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The USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, formerly Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, is a nonprofit organization established by Steven Spielberg in 1994, one year after completing the Academy Award-winning film Schindler's List. The original aim of the Foundation was to record testimonies of survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust (which in Hebrew is called the Shoah) as a collection of videotaped interviews.
The Foundation conducted nearly 52,000 interviews between 1994 and 1999. Interviewees included Jewish survivors, homosexual survivors, Jehovah's Witness survivors, liberators and liberation witnesses, political prisoners, rescuers and aid providers, Roma and Sinti (Gypsy) survivors, survivors of Eugenics policies, and war crimes trials participants.
In January 2006, the Foundation partnered with and relocated to the University of Southern California and was renamed the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education. 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 (for example with the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Service), to provide resources and online tools for educators, and to disseminate the testimonies in its archive for educational purposes. In addition to preserving the testimonies, the Institute helps document the stories of survivors and other witnesses of other genocides. Currently, the Institute is working with the Rwandan organization IBUKA to begin a project to collect testimony from survivors of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda that claimed as many as one million lives. Once collected and indexed, the testimony will be incorporated into the Visual History Archive, which contains all testimony previously collected by the Institute.
The USC Shoah Foundation aspires to be the world’s academic authority on the study of genocide and personal testimony. The Institute continues to incorporate new collections of genocide eyewitnesses while simultaneously fostering scholarly activities that confront real-world problems the testimonies raise. Scholars in many fields have utilized the vast resources of the Visual History Archive teaching over 325 university courses based on the collection across four continents. Researchers and thought leaders have utilized the testimonies in more than 73 scholarly works and the archive has been central to dozens of conferences across a range of disciplines.
The Institute develops teaching tools using testimony from the Visual History Archive for educators across the disciplinary spectrum such as history, civics, English and other language arts. The Institute also provides professional development to prepare educators worldwide to use testimony in relevant and engaging ways—providing an experience that takes students beyond the textbook. IWitness, the Institute’s flagship educational website for teachers and their students was recognized as one of the “Best Websites for Teaching and Learning” by the American Association of School Librarians in 2012. The website provides students access to 1,000 testimonies for guided exploration. Students can engage with the testimonies and bring them into their own multimedia projects via a built-in video editor. By combining testimonies with interactive and content-rich activities, IWitness promotes deeper understanding of 20th century history and development of 21st century digital literacy skills so as to inspire responsible participation in civil society.
Testimony is reaching a broad international audience through the Institute’s Visual History Archive, as well as IWitness, its YouTube channel, and its web portals provide resources in 11 languages. The complete Visual History Archive is available at 41 institutions around the world, while smaller collections are available at 179 sites in 30 countries. The Institute will continue to develop digital technologies to preserve and enhance the Visual History Archive while building access pathways for a broad audience of students, educators, scholars, and the general public.
Steven Spielberg, Honorary Chair
Edgar M. Bronfman, Honorary Co-chair
Renée Crown, Honorary Co-chair
Lew Wasserman, Honorary Co-chair in Memoriam
Gerald R. Molen
Kim Simon, Director of Programs and Interim Executive Director
Sam Gustman, Chief Technology Officer
Karen Jungblut, Director of Research and Documentation
Steven Klappholz, Executive Director of Development
Ari Zev, Director of Administration