LOS ANGELES (PR Newswire) — The Armenian Film Foundation presented a collection of 400 testimonies from survivors and witnesses of the Armenian genocide to USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for History and Visual Education on April 21, 2014. The testimonies will be integrated into the Institute’s Visual History Archive (VHA) with the support of funding from the Armenian Film Foundation, the USC Shoah Foundation as well as the USC Institute of Armenian Studies; whose ongoing supporters presented the final $405,000 gift on April 10 that will allow the videos to be fully accessible to VHA users.
The 400 testimonies represent the largest collection of filmed interviews of the first genocide of the twentieth century. The testimonies were taken in 10 countries, in 10 languages, with survivors and witnesses who were between the ages of eight and 29 at the time of the genocide, which killed an estimated 1.5 million people in Turkey from 1915–1923. USC Shoah Foundation will begin indexing each interview so they can begin to be integrated into the Visual History Archive by April 24, 2015, the centennial of the historic event.
When integrated into the Visual History Archive, the Armenian testimonies will join the archive’s existing Holocaust, Rwandan Tutsi Genocide and Nanjing Massacre collections.
Most of the collection was the work of the late Dr. J. Michael Hagopian (photo), an Armenian genocide survivor who filmed the interviews between 1972 and 2009. Dr. Hagopian wrote, directed and produced more than 70 educational and documentary films about the Armenian Genocide and founded the Armenian Film Foundation, with whom the USC Shoah Foundation first partnered in 2010 to bring the Armenian testimonies into the Visual History Archive as well as the Institute’s public access website and IWitness educational program that will bring the Armenian testimonies into classrooms around the world.
The first phase of the project undertaken by the Armenian Film Foundation involved transferring the interviews that were originally taken in 16mm film to preservation-quality digital files (motion JPEG 2000).
The current phase of the project is to digitally preserve in perpetuity these files, create broadcast-quality and internet-quality versions of each interview, subtitle non-English language testimonies and begin integrating and indexing each interview into the Visual History Archive.
Carla Garapedian of the Armenian Film Foundation said she was happy the testimonies have found a home that will ensure their preservation.
“There aren’t many people left who can talk about those days of a hundred years ago, but today we help ensure that those who shared their stories will always have an opportunity to be heard,” she said.
USC Shoah Foundation Executive Director Stephen D. Smith said that survivors who gave testimony about the Armenian Genocide add invaluable insight into the horrors of mass killing.
“This isn’t only about those who gave testimony,” he said. “It’s about all those who did not survive and who could not tell their own story. We care about this history. We, as a community, are doing everything we can to ensure this history is maintained.”
At the April 10 event, the USC Institute of Armenian Studies presented a final donation in their ongoing support of the project’s funding to Steve Kay, dean of the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, which houses USC Shoah Foundation and the Institute of Armenian Studies.
“This is an invaluable gift that will offer windows into the lives of witnesses and survivors—an unparalleled tool for students, scholars and members of the community,” Kay said. “We are extremely grateful for the generosity of so many members of the Armenian community who have made this important project come to fruition.”
Charles Ghalian, the event’s co-host and chairman of the Institute of Armenian Studies Leadership Council, said he was thrilled by the community’s outpouring of support.
“On behalf of the entire Leadership Council and grand benefactors Mr. and Mrs. Gerald and Patricia Turpanjian, I am excited that the stories of so many of our parents and grandparents will be held indelibly in the Visual History Archive,” he said. “We express our thanks to the many philanthropists in the Southern California Armenian community who donated to this important cause. We look forward to honoring this achievement and others at the Institute of Armenian Studies’ 10th anniversary at our upcoming event on September 28 in Los Angeles.”