The USC Shoah Foundation announced Wednesday it is broadening access to its archive of genocide testimony by partnering with a technology company that connects researchers at universities, libraries, schools and organizations around the world.
Starting immediately, ProQuest will become the exclusive distributor of the USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education’s Visual History Archive to colleges and universities around the world, except in China, according to foundation Executive Director Stephen Smith.
“To get an idea of what a landmark moment this is for us, consider the fact that as recently as 2002, just four institutions had full access to the Visual History Archive,” Smith said.
“It took us 13 years to get to our current number of 53 subscribing institutions. Now, we are poised to quadruple our current number within two years, and project a 10-fold increase by our 25th anniversary in 2019,” he said. “And that is just the beginning.”
The partnership with ProQuest will allow for archival-quality transcripts of all 53,000 testimonies totaling more than 112,000 hours, complementing the institute’s current indexing methods and refining the process of searching testimonies for specific points of interest.
Revenue from the partnership will be used to offset the cost of transcribing the interviews, according to the institute. The transcription process is expected to take five years and will be undertaken by native- speaking academic research transcriptionists for the 39 languages represented in the Visual History Archive.
Transcripts allow for more targeted searches than keywords, according to the institute, and will allow scholars “to find many undiscovered commonalities, patterns and themes that lie hidden in the Visual History Archive.”
Transcriptions will also provide another layer of protection to ensure the preservation of the testimonies.
“The implications from a genocide studies standpoint are enormous,” said Wolf Gruner, director of the Center for Advanced Genocide Research. “It means that hundreds if not thousands of researchers will soon benefit from the availability of transcripts in the Visual History Archive, yet also of cross- finding other historical sources via the ProQuest interface, offering totally new ways of accessing the testimonies that will allow for significant and, I assume, even surprising contributions to our understanding of the Holocaust and other genocides and massacres, including those in Rwanda, Armenia, and Nanjing.”
Gruner said the Visual History Archive Program “as a whole also creates new opportunities for hundreds of thousands of students who will, for the first time, be able to connect at their universities with the testimonies of the Visual History Archive for their studies and research.”
ProQuest’s agreement with the institute initially pertains exclusively to colleges and universities, but eligibility over time will extend to museums and K-12 schools.
Ann Arbor-based ProQuest, founded in 1938 as University Microfilms, boasts reference databases encompassing more than six centuries of historical documents, including academic journals, newspapers, dissertations, diaries, ancient texts, books and podcasts.
—City News Service
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