Institute News

Rwandan Testimonies Add 500 New Terms to Visual History Archive’s Thesaurus

Testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide added to USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive have resulted in 500 new search terms for the archive’s indexing system.

The index is a controlled vocabulary of more than 50,000 terms that make up the Shoah Foundation’s Thesaurus and that allow detailed searching of the testimonies in the archive.

The indexing of the 64 Rwandan Tutsi Genocide testimonies that were recently added to the Visual History Archive was a collaborative effort of Shoah Foundation and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. After receiving indexing training from the Shoah Foundation, three indexers from the Memorial Center returned to Rwanda, where they watched and indexed testimonies.

The Rwandan indexers used existing terms from the Thesaurus and supplemented them by proposing new concepts when needed. New terms sometimes had close analogies to the Holocaust and only had to be slightly modified, while many were more specific to places, events, and experiences in Rwanda, such as “anti-Tutsi prejudice,” “machete attacks,” “Rwandan Patriotic Front,” and “United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda.”

This is the first time non-Holocaust terms have been added to the Thesaurus. A further 300 terms have been proposed from the Rwandan indexing but they require further research to ensure consistency and accuracy.

The Visual History Archive now includes 105,000 hours of testimony. Testimonies are indexed by assigning terms from the Thesaurus to the relevant one-minute segments of each testimony. Users can input terms—names, places, time periods, and a huge array of subjects and experiences—and the archive will immediately provide the names of people who spoke about those topics and will queue up the testimony to the segment in which they talk about them.

Additional testimonies will soon be added to the archive from survivors of genocides in Cambodia and Armenia, continuing to expand the Thesaurus.