Preserving the Visual History Archive

Preserving History

Between 2008 and 2012, trucks have been moving back and forth between the USC campus and east coast storage facility. On each trip, they carried a cargo of 15,000 master video tapes of the Institute's testimonies. Usually the Institute will pull master tapes from storage for particular educational projects, but these trips are different. The Shoah Foundation Institute understook the monumental task of preserving its archive by copying the video tapes over to digital files.

Why preserve the archive now?

Conservatively, life expectancy for video tape stock is roughly twenty years. The Institute began recording testimonies in 1994, which as of 2008 makes its collection fourteen years old. In response, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute is undertaking a multi-year, multimillion dollar effort to preserve and provide access to the testimonies in the Visual History Archive. The Institute will use state-of-the-art technology to duplicate each of the over 53,000 testimonies in a digital format that will prevent physical deterioration. The new digital files will preserve the same audio and video quality as the original recordings.

Expanding opportunities for access

Transferring the archive to a digital format not only saves the testimonies for future generations but also provides the Institute a wonderful opportunity to expand its outreach. During the preservation effort, each testimony will be copied in a wide variety of formats that can be played on any commercial video player. This will make it easier than ever before to share the testimonies with people around the world.