Celebrations in New York and Los Angeles Mark Completion of Integration of Armenian Film Foundation Testimonies
USC Shoah Foundation on Monday Mar. 27 and on Friday Mar. 31 celebrated the completion of a years-long endeavor to integrate hundreds of testimonies from the Armenian Genocide into the Institute’s Visual History Archive – an online portal of 55,000 audiovisual testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides that have been catalogued and indexed at the Institute.
At the Monday commemoration at the Institute’s home in USC Leavey Library, Institute staff were joined by USC Provost Michael Quick, as well as members of the Armenian Film Foundation, which owns most of the 333 interviews of Armenian survivors and scholars – some recorded more than once – now included in the Visual History Archive.
The 334th testimony in the collection – taken by the Institute – is a discussion with the man responsible for the collection: J. Michael Hagopian, who spent decades of his life filming eyewitness accounts of one of the darkest chapters in history, starting his interviews with survivors in the early 1980s and working through the 2010, when he passed away.
Hagopian’s widow, Antoinette, and daughter Joanne were also present at the celebration, and received thankful ovations from the audience.
The journey leading up to Monday’s event started in 2010, when Hagopian signed an agreement with the Institute to help preserve and share the testimonies he traveled the world to collect. Since then, his testimonies have been digitized, transcribed, translated and subtitled – an arduous and expensive process, considering that the original interviews were conducted across 10 countries, in English, Greek, German, French, Russian and Spanish. They also include four languages previously not represented in the Visual History Archive: Arabic, Armenian, Kurdish and Turkish; and 400 new indexing terms.
“I knew it was the duty of USC Shoah Foundation to be a part of the preservation,” USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Stephen Smith said. “Not only because we were in the midst of fighting – and continue to fight – against the denial of the Armenian Genocide, but because I knew instinctively there was nothing better to do to fight denial than working together.”
Carla Garapedian, of the Armenian Film Foundation, has worked on the project since its inception:
“Hearing a survivor’s account of what happened in a powerful way to educate, inform and raise awareness about all intolerance to prevent future genocides,” Garapedian said. “Here in a world-class archive, which is available around the world, these survivor voices will never die. They will always live here as proof of what happened when the Young Turks came close to annihilating all of the Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire.”
Across the country at the Yale Club New York City, a similar celebration occurred this past Friday at the Institute’s Armenian outreach event, featuring many guests eager to get out of some intense weather, like the Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America; the permanent Armenian Ambassador to the United Nations Zohrab Mnatsakanyan; and several attendees from the Armenian General Benevolent Union. The event was organized by USC Shoah Foundation Next Generation Council member Melanie Dadourian.
The Dadourian Foundation supports the Armenian Education and Outreach Specialist position at USC Shoah Foundation, which develops education materials and teacher trainings for teaching the Armenian Genocide for IWitness.
Jayne Perilstein, managing director of advancement at USC Shoah Foundation, said the event was a “great first step in re-engaging this community.”
The New York event closed with a blessing from the Archbishop, which can be found in full below: “We painfully acknowledge that the world has not yet done enough to end the plague of genocide. And so we ask, Lord, that you will shine your light into the dark corners of the world, to expose cruelty and injustice wherever it afflicts innocent people – so that the genocides experienced by so many nations in the past will never again be repeated anywhere on the face of this earth.”
Below is the blessing delivered by Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, at the close of the USC Shoah Foundation gathering in New York City, on March 31, 2017.
We ask your blessing on the people gathered here, all of whom stand in the cause of witness, memory, and the ongoing struggle for justice.
We ask you to grant rest to the souls of all who perished in the genocides of the past and present; to cast your blessing on those who survived; and to bestow your peace on all of their descendants.
We painfully acknowledge that the world has not yet done enough to end the plague of genocide. And so we ask, Lord, that you will shine your light into the dark corners of the world, to expose cruelty and injustice wherever it afflicts innocent people—so that the genocides experienced by so many nations in the past will never again be repeated anywhere on the face of this earth.
We pray that you will inspire our leaders with wisdom, compassion, and resolution in the face of evil. Our world today exists in a time of uncertainty; and in such a time, O God, we seek above all to know and perform your will. We pray that you will remember the sacrifices being made today in the name of human dignity; that you will shepherd the downtrodden out of the darkness of persecution; and that you will steer our entire world to a new dawn of peace—for all your children.
Finally, we thank you for this great country of America, which still stands as a beacon of hope to the world’s people.
For all of these things, may your name be praised from generation to generation. Amen.