USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education
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The USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, formerly Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, is a nonprofit organization established by Steven Spielberg in 1994, one year after completing his oscar winning film Schindler's List. The original aim of the Foundation was to record testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust (which in Hebrew is called the Shoah) as a collection of videotaped interviews.
The Foundation conducted nearly 52,000 interviews between 1994 and 1999. Interviewees included Jewish survivors, homosexual survivors, Jehovah's Witness survivors, liberators and liberation witnesses, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) survivors, survivors of Eugenics policies, and war crimes trials participants.
In January 2006, the Foundation partnered with and relocated to the University of Southern California and was renamed the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education.
The testimonies will be preserved in the Visual History Archive, one of the largest digital collections of its kind in the world. Currently encompassing 107,000 hours of video testimony, the Visual History Archive is an invaluable resource for humanity, with nearly every testimony containing a complete personal history of life before, during and after the interviewee’s firsthand experience with genocide. The Visual History Archive is digitized, fully searchable and hyperlinked to the minute. This indexing allows students, professors, researchers and others around the world to retrieve entire testimonies or search for specific sections within testimonies through a set of more than 62,000 keywords and key phrases, 1.3 million names, and 628,000 images.
The Institute has access to other primary resources in addition to the audio-visual testimonies. A Holocaust and Genocide Studies collection recently acquired by USC’s Doheny Library contains more than 1,000 original Nazi books and pamphlets, Jewish publications, microfilms with original documents such as Nazi newspapers and a nearly complete series of original transcripts of the International Nuremberg trials. Also included in the Doheny collection: early Holocaust historiography; early post-war publications of diaries and testimonies in various languages; and original papers of German and Austrian refugees from the Third Reich, including those of the famous German-Jewish writer Lion Feuchtwanger.
Meanwhile, the Institute's Visual History Archive is expanding its collection to include testimony from survivors and witnesses of other genocides, including the Rwandan Genocide and the Nanjing Massacre. Sixty-four Rwandan testimonies were added in the spring of 2013, and 12 testimonies from survivors of the Nanjing Massacre were added in the spring of 2014. The Institute is currently indexing nearly 400 testimonies from the Armenian Genocide, so they can begin to be integrated into the Visual History Archive by the event’s April 24, 2015, centennial.
The Institute aspires to be the world’s academic authority on the study of genocide and personal testimony. It continues to incorporate new collections of genocide eyewitness testimonies while simultaneously fostering scholarly activities that confront real-world problems the testimonies address. Scholars in many fields have utilized the vast resources of the Visual History Archive to teach more than 400 university courses across four continents, including 112 courses at USC. Researchers and thought leaders have utilized the testimonies in more than 121 scholarly works and the archive has been central to dozens of conferences across a range of disciplines.
In April 2014, the Institute announced the Center for Advanced Genocide Research, which will serve as the research and scholarship unit of the Institute. The Center will bring scholars from around the world to study how and why instances of mass violence occur, and how to intervene in the cycle that can lead to them. Each year, the Institute invites a renowned international thought leader to serve as Scholar-in-Residence. The Center will award up to 10 fellows every year. Institute fellows, staff and student interns participate in more than a dozen academic events on the USC campus annually. The Institute, in conjunction with the Center for Advanced Genocide Research, will host an international conference in November 2014 at USC titled “Memory, Media and Technology: Exploring the Trajectories of Schindler’s List,” examining the trajectories of memory, media and technology throughout a range of disciplines and from a variety of vantage points and venues.
Using testimony from the Visual History Archive, the Institute develops teaching tools for educators across the disciplinary spectrum, such as history, civics, English and other language arts. The Institute also provides professional development to prepare educators worldwide to use testimony in relevant and engaging ways—providing an experience that takes students beyond the textbook.
IWitness, the Institute’s flagship educational website for teachers and their students, provides students access to 1,300 testimonies for guided exploration. Students can engage with the testimonies and bring them into their own multimedia projects via a built-in video editor. Approximately 17,000 high school students and over 5,000 educators in 57 countries and all 50 U.S. states have used IWitness. The Institute has trained more than 39,000 educators around the world to incorporate testimony into classroom lessons. More than 200 educators have participated in advanced training and the Teaching with Testimony in the 21st Century programs in the U.S., Ukraine, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.
Testimony is reaching a broad international audience through the Institute’s Visual History Archive, as well as IWitness, its YouTube channel, and its Web portals in 12 languages. The complete Visual History Archive is available at 49 institutions around the world, while smaller collections are available at 199 sites in 33 countries. The Institute will continue to develop digital technologies to preserve and enhance the Visual History Archive, while building access pathways for a broad audience of students, educators, scholars and the general public. Approximately 1.6 million students, researchers, teachers and laypersons view the testimonies every year. The Visual History Archive Online (vhaonline.usc.edu) features more than 1,200 testimonies accessible worldwide.
Board of Councilors
Steven Spielberg, Honorary Chair
Edgar M. Bronfman, Honorary Co-chair in Memoriam
Renée Crown, Honorary Co-chair
Lew Wasserman, Honorary Co-chair in Memoriam
Robert Katz, Chair
Susan Crown, Vice chair
Harry Robinson, Vice chair
Dr. Marcy Gringlas
Founding Executive Directors
Founding Advisory Committee
Gerald R. Molen
Stephen D. Smith, Executive Director
Kim Simon, Managing Director
Sam Gustman, Chief Technology Officer
Karen Jungblut, Director of Research and Documentation
Kori Street, Director of Education
Ari Zev, Director of Administration
Anne Marie Stein, Director of Communications
Anita Pace, Director of Technology
Steven Klappholz, Executive Director of Development
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- Migdol, Robin (2014-04-21). "Armenian Film Foundation Delivers 400 Digitized Testimonies to USC Shoah Foundation". USC Shoah Foundation (USC Shoah Foundation).
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- Migdol, Robin. "Freie University Berlin Offering Summer School Course on the Visual History Archive" (July 2, 2014). USC Shoah Foundation.
- Migdol, Robin (May 13, 2014). "Dartmouth College Is a Visual History Archive Full Access Site". USC Shoah Foundation.
- USC Shoah Foundation Institute official website
- USC Shoah Foundation Institute Visual History Archive