User Guide
 
 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions about the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education and Visual History Archive (VHA). It contains some general information about the institute and the VHA and information specific to using the VHA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

What is the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education?

What is the Visual History Archive (VHA)?

What is included in a visual history testimony?

How are RENCI and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill involved with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute?

Who can access the VHA?

Can I use the VHA if I am not a student, staff or faculty member at UNC?

Do I have to transfer any video I want to watch to the RENCI-based cache server? Or can I watch testimonies directly from the archive at USC?

Can I use clips from the videos in a presentation?

Can I get transcriptions of the testimonies?

How do I cite the VHA materials in my work?

Does RENCI plan to continue offering access to the VHA?

After submitting a query, I receive the email message: "The testimony for could not be loaded into the USC Shoah Foundation Institute video cache at University of North Carolina due to temporary technical difficulties."  What should I do?


What is the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education? 

The mission of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute is to overcome prejudice, intolerance, and bigotry - and the suffering they cause - through the educational use of the Institute's visual history testimonies. In 1994, after filming Schindler's List, Steven Spielberg established Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation to document the experience of survivors and other witnesses to the Holocaust, including those who aided, rescued, and liberated the survivors. With a collection of nearly 52,000 video testimonies in 32 languages and from 56 countries, the Visual History Archive is the largest in the world, requiring 200 terabytes of storage.

What is the Visual History Archive (VHA)?

The VHA is a software tool created by the USC Shoah Foundation Institute that allows users to search for and view the digital video footage contained in the Institute’s archive. The VHA allows users to search for and locate whole testimonies of relevance and to find specific segments within testimonies. 

What is included in a visual history testimony?

Each testimony consists of a survivor or witness speaking about his or her life before, during and after the Holocaust. After completing a “Pre-Interview Questionnaire” (PIQ), the interviewers are able to formulate questions appropriate to each interviewee's experience, age, education, social and religious background. At the end of the video testimony, the interviewee is given the opportunity to display artifacts, such as photographs. Family members also are given the opportunity to speak at this time.

Testimonies were recorded on videotape and preserved on digital master tapes.   The average testimony is 2.5 hours long.

How are RENCI and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill involved with the USC Shoah Foundation Institute?

In early 2006 with a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Institute conducted a pilot program that allowed students at USC, Rice University, and Yale University to access the archive using the Internet2 high-speed research network. In September 2006, the Institute launched an effort to expand that program to additional universities with Internet2 connectivity. The University of North Carolina is one of those expanded pilot program institutions through an agreement between the USC Shoah Foundation Institute and the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI), which is based in Chapel Hill and receives funding from UNC-Chapel Hill. RENCI will pay an annual $15,000 “subscription” cost for the archive, which will help to offset the costs of maintenance, service and archive updates.

Who can access the VHA?

Anyone using the UNC-Chapel Hill campus network can access the VHA testimonies, including those not affiliated with UNC, who they can access the archive from the public terminals in Davis Library. (Ask at the Reference Desk for the public terminals as well as for headphones and help getting started if necessary.)  The archive is available to compliment and enrich classroom curricula, for research and for personal enrichment. Users of the VHA must have access to Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player (for Windows users) or Safari and QuickTime (for Macintosh users). Users can conduct a variety of searches using a hierarchical thesaurus of about 50,000 graphic and experimental keywords as well as the names of every person mentioned in the testimonies and biographical information for each interviewee. Users can request testimonies already available on the local RENCI cache or request that testimonies be uploaded from the Los Angeles-based archive.

Can I use the VHA if I am not a student, staff or faculty member at UNC?

You do not have to be a student or employee at UNC to use the VHA, however, you do need access to the UNC network. For those who are not students, staff or faculty, this will mean using a public desktop on campus. Davis Library hosts public-access computers (ask for information at the Reference Desk) and will lend out head phones for listening to the interviews.  The reference staff can also assist you with getting started with the archive.

Do I have to transfer any video I want to watch to the RENCI-based cache server? Or can I watch testimonies directly from the archive at USC?

Videos must be transferred to the local cache before they can be viewed. The digital video files are too large to be viewed directly over the Internet from the archive in California. When requesting a testimony from the California archive, the Institute’s Visual History Media System (VHMS) uploads the data over Internet2 and informs the user via email once it arrives. All requests are filled within 48 hours and most are available for viewing in as little as 15 minutes.

Can I use clips from the videos in a presentation?
   
The USC Shoah Foundation Institute materials may be used in whole or in part for presentations that take place at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as part of the work of the University.  See "How do I cite the VHA materials in my work?" below.  If you want to make a presentation that includes VHA materials outside of the University, you
must receive explicit permission in writing from the Institute. For permissions information, contact the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education Archival Access:
Leavey Library
650 West 35th Street, Suite 114
Los Angeles, CA 90089-2571
Fax: (213) 740-6044

Can I get transcriptions of the testimonies?
   
Since the collection contains nearly 52,000 testimonies, there has not been enough funding or time to produce transcripts. You may produce your own transcripts for research purposes. It is permissible to make audio recordings of the testimonies for research or transcription purposes.

How do I cite the VHA materials in my work?

Citations must include the full name of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education as well as the name or ID number identifying the individual testimony. Quotes from the testimonies may be published as long as the Institute is credited and the name and ID number of the testimony is cited.

Does RENCI plan to continue offering access to the VHA?
   
Access to the VHA will continue at RENCI and UNC-Chapel Hill for the foreseeable future.

After submitting a query, I receive the email message: "The testimony for <name> could not be loaded into the USC Shoah Foundation Institute video cache at University of North Carolina due to temporary technical difficulties."  What should I do?

This message indicates technical difficulties with the system at UNC Chapel Hill and/or USC. You should email vha-help@renci.org for technical questions and issues related to the Shoah VHA located at UNC Chapel Hill.

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