Institute News

Renci Extends Visual History Archive to Duke, NC State Campuses

CHAPEL HILL, NC–June 18, 2007–The Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) is expanding access to the world’s largest video history archive to students, faculty and staff at Duke University and North Carolina State University.

The University of Southern California (USC) Shoah Foundation Institute’s Visual History Archive (VHA) was made available to students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill last November when RENCI deployed a 5.5-terabyte digital media cache of testimonies from the VHA.  RENCI and the USC Shoah Foundation Institute recently amended their agreement in order to give the Duke and North Carolina State communities access to the archive.

The archive includes nearly 52,000 video testimonies of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses collected in 32 languages and from 56 countries.  The vast majority of the interviews are with Jewish survivors of Nazi persecution; however, homosexual survivors, Jehovah’s Witness survivors, liberators and liberation witnesses, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, Roma and Sinti survivors (Gypsy), survivors of Eugenics policies, and war crimes trials participants also provided testimony.

“As time passes and the Holocaust becomes more distant, the testimonies contained in the Visual History Archive will endure as a primary resource from which scholars, educators, and students will learn about the experiences of the men and women who lived through one of the 20th Century’s worst tragedies,” explained Douglas Greenberg, Professor of History and Executive Director of the Shoah Foundation Institute.

The USC Shoah Foundation Institute is the successor to the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, established by Steven Spielberg, to document the experiences of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust.  The archive was initially made available to students at USC, Rice and Yale Universities, and the University of Michigan.  Access to the archive was expanded beyond the original four universities when RENCI reached an agreement to host a portion of the archive late last year.  Although the VHA was first made available to the UNC-Chapel Hill community, RENCI always planned to provide this resource to Duke and North Carolina State, according to RENCI Director Dan Reed.

“This archive is an important educational tool and a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit,” said Reed.  “RENCI is proud is be able to bring this resource to all three of our founding campuses.  It is an incredibly rich resource for scholars, students, and anyone who was touched by the Holocaust.”

To access the VHA requires a PC with access to one of the three university networks and Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player (for Windows users), or Safari and QuickTime (for Macintosh users, although some configuration is necessary).  Users can conduct a variety of searches using a hierarchical thesaurus that includes more than 50,000 geographic and experiential keywords, as well as the names of every person mentioned in the testimonies and biographical information for each interviewee.

Users can request testimonies already available on the local RENCI cache or request that testimonies be uploaded from the Los Angeles-based archive.  If requesting a testimony from the main archive, users are informed via email when the testimony arrives.  All requests are filled within 48 hours.

Anyone connected to the Duke, North Carolona State or UNC-Chapel Hill networks can access the archive at http://vha.renci.org.

RENCI:  Catalyst for Innovation

The Renaissance Computing Institute brings together computer and discipline scientists, artists, humanists, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, state leaders and educators, for collaborations designed to reshape science, the economy, the state of North Carolina and the world.  RENCI leverages its expertise and resources in leading edge computing, networking and data technologies to ignite innovation and find solutions to previously intractable problems.  Founded in 2004 as a major collaborative venture of Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the state of North Carolina, RENCI is a statewide virtual organization.  For more, see www.renci.org.

USC Shoah Foundation Institute

The Shoah Foundation Institute is part of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California.  The Institute’s mission is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry—and the suffering they cause—through the educational use of the Institute's visual history testimonies.  The Institute relies upon partnerships in the United States and around the world to provide public access to the archive and advance scholarship in many fields of inquiry.  The Institute and its partners also utilize the archive to develop educational products and programs for use in many countries and languages.