After guiding USC Shoah Foundation through the process of integrating its first-ever Armenian Genocide testimonies into the Visual History Archive over the past five years, UCLA Professor Emeritus and USC Adjunct Professor of History Richard Hovannisian made his most personal contribution to the Institute yet: his own oral history.
USC Shoah Foundation staff filmed Hovannisian’s interview at his home in Los Angeles on July 12, 2017. Director of Global Initiatives Karen Jungblut was the interviewer and Video Archive and Post-Production Supervisors Zach Goode and Andrea Reese were behind the camera.
The new testimony will join an interview Hovannisian gave filmmaker J. Michael Hagopian in 1975 that is already available to view in the Visual History Archive. Hagopian filmed all 333 testimonies in the Institute’s current collection, which it acquired from the Armenian Film Foundation in 2012.
Hovannisian served as the Institute’s scholarly advisor for the collection, providing expertise as staff indexed Hagopian’s testimonies and integrated them into the Visual History Archive. His advice helped determine new keywords for the VHA’s thesaurus and guided how the testimonies were indexed to become searchable into the archive.
While the interview he gave to Hagopian over 40 years ago was mainly academic, focused on Armenian Genocide history and denial, Hovannisian’s new interview for USC Shoah Foundation was about his own life story. It covered his early life, identity, education and career, as well as his thoughts on Armenian Genocide scholarship and the importance of oral history testimonies in remembering and studying genocides.
Jungblut said the new testimony gives a glimpse into the personal life of a truly remarkable scholar, advocate, and human being.
Hovannisian was born in Tulare, Calif., in 1932. His parents moved the family eventually to a farm, where he grew up not knowing much about his family’s history at first. He attended UC Berkeley and received his PhD in history from UCLA, where he joined the faculty in 1962. There, he founded UCLA’s undergraduate and graduate programs in Armenian history.
In 1969, Hovannisian created one of his most remarkable courses, History 107D: a seminar in which students recorded and conducted interviews with Armenian Genocide survivors and then transcribed them. The project ultimately gathered more than 1,000 interviews.
Hovannisian is the author of Armenia on the Road to Independence; The Republic of Armenia, Volumes I-IV; and The Armenian Holocaust; and has edited, contributed to or written dozens of other books, scholarly articles and journals on Armenia and Near Eastern society and culture. He is also a leader in the Armenian scholarly community, serving on the board of directors of organizations including Facing History and Ourselves, the International Institute on the Holocaust and Genocide and the Society for Armenian Studies, which he also co-founded.
He was also honored by His Holiness Karekin I and the President of Artsakh with the Medal of St. Mesrop Mashtots for his advancement of Armenian Studies.