First International Academic Conference on the Visual History Archive

Fri, 03/19/2010 - 12:00am
USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education to host its first International Digital Access, Outreach, and Research Conference.

Institute welcomes academicians from across the world.

Watch video from the conference on Annenberg TV News

Listen to a broadcast from the conference on Annenberg Radio News


Contact:  Talia Cohen
Phone:  213.740.6036
Fax:  213.740.6044

LOS ANGLES, CA—(March 15, 2010)—The USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, which maintains an archive of nearly 52,000 video interviews with Holocaust survivors and other witnesses, will host its first International Digital Access, Outreach, and Research Conference from March 25–26, bringing together representatives from the 25 universities and museums worldwide that have access to the Institute’s archive of testimony (see participant list below).

The Institute is part of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California.  “The Visual History Archive will transform how we study the Holocaust and genocide.  In fact, this transformation has already begun at universities and museums around the world,” said Howard Gillman, Dean of USC College.  “But the testimonies are enhancing other studies as well, across a vast range of disciplines.  We have much yet to discover about the depths of the archive’s academic potential as well as its limits; this unprecedented gathering of colleagues is a first ever opportunity for us to truly learn together.”

The conference is made possible by a grant from the Jim Joseph Foundation, which is assisting the Institute in supporting a worldwide initiative to broaden access to the testimonies and increase their educational use throughout the world.

“Through this grant, the Jim Joseph Foundation recognizes the Institute’s archive as a unique and powerful resource for educators,” said Jack Slomovic, a member of the Jim Joseph Foundation Board of Directors.  “We hope our involvement will help the Institute and its colleagues make significant advancements in knowledge related to educational use of the archive so that students at every level, as well as scholars and researchers, may experience the full impact of the life stories of Holocaust survivors and other witnesses.”

“The generous gift from the Jim Joseph Foundation has enabled us to host a crucial gathering of colleagues from institutions that have taken upon themselves the tremendous responsibility—along with the Institute—of bearing the voices of the survivor generation far into the future,” said Stephen Smith, Institute Executive Director.  “Together, we will reach a higher level of understanding about the archive and articulate a framework of best practices that will inform its use throughout the world.”

Said conference participant Professor Nicolas Apostolopoulos, “The opportunity to meet with other scholars and discuss our similar interests in integrating the Institute’s archive into our curriculums provides a rare look into the behind-the-scenes educational framework of today’s leading establishments, not just in one domain, but around the world.  The testimonies offered in the Visual History Archive transcend regional barriers to educate students about important historical events.”  Apostolopoulos is the Managing Director of the Center for Digital Systems at Freie Universität Berlin.

Media are invited to attend part of the conference.  For further information or potential interviews, please contact Talia Cohen, Associate Director of Public Outreach & Communications at the Institute:  213-740-6036 or

About the International Digital Access, Outreach, and Research Conference

The International Digital Access, Outreach, and Research Conference will be an opportunity for collaborative thinking and discussion about how to increase the educational and scholarly impact of the Institute’s archive of Holocaust eyewitness testimony.  The conference will focus on topics including methodologies for integrating testimonies into courses; library resources and support services that endorse independent archive use; and assessments of videos as a primary source.

The Institute seeks to disseminate the testimonies and drive their use in higher education, scholarship, and research, and providing access to the archive at universities, museums, and other educational institutions is one of the most effective ways to work toward these goals.  Currently, 25 institutions on three continents have access, and testimony has been incorporated into 197 academic courses in disciplines ranging from cultural studies, anthropology, history, and political science to cinema-television, documentary film production, and communications.  Testimony has also become a resource for numerous research projects.

Conference Participants

In addition to the University of Southern California, institutions participating in the conference include Brown University, Central European University (Budapest, Hungary), Charles University (Prague, Czech Republic), Clark University, Columbia University, Duke University, Florida Atlantic University, Freie Universität (Berlin, Germany), Georgetown University, Monash University (Melbourne, Australia), Rice University, Rutgers University, Stanford University, Syracuse University, Texas A&M University, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, University of California at San Diego, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of South Florida, University of West Bohemia (Pilsen, Czech Republic), and Yad Vashem (Jerusalem, Israel).

About the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education

Established in 1994 by Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve the testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world:  nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries.  The Institute is part of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California; its 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 works within the University and with partners around the world to advance scholarship and research, to provide resources and online tools for educators, and to disseminate the testimonies for educational purposes.  In addition to preserving the testimonies in its archive, the Institute is working with partner organizations to help document the stories of survivors and other witnesses of other genocides.

About the Jim Joseph Foundation

The Jim Joseph Foundation, established in 2006, is committed to a sustained program of grant making in pursuit of a vision that leads to ever increasing numbers of young Jews engaged in ongoing Jewish learning and choosing to live vibrant Jewish lives.  For more information, visit the Foundation’s website,