Cataloguing and Indexing
Each of the nearly 52,000 testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, preserved for all time, is invaluable. However, the full social and educational potential of these testimonies cannot be realized without creating an effective means for future viewers to search through the tens of thousands of hours of testimony.
A team of historians, technology professionals, software engineers, and experts in information management developed the USC Shoah Foundation Institute's cataloguing and indexing systems, in order to make the more than 100,000 hours of testimony searchable.
The catalogue entry for each testimony consists of brief biographical information about each interviewee, taken primarily from the Pre-Interview Questionnaire that the interviewer filled out prior to each interview. This questionnaire asked for detailed biographical information about the interviewees’ birthplace, education, family members, prewar occupation, religious affiliation, ghetto and concentration camp experiences, resistance activities, and post-war life. This cataloguing information has been compiled and is searchable in the Online Testimony Catalogue. For further information about this cataloguing methodology, please see the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Cataloguing Guidelines.
At the core of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s indexing system is a controlled vocabulary, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Thesaurus, of over 50,000 index terms. These index terms include geographical locations and time periods (e.g. “Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia,” “Germany 1941”), as well as location names (e.g. “Auschwitz [Poland: Concentration Camp]”) and experiences (e.g. “thirst in hiding,” “separation of loved ones”). The names of the 1.2 million individuals mentioned in each testimony are also indexed and searchable. Appropriate index terms are matched with one-minute segments of each testimony, thereby permitting users to perform detailed searches for relevant testimonies or segments of testimonies. For further information about this indexing methodology, please see the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Indexing Guidelines.
As of January 2006, 99% of the nearly 52,000 testimonies have been catalogued and 95% have been indexed. The entire archive is now searchable using a web-based software tool, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute's Visual History Archive (VHA) which is available at a number of universities and institutions in the United States and abroad via a separate, high-capacity network called Internet2 – or its variants in other countries. To find an institution with access to the entire Visual History Archive, please click here or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.