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Penn to Host Access to Entire USC Shoah Foundation Institute Archive of Holocaust Survivors

April 24, 2012, Volume 58, No. 31

The University of Pennsylvania has become the first university in Pennsylvania with access to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute's entire Visual History Archive (VHA) that contains nearly 52,000 video testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust in 32 languages and from 56 countries.

Penn President Amy Gutmann, who was moved by the Institute's work, hosted a special event yesterday in the lobby of the Annenberg Center to officially launch access to the collection.

Penn's partnership with the Shoah Foundation Institute is supported by the joint efforts of the Annenberg School for Communication, Penn Libraries and Penn's Division of Information Systems and Computing.

"This partnership between the University of Pennsylvania and USC's Shoah Foundation Institute provides an unparalleled resource for scholarly exploration across many disciplines, and I am proud we are able to offer the Philadelphia community access to the entire collection," said President Gutmann. "I have seen and experienced first-hand the impact that these personal testimonies can have. They are a poignant reminder that we must stand together against hatred and intolerance of any kind."

Dr. Gutmann's father fled Nazi Germany in 1934, eventually emigrating to the United States, where she was born. "My father's journey has been one of the most important influences in my life, and I feel a strong personal connection to the value of these educational opportunities made available by the Shoah Foundation Institute."

"Survivors' memories are the authoritative source for information on the Holocaust, and the value of audiovisual testimony to other areas of research has been demonstrated at universities around the world where the Institute's Visual History Archive has enhanced 275 academic courses in a wide range of disciplines," Dr. Stephen D. Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute, said. "By partnering with the Institute to bring the Visual History Archive to Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania has demonstrated its commitment to scholarship guided by the highest humanitarian principles."

The Visual History Archive is available for research to the Penn community and to users not affiliated with Penn. Access to the Visual History Archive is available from any computer on campus. See http://guides.library.upenn.edu/vha Computers and headphones are available in the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. For help using the Archive at Penn contact svha-help@lists.upenn.edu

The Visual History Archive is available via a streaming service on the Penn campus to both Penn affiliates and to visitors. Users may search the entire Visual History Archive, which is comprised of over 52,000 testimonies. Approximately 3,000 testimonies are immediately available for viewing in the Penn cache. These include a core group of testimonies distributed by the VHA as being representative of the entire collection (277 testimonies); all available Pennsylvania survivor testimonies (613 testimonies). This includes both people who were interviewed in Pennsylvania and those born in Pennsylvania.

In addition to Jewish survivors of the Holocaust, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute has gathered testimony from homosexual survivors, Jehovah's Witness survivors, Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) survivors, survivors of eugenics policies, political prisoners, liberators and liberation witnesses, rescuers and aid providers and war crimes trial participants. The Institute has also begun to collect testimonies of survivors and witnesses of other genocides, such as those in Rwanda and Cambodia.

The USC Shoah Foundation Institute was established in 1994 by film producer/director Steven Spielberg to collect and preserve these testimonies, and the Institute maintains one of the largest video digital libraries in the world. Between 1994 and 1999, 51,682 testimonies were videotaped. It has a long history in Philadelphia where its regional office was based and where the training of local residents as interviewers and videographers was coordinated. More than 600 testimonies were taken in Pennsylvania.

The Institute is part of the Dana and David Dornsife 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 USC 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 expand the archive with accounts of survivors and witnesses of other genocides.

See their website at www.dornsife.usc.edu/vhi/

Almanac - April 24, 2012, Volume 58, No. 31