About the Human Sanctuary

The Human Sanctuary is a web based, interactive, encyclopedia offering a unique glimpse into community life during the historical period at the beginning of the Common Era (CE). The platform is designed to augment the feature film about three, young Jews who lived in the Judean Desert by the shores of the Dead Sea during the final days of the Second Temple Period. The fictitious, cinematic narrative is based on ancient literature, and archaeological finds, and acts both as the starting point for the website, as well as the engine that drives the interaction. Users are invited to dive into the rich, but complex information at their fingertips by interrogating the scenes, and constructing their own pathways directly to the resources that inspired the film. As the story moves through by linear progression from scene to scene, the events and concepts embedded in the story are revealed as annotations. This allows the viewer to pause the storyline for a moment, to click on the annotated link, and to move behind the scene. Links connect to primary sources; bibliography and glossary; explanatory texts and cinematic footnotes, and all coming together to create the encyclopedic fabric of the film. There is no single route through the narrative, although we do recommend viewing the film in its entirety at least once in order to be able to follow both the narrative, and appreciate its aesthetic qualities. Once viewers become familiar with the story they are invited to dive in deeper either through the annotations or by accessing the subject list that accompanies the narrative. The hierarchical structure of the topics presents a different kind of navigation; a systematic index where the ideas are revealed, and the logic behind the fiction become visible.

In contrast to the fiction of the plot, and the made-up characters in the story, the images that relate to the film are drawn from the Israel Museum collection. These include objects from archaeological remains found at the site of the narrative in Qumran by the banks of the Dead Sea, images related to the excavation process, and images of the scrolls, the focus of the story. Each image is linked both to the text and directly to various scenes of the film. In the same way that each scene is linked to one or more topics, each scene is also linked to one or more image. In this way the present and historical past is woven into the cinematic qualities of the film and its accompanying encyclopedic information space. In this way, the visual, cinematic and textural information all come together to the integrated information space to grant users new kinds of access, and a novel way to visualize complex layers of embedded knowledge. Through visualizing the underlying structure of the dataset and their spatial relations, images, texts, citations, and cinematic vignettes open up new channels of exploration to access, use, and re-use the information in a virtual environment.

Target Audience

We believe that the experiential nature of the film, and its underlying conceptual structures delivered in this way offers excellent opportunities for reflection, new opportunities for self-paced learning, and creativity. The annotated version A Human Sanctuary was developed as an educational platform for the Dorot Study and Information Center and this novel iteration of the film is part of the overall strategy that guides the production of innovative, educational content for the Study Center.
Dr. Adolfo Roitman, Project Leader, Israel MuseumTirza Deutscher, Project Coordinator, Israel Museum
Dr. Susan Hazan, Curator of New Media, Israel Museum
Prof. Moshe Caine, Department Head, Interactive Communications, Hadassah College Jerusalem.
Dr. Sorin Herman, the Cyprus Institute (CyI-STARC), Nicosia