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Larry Milliken

Larry Milliken
Librarian for Humanities/Social Sciences
Hours M-F:  8:30 am - 5:30 pm
Hagerty Library, Room 131


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Using the USC Shoah Foundation's Visual History Archive

  1. USC Shoah Foundation Overview
  2. About the Visual History Archive
  3. Visitors to Drexel
  4. Search the Archive
  5. Search Help
  6. Terms of Use

USC Shoah Foundation Overview

USC Shoah Foundation — The Institute for Visual History and Education is dedicated to making audio-visual interviews with survivors and other witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides, a compelling voice for education and action. The Institute’s current collection of 51,696 eyewitness testimonies contained within its Visual History Archive preserves history as told by the people who lived it, and lived through it. Housed at the University of Southern California, within the Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, the Institute works 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.
For more information, visit the Institute’s website, http://sfi.usc.edu/.


About The Visual History Archive

  • Quick Facts:
    • 51,696 testimonies in the archive

33 languages represented from 57 countries

    • 105,000 hours of testimony

    • 235,005 master video tapes
  • Who Was Interviewed?
    • 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 April 2013, the Visual History Archive expanded to include a collection of 65 audiovisual testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the 1994 Rwandan Tutsi genocide. Conducted in two countries (U.S.A. and Rwanda), and two languages (English and Kinyarwanda), this initial collection of 65 Rwandan testimonies was accomplished in collaboration with Aegis Trust and the Kigali Genocide Memorial, with additional support provided by IBUKA.
  • What is a Video History Testamony?
    • The purpose of oral history testimony is not only to gather facts, but also to gain a deeper understanding of events as they were lived and filtered through personal reflection. Unlike most documentation from this period - written by the perpetrators – oral testimony gives a voice to the survivors and other witnesses, allowing them to speak directly about their personal experiences. The USC Shoah Foundation testimonies are unedited, primary sources of information. Each interview consists of a single survivor or other witness speaking about his or her life before, during, and after the war, guided by questions from a trained interviewer. The interviews average two and a half hours in length.
  • What are the Subjects Discussed in the Testamonies?
    • Among the main subjects discussed in the interviews are geographical locations, prominent figures, names of family members and other people, prewar Jewish life, religious practice, cultural life, acts of persecution and prejudice, camps and ghettos, deportations, massacres, means of adaptation or survival, resistance, rescue and aid efforts, and postwar emigration and immigration.
    • In most interviews, photographs, documents, and artifacts pertaining to the interviewee’s family and wartime experiences were displayed at the end of the interview. Literary and musical works performed and often composed by the interviewees themselves are included in some interviews; original works of art are also displayed on camera. Walking tours, in which a portion of the interview is conducted in the open air at sites such as former concentration camps, ghettos, mass graves, or prewar family homes, are a feature of some interviews. 
  • How is the Archive indexed?
    • The archive is indexed using a controlled vocabulary, the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Thesaurus, of over 50,000 index terms. These index terms include geographical locations and time periods (e.g. “Mukacevo, Czechoslovakia,” “Germany 1941”), as well as location names (e.g. “Auschwitz [Poland: Concentration Camp]”) and experiences (e.g. “identity concealment,” “psychological distress prevention”). The names of the 1.2 million individuals mentioned in each testimony are also indexed and searchable.
    • For each testimony, a brief biographical profile has been created drawing primarily from a Pre-Interview Questionnaire. This questionnaire recorded information about the interviewee’s birthplace, family members, religious affiliation, ghetto and concentration camp experiences, and resistance activities among other things. This data is searchable in the Biographical Search in the VHA and is displayed in the Biographical Profiles in the VHA’s search results. For further information about this biographical profile indexing methodology, please see the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Cataloguing Guidelines.
    • Each video testimony has been indexed by assigning indexing terms to the relevant one-minute segments of each testimony. This permits users to perform detailed searches—on names, places, time periods, and a huge array of subjects and experiences—both on a testimony level and on a segment level. For further information about this indexing methodology, please see the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Indexing Guidelines.
  • What are the System Requirements?
    • Windows XP/7/8 +
      Windows Media Player 11 +
      Internet Explorer 8 +
      Firefox 10 + (requires Windows Media Player Plugin)

      Mac OS X 10.6 +
      QuickTime 7.7.3
      Safari 5.1.1 + (requires Flip4Mac plugin)

Visitors to Drexel

  • Members of the public may request appointments to use the Visual History Archive in the W.W. Hagerty Library during regular visitor hours.  These are generally Monday-Friday 7:30AM-5PM, except during exam periods.  For details: http://www.library.drexel.edu/about/visitors
  • In order to best accommodate appointments, request should be made at least one week in advance (study rooms book up quickly). We will coordinate a study room reservation and loan a laptop.  Requests can be made by email to circulat@drexel.edu
  • As many Archive testimonies must be downloaded in advance, when making the appointment request please specify the Interview Code of any testimonies you will wish to view. See Visitors to Drexel and Off-Campus Users for instructions for locating the code.

Search the Archive

  • Drexel University Students/Faculty/Staff:
    • On-campus students/faculty/staff: The full Archive is available at http://vha.usc.edu
      • The Archive is available from any computer connected to the Drexel wired or wireless network.  This includes Drexel University Libraries locations, Drexel University buildings, and dorms. Due to the bandwidth required to satisfactorily view the streaming video of the testimonies a wired connection is recommended.
      • Please review the Terms of Use before you begin.
    • Off-campus students/faculty/staff: Please connect to the Drexel network using VPN before visiting the Archive at http://vha.usc.edu.  Instructions for connecting to the VPN are here: http://drexel.edu/irt/networks/offCampus/  
  • Visitors to Drexel and Off-Campus Users:
    • You can search the indexing data associated with all the testimonies, from any location, through the Institute's Visual History Archive Online (VHA Online) application. In addition, about 1,200 English-language testimony videos are viewable in the VHA Online.  You will be asked to create a free user account to use the application.
    • Visitors wishing to view testimonies beyond the 1,200 available in Visual History Archive Online will need to visit the W.W. Hagerty Library [add link] to gain access to the full collection.  Please make an appointment at least one week in advance of your visit by emailing circulat@drexel.edu.  See Visitors to Drexel, above, for access policies.

    • As only a limited number of testimonies are available for immediate viewing, please include the Interview Code for any particular testimony you would like to view in your appointment request email.  The Interview Code is available when you click on the interviewee's name and select the Biographical Profile link (see below) or when you hold your mouse pointer over the interviewee's photograph in the search results list.
    • locating Interview Code

Search Help

For the complete user guide (PDF) for the Visual History Archive, click here.

Getting Started:

  • Create a free user account or log in if you have already created one.  The user account allows you to create, and add to, custom projects to collect testimonies to return to them later.  The user account and the email address that you provide at the account creation also allow you to request testimonies that are not already part of Drexel's local collection.
  • Choose a collection to search.  The default is all collections.  You will also be able to choose to search just Holocaust/World War II era testimonies collected by the USC Shoah Foundation or just Rwandan Tutsi Genocide testimonies from either the Kigali Genocide Memorial or the USC Shoah Foundation, or both.
  • Quick Search using a keyword search, similar to any internet search engine search, or use indexing terms, names, or interview codes.  You will be able to limit your search to All Words, Any Words, or Exact Phrase.

Advanced Searching:

  • Advanced searching is available by Experience Groups, Index, People, and Places.
  • Experience Groups include Jewish Survivors, Homosexual Survivors, Jehovah’s Witness Survivors, Liberators and Liberation Witnesses, Political Prisoners, Rescue and Aid Providers, Sinti and Roma Survivors, Survivors of Eugenics Policies, War Crimes Trials Participants, Tutsi Survivors, and Rescuer and Aid Providers (Rwandan Tutsi Genocide).
  • Index Search uses a menu to select terms from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute’s Thesaurus.  You can search for a term, or browse the hierarchy of terms to find the best match for your interest.  Clicking on a term causes its definition to be displayed.  Multiple terms can be added or removed from the search and can be linked with the Boolean operators AND and OR.  Filter options based on collection, language, gender, experience group, and projects can be selected on the left side of the screen to limit the results.
  • index search screenshot
  • People Search enables you to search by first and/or last name of interviewees, including maiden names, nicknames, and any other aliases, if given. People Search also searches on names of other people who were provided by the interviewee during the interview process.  Phonetic searching is possible.
  • Places Search allows you to either select locations on an embedded map, browse a hierarchical list of locations by region and country, or search for a particular place name.
  • places search screenshot


  • Video Availability: By default the Archive returns results with those immediately viewable on the Drexel network listed first.  Only a subset of the testimonies will be immediately viewable.  The remainder of the digitized testimonies can be available within 48 hours.  If the result for the video you want says "Video Viewable within 48 hours" you can ask that the video be downloaded to Drexel University Libraries local cache by clicking on the name of the interviewee and then clicking on the "Request Video" button in the center of the viewing area.  You will be notified by email when the video is ready for viewing.
  • VHA results list with video access highlighted
  • Projects: Projects are an easy way to select testimonies for later, or repeat viewing.  You can name your project and give it a description.  Projects can also be shared with others.
  • Saving to Projects: After clicking on the interviewee's name you will be able to add the testimony to a project by clicking "Save to Projects" on the lower right side of the screen.  You will be prompted to create a new project or select one of your existing projects.

More Help:

For more help using the Archive or if you have comments or questions about the resource, contact Larry Milliken, Liaison Librarian for the Humanities/Social Sciences.  Chat help and additional contact information are available on the upper left of this guide.


Terms of Use

USC Shoah Foundation – The Institute for Visual History and Education

The USC Shoah Foundation owns the intellectual property rights, including copyrights, to its videotaped interviews. All rights are reserved by the USC Shoah Foundation.
USC Shoah Foundation information involves privacy interests and is not in the public domain. Unauthorized copying, downloading, recording, or publication of USC Shoah Foundation interviews, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited and may subject an individual or entity to penalties for copyright infringement.

  • All users agree that any use of images or videotape segments from USC Shoah Foundation interviews requires prior written permission from the USC Shoah Foundation .
  • All users agree that any use or publication of information from USC Shoah Foundation interviews in excess of “Fair Use” as specified under 17 USC § 107 and “Fair Practice” as specified under Article 10 of the Berne Convention, requires the prior written permission from the USC Shoah Foundation.
  • All users who publish information from USC Shoah Foundation interviews, in whole or in part, under the Fair Use or Fair Practice doctrines, should cite the interviews as sources. The USC Shoah Foundation's recommended citation standard for scholarly works follows the MLA guidelines (7th ed.) for web-based non-periodical publications:

Interviewees name, the word Interview and the number of the interview code, the title of the website (italicized), the publisher, the date of publication, the medium (Web),and the date of access.
Example: Firestone, Renée. Interview 151. Visual History Archive. USC Shoah Foundation. 2011. Web. 22 Feb. 2011.

Please see http://libguides.usc.edu/vha for more information.


The USC Shoah Foundation makes no representations or warranties, express or implied, regarding USC Shoah Foundation interviews. The USC Shoah Foundation does not verify the accuracy of the information in the videotaped interviews. Such information may infringe upon privacy or intellectual property rights of other persons or entities, and may contain defamatory comments or material owned by third parties.

Contacting the USC Shoah Foundation:
To contact the USC Shoah Foundation or request permission to publish, please mail or fax your inquiry to the following address:


USC Shoah Foundation – The 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




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