About Us

The USC Shoah Foundation Story

Language: English

View “The USC Shoah Foundation Story,” a video about the Institute's history and its current mission at the University of Southern California.

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.

With a current collection of nearly 52,000 eyewitness testimonies, the Visual History Archive preserves history as told by the people who lived it. Each testimony is a unique source of insight and knowledge offering powerful stories from history that demand to be explored and shared. In this way we will be able to see their faces and hear their voices, allowing them to teach, and inspire action against intolerance.

The Visual History Archive is the largest digital collection of its kind in the world. Currently encompassing 109,729 hours of video testimony, the 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 62,882 keywords and key phrases, 1.79 million names, and 682,923 images.

In the Spring of 2013, the Visual History Archive expanded to include testimonies from eyewitnesses of genocide from Rwanda.

Approaching its 20th Anniversary in 2014, the Institute is committed to teaching with testimony, endeavoring to make the power of each story accessible to students, educators, scholars, and the general public on every continent.

Leveraging the world-class faculty and scholarly resources of its academic home at the University of Southern California, within the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, 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 including Research, Education, and Access.

RESEARCH: Developing Content with Consequence

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 eyewitness testimonies 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 more than 489 university courses based on the collection across four continents, including 128 courses at USC. Researchers and thought leaders have utilized the testimonies in 144 scholarly works and the archive has been central to dozens of conferences across a range of disciplines.

  • Thirty-eight 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.
  • Institute fellows, staff, and student interns deliver more than a dozen academic events on the USC campus annually.
  • The Institute partners in Screening The Future Conference as a leading voice in the future of digital preservation.
  • The Institute hosts an annual academic conference on the future of testimony in scholarship.

EDUCATION: Teaching the World through Testimony

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 1,510 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.

  • Approximately 37,674 high school students and 9,327 educators in 60 countries and all 50 U.S. states have accessed IWitness.
  • More than 11,000 educators have participated in advanced training and the Teaching with Testimony in the 21st Century programs around the world including the U.S., Ukraine, Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.
  • The Institute has trained 53,680 educators around the world to incorporate testimony into classroom lessons.

GLOBAL ACCESS: Sharing the Testimonies

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 51 institutions around the world, while smaller collections are available at 207 sites in 34 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.

  • Over 6.5 million students, researchers, teachers, and lay people view the testimonies every year.
  • Visual History Archive Online (vhaonline.usc.edu) features 1,629 testimonies accessible worldwide.
  • 51 academic institutions in 13 countries have full access to the Visual History Archive.
  • Localized collections of testimony are available at 207 sites in 34 countries.