On April 13, 2010, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute signed a historic agreement with the Armenian Film Foundation and Dr. J. Michael and Anoinette Hagopian. The agreement paves the way for the Institute to preserve the Armenian Film Foundation's collection of nearly 400 interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the first major genocide of the 20th century: the attempt by the Ottoman Turks to annihilate the Armenian people in 1915.
Dr. J. Michael Hagopian, a filmmaker and a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, began conducting interviews with other survivors in 1968. In 1982, the Armenian Film Foundation—which Hagopian established to support the motion picture documentation of Armenian heritage and life—expanded the project in 1982. Hagopian and the Foundation conducted interviews in 10 countries, and while the majority of interviews are in Armenian (some in rare dialicts) or English, others are in Arabaic, French, German, Greek, Kurdish, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish.
"As a preliminary step towards including Armenian Genocide survivor testimonies in the archive, our agreement with the Armenian Film Foundation is a major milestone," said USC Shoah Foundation Institute Executive Director Stephen Smith. "This project will help preserve evidence of a genocide that must be acknowledged. It will honor the memory of those whose lives were taken, and it will ensure that future generations are able to learn from individuals who experienced the Armenian Genocide firsthand."
The signed agreement is the first step in the process to digitize, index, preserve, and disseminate the testimonies collected by Dr. Hagopian and the Armenian Film Foundation. Once the process is complete, the testimonies will become accessible through the Institute's Visual History Archive, which contains nearly 52,000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses. Funds must be raised before work will commence.