Visual History Archive (USC Shoah Foundation and ProQuest)

March 12, 2018, 10:19 a.m.

USC Shoah Foundation
USC Shoah Foundation

In 1994, Steven Spielberg, director of the film “Schindler’s List,” established the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation at the University of Southern California (USC), with a goal to “record on videotape the testimonies of 50,000 survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust from around the world for educational purposes before it was too late.” This initial undertaking was completed in 1999.

While most of the original 51,696 Holocaust testimonies in the Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive came from Jewish Holocaust survivors, testimonies were also obtained from survivors of persecution against the Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and homosexuals, from survivors of Nazi eugenics policies, and from political prisoners and forced laborers, as well as from rescuers and aid providers, liberators, and participants in war crimes trials.  Subsequently, in keeping with the Shoah Foundation’s mission “to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry—and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of the Visual History Archive,” the Archive was expanded to include testimonies provided by eyewitnesses to a number of other genocides.

The Visual History Archive provides access to a fully streaming video collection of indexed primary-source testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides.  Within this archive, the largest of its kind, “history is preserved as told by the people who lived it,” and “the vast majority of the testimonies contain a complete personal history of life before, during, and after interviewees’ firsthand experience with genocide.”  (A supplementary feature enables the user to connect to contextual and related materials in other ProQuest databases.)

Total number of items: More than 54,400 video testimonies at an average of two hours each.

[Subcollections:] the European Holocaust, 1939-1945 (52,309 interviews); the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1923 (334 interviews); the Tutsi Genocide in Rwanda, 1994 (86 interviews); the Nanjing Massacre, 1937-1938 (30 interviews); the Guatemalan Genocide, 1978-1996 (10 interviews); and the Cambodian Genocide, 1975-1979 (5 interviews)]

Examples of uses: 

The Visual History Archive has served as a major resource for history and genealogy researchers, including individuals drawing on Archive content in producing dissertations and theses, publications, and documentary films.  In addition, curricula across a multiplicity of disciplines, in a variety of educational settings from secondary schools to colleges and universities, have made use of Visual History Archive material.  Examples of instructional use:

French Literature teaching example

Graphic Art teaching example

Additional information:

1,600 examples of full-length Visual History Archive testimonies are available on the USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Online YouTube platform

Written by: Lydia Wasylenko, Librarian for Citizenship and Humanities, Syracuse University Libraries

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