USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education

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USC Shoah Foundation - The Institute for Visual History and Education, is dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides a compelling voice for education and action.

The Institute currently has over 53,000 testimonies, each one a unique source of insight and knowledge that offer powerful stories from history that demand to be explored and shared. In this way, we will be able to see the faces and hear the voices of those who witnessed history, allowing them to teach and inspire action against intolerance.

The testimonies will be preserved in the Visual History Archive[1], 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 Visual History Archive is expanding its collection to include testimony from survivors and witnesses of other genocides, including the Rwandan Tutsi Genocide[2] and the Nanjing Massacre. Sixty-four Rwandan testimonies were added in the spring of 2013, and 12 testimonies from survivors of the Nanjing Massacre[3] were added in the spring of 2014. The Institute is currently indexing nearly 400 testimonies from the Armenian Genocide[4], so they can begin to be integrated into the Visual History Archive by the event’s April 24, 2015, centennial. Each testimony collection adds context for the other, providing multiple pathways for students, educators and scholars to learn from the eyewitnesses of history across time, locations, cultures and social-political circumstances.

Leveraging the world-class faculty and scholarly resources of its home at the University of Southern California, within the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences[5], and with the vital support of the philanthropic community, the Institute strives to understand and share the insights contained within the Visual History Archive through three strategic priorities: Research, Education, and Access.


The USC Shoah Foundation aspires to be the world’s academic authority on the study of genocide and personal testimony. The Institute continues to incorporate new collections of genocide eyewitnesses while simultaneously fostering scholarly activities that confront real-world problems the testimonies raise. Scholars in many fields have utilized the vast resources of the Visual History Archive teaching over 325 university courses based on the collection across four continents. Researchers and thought leaders have utilized the testimonies in more than 73 scholarly works and the archive has been central to dozens of conferences across a range of disciplines.

  • Three hundred twenty five university courses in more than 25 disciplines have incorporated Institute testimony, including 88 courses at USC
  • Thirty-five completed dissertations have drawn on Institute testimony
  • Each year the Institute invites a renowned international thought leader to serve as Scholar in Residence
  • Two accomplished senior scholars are invited to join the Institute’s Fellows program annually
  • The Institute awards up to 10 Fellows every year
  • More than a dozen events on the USC campus annually delivered by fellows, staff, and student interns
  • Partners in Screening The Future Conference as a leading voice in the future of digital preservation
  • An annual academic conference on the future of Testimony at the Institute


The Institute develops teaching tools using testimony from the Visual History Archive 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 was recognized as one of the “Best Websites for Teaching and Learning” by the American Association of School Librarians in 2012. The website provides students access to 1,000 testimonies for guided exploration. Students can engage with the testimonies and bring them into their own multimedia projects via a built-in video editor. By combining testimonies with interactive and content-rich activities, IWitness promotes deeper understanding of 20th century history and development of 21st century digital literacy skills so as to inspire responsible participation in civil society.

  • iWitness has been accessed by approximately 4,000 high school students and nearly 2,000 educators in 26 countries and al 50 U.S. states
  • Through the Institute’s Teacher Innovation Network more than 2,500 educators around the world have been trained to incorporate testimony into classroom lessons
  • More than 100 educators have participated in the USC Shoah Foundation’s Master Teacher and Teaching with Testimony in the 21st Century programs in the U.S., Ukraine, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland

Global Access[edit]

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 provide resources in 11 languages. The complete Visual History Archive is available at 41 institutions around the world, while smaller collections are available at 179 sites in 30 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 one million students, researchers, teachers, and lay people view the testimonies every year
  • Visual History Archive Online ( features more than 1,100 testimonies accessible through multiple channels worldwide including the Institute’s YouTube channel
  • Forty-one academic institutions in 11 countries have full access to the Visual History Archive
  • Smaller collections are available at 179 sites in 30 countries

Board of Councilors[edit]

Steven Spielberg, Honorary Chair
Edgar M. Bronfman, Honorary Co-chair
Renée Crown, Honorary Co-chair
Lew Wasserman, Honorary Co-chair in Memoriam
Wallis Annenberg
Russel Bernard
Gerald Breslauer
Jerome Coben
Stephen Cozen
Susan Crown
David Eisman
Phyllis Epstein
Emanuel Gerard
Andrea Gordon
Douglas Greenberg
Eric Greenberg
Yossie Hollander
Robert Katz
William Lauder
Lee Liberman
Skip Paul
Bruce Ramer
Harry Robinson
Michael Rutman
Mickey Shapiro
Jerry Speyer
Erna Viterbi
Casey Wasserman
Harold Williams

Founding Executive Directors[edit]

June Beallor
James Moll

Founding Advisory Committee[edit]

Karen Kushell
Branko Lustig
Gerald R. Molen

Executive Staff[edit]

Kim Simon, Director of Programs and Interim Executive Director
Sam Gustman, Chief Technology Officer
Karen Jungblut, Director of Research and Documentation
Steven Klappholz, Executive Director of Development
Ari Zev, Director of Administration

External links[edit]

  1. ^ "About the VHA". USC Shoah Foundation. 
  2. ^ Stein, Anne Marie (April 19 2013). "Every Genocide Leaves a Legacy". USC Shoah Foundation. USC Shoah Foundation. 
  3. ^ Migdol, Robin (02.28.14). "Nanjing Massacre Collection Integrated Into Visual History Archive". USC Shoah Foundation (USC Shoah Foundation). USC Shoah Foundation. Retrieved 02.28.14. 
  4. ^ Migdol, Robin (04.21.14). "Armenian Film Foundation Delivers 400 Digitized Testimonies to USC Shoah Foundation - See more at:". USC Shoah Foundation (USC Shoah Foundation). 
  5. ^ Johnson, Pamela (OCt 1 2005). "USC and Shoah Foundation Team Up". USC Dornsife College of Letter Arts and Sciences (USC Dornsife). USC Dornsife. Retrieved Oct 1 2005.