealogists, this option means another way to store data as an additional back-up method. The project, says an optimistic Armoni, will add millions of elements to the databases, and also provide family sites on MyHeritage.com.
Most importantly for researchers, privacy controls can be set as desired on MyHeritage.com family sites. Family historians worry about protecting data from unauthorized individuals who may make changes or add errors. Settings range from allowing everyone to access all data to keeping the family site and its data completely private. A tree creator may invite relatives to view the site, but can also limit who can add, change or post information.
MyHeritage.com operates in 36 languages, has more than 35 million members, 420 million profiles and more than 9 million family trees. Features aimed at making connecting easy include photo and genealogy research tools, while members set up family websites to store and share documents, video, photos and family trees with far-flung relatives.
Beit Hatfutsot's plans include a "virtual" museum and an internet presence for digitalized database access, possibly within a year. The physical plant is being rebuilt for some $25 million. It is to be completed in 2012.
Visitors to what Armoni claims will be the largest interactive museum in Israel will be not only spectators, but participants and contributors to the Jewish people's continuing story. The family tree collaboration with MyHeritage.com is an important component.
For more information, see MyHeritage.com http://www.myheritage.com/BH, and visit Beit Hatfutsot's resources online.