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Visual History Archive sees largest-ever quarterly jump in subscribers

A consortium of more than 40 Hungarian academic institutions and public libraries has subscribed to the Visual History Archive, amounting to the largest-ever quarterly jump of access sites to the world’s largest repository of video testimonies of witnesses to genocide.

The wave of new subscriptions from Hungary’s Electronic Information Service National Programme (EISZ) was reflected in the latest round of quarterly stats released last month by USC Shoah Foundation. It brings the total number of access sites from 97 institutions to 138. The number of universities, museums and other institutions that subscribe the Archive has nearly doubled since 2017.

The addition of the Hungarian access sites began with the efforts of Andrea Szonyi, USC Shoah Foundation’s senior international training consultant and regional consultant in Hungary, who worked closely with the ProQuest representative in Hungary to inform the consortium of the Archive’s value. The consortium officially signed on in May. It includes the University of Szeged, Pázmány Péter Catholic University,  the University of Theatre and Film Arts, the Jewish Theological Seminary - University of Jewish Studies, and about 20 libraries, among other institutions.

“The content of the Visual History Archive provides endless opportunities for research,” Szonyi said. “The voices of the survivors and witnesses bring the history of the 20th century closer to the people today – especially to students. These stories help them understand so many things, not only about the past but also about their own lives today.”

To introduce the Archive and its possibilities to library and faculty representatives, Szonyi and other coordinators, including staff from the USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research, held information days and conducted workshops in Budapest and outside the Hungarian capital. Those from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences who had the chance to interact with the Archive were immediately convinced, Szonyi said.

“Academy representatives made the decision,” she said. “They saw its value and potential.”

With support from the government of Hungary, the Academy decided to fund access for members of the consortium. Now, universities with strong pedagogical faculties, as well as many universities maintained by major religious denominations, have the ability to interact with the testimonies gathered by USC Shoah Foundation, distributed to libraries by ProQuest.

Professor Istvan Monok, director-general of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, is excited about the new opportunities afforded by USC Shoah Foundation’s archive, which contains more than 1,300 interviews in Hungarian and thousands of interviews about Hungarian-related experiences in other languages.

“Access enhances the role of institutions in preserving their historical and cultural heritage,” Monok said. “[The Archive] is also an indispensable and inevitable source in local history research. … The service provides a wide range of uses.”

The spread in access to the deeply personal testimonies is “sure to spark further discovery on the social and cultural dynamics that lead to genocide, and ultimately provide vital clues on how best to intervene in that deadly crisis,” said Stephen Smith, USC Shoah Foundation’s Finci-Viterbi Executive Director.

In addition to the 40-plus institutions from Hungary, the latest group of new access sites also includes Florida International University, Smith College in Massachusetts and Museo del Holocausto de Buenos Aires in Argentina.

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