International Digital Access, Outreach, and Research Conference
USC Campus, Los Angeles, CA
In March 2010, representatives from 25 universities and museums with access to the Visual History Archive came to the Institute for the International Digital Access, Outreach, and Research Conference, an unprecedented opportunity for collaborative learning and dialogue about the use of the archive in research and higher education.
Download a PDF of the Visual History Archive in Practice
Teaching with Testimony – Case Studies
This session covers four presentations by faculty who have integrated the Institute’s testimonies into their courses in disciplines ranging from French and Italian, Didactics, Communication Studies, and Religious Studies. This session is moderated by Carolyn Ellis, Professor of Communications and Sociology, University of South Florida. The presenters are: Colin Keaveney (Senior Lecturer, French and Italian, University of Southern California), Martin Lücke (Lecturer, Didactics of History, Freie Universität Berlin), Roy Schwartzman (Professor of Communication Studies, University of North Carolina at Greensboro), and Gregory Kaplan (Anna Smith Fine Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Rice University).
Teaching with Testimony – Lessons Learned
This plenary session follows up on earlier breakout sessions that addressed issues related to how context, teaching methodologies, and teaching objectives differ based on course discipline. This session is moderated by Mark Baker (Associate Professor, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Monash University, Melbourne, Australia). One representative from each of the four groups reports on:
- Which teaching methodologies work best when integrating testimonies into courses?
- How important is providing context for testimony in courses?
- What challenges and problems arise when integrating testimony into courses?
- What library and Institute support can be provided to encourage and help faculty and students to use testimonies in course work?
Testimonies: Reliability, Methodology, and Theory
Since the Institute’s testimonies were given around 50 years after the events described, researchers must confront issues of memory and reliability. In this session moderated by Andrea Pető (Associate Professor, Gender Studies, Central European University), Robert Rozett, (Director of Yad Vashem Libraries) addresses problems that revolve around memory and reliability. He asks whether testimonies and memoirs bring us closer than other kinds of historical documents to understanding what people went through. Wolf Gruner (Shapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of History, University of Southern California) addresses the question of whether video testimonies require a different methodological approach than other primary sources and whether testimonies can be used as primary sources on their own? Michael Renov (Associate Dean, Academic Affairs and Professor of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California) speaks about current theories relating specifically to studying testimony and what new critical approaches are most profitable for studying video testimonies.
Testimonies: Emotions & Balance
Audio-visual testimonies of traumatic historical events arouse profound emotions in their viewers. The pedagogical questions raised in this session focuses on the appropriateness and/or usefulness of emotionality in teaching about the Holocaust. While many participants were eager to regulate student emotionality in order to ensure an understanding of the larger historical events and a critical distance from the experience of the survivors, others argued that emotion can be a highly useful tool to awaken students empathy and understanding of their past and present surroundings.
This session is moderated by Beth Meyerowitz (Professor of Psychology and Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California) and includes Carolyn Ellis (Professor of Communications and Sociology, University of South Florida), Sharon Gillerman (Adjunct Associate Professor, History, Director of the Edgar F. Magnin School of Graduate Studies and Associate Professor of Jewish History, Hebrew Union College), and Michael Renov (Professor of Cinematic Arts, University of Southern California). Panelists discussing the following topics:
- How do students respond emotionally to testimony? How do faculty strike a healthy balance of providing a safe place to emote while maintaining a critical evaluation of content?
- How do the emotions of the interviewee and the response of the interviewer influence the narrative?
- What are the emotional effects or repercussions of using survivor testimonies in the classroom? How does emotionality affect the learning process?
The two-day conference was made possible through funding from the Jim Joseph Foundation, which is assisting the Institute’s worldwide effort to broaden access to the testimonies and increase their educational use throughout the world.
Nearly 60 academicians participated in the conference. Together, they discussed some of the most thought-provoking issues related to the archive and its content, such as when to provide context for testimony, and to what extent; the emotional aspect of testimony-based inquiry; the reliability of testimony as a resource for verifying the accuracy of other source material; and how testimony differs from other kinds of historical documentation. Professor Omer Bartov, the John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History, Professor of History, and Professor of German Studies at Brown University, delivered the keynote address.
Download a PDF of the conference agenda
“The generous gift from the Jim Joseph Foundation enabled us to host a crucial gathering of colleagues from institutions that have, along with the Institute, taken upon themselves the responsibility of bearing the voices of the survivor generation far into the future,” said Stephen D. Smith, Institute Executive Director. “The conference resulted in a deeper, collective understanding of the archive’s potential, and it has allowed us to initiate the communal process through which a framework of practice will take shape to inform the use of the archive in the future.”
Visit college.usc.edu/scholarship to learn more about the use of the archive in academia.