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Visual History Archive: FAQ

Questions - Updated March 2018

General Questions

Q: Is the VHA on the ProQuest platform?

No, the VHA streams via USC Shoah Foundation’s proprietary platform. In 2019, the VHA will release with a new UI, and will continue to incorporate value-add features from ProQuest like transcripts and related content.

Q. Are testimonies available via the VHA only?

Beyond the complete VHA of ~55,000 testimonies, one may view ~1,900 freely-available testimonies via the abbreviated VHA Online, USC Shoah Foundation’s YouTube Channel, and iWitness. Note that only the full VHA includes new features such as transcripts and related ProQuest content entitled at each institution.

Q:  Is the VHA available in multiple languages?

Yes, there are 40 languages represented in the VHA. But note that the VHA platform is in English. Testimonies and transcripts are delivered in the language spoken during the interview. All indexing is done in English.

Q: Some will argue that by selling VHA access, both ProQuest and USC Shoah Foundation are profiting from genocide testimonies. What is the response?

USC Shoah Foundation is home to many initiatives that strive to counter hatred and intolerance around the world, as well as to better understand genocide for the sake of preventing it.

These initiatives – which include protecting the Visual History Archive down to bit-level preservation of the testimonies, making the Archive available and accessible to students and researchers around the world, and transcribing all 54,000 testimonies in 41 languages to better aid academic research – come at a huge financial cost.

It’s not a cost that can be covered solely by donations. To ensure we meet our mission of making testimonies of survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust and other genocides a compelling voice for education and action, our partnership with ProQuest helps ensure that we reach as many colleges and universities on as many continents as possible. It also affords us the funds to transcribe all 114,000 hours of testimony currently in the Archive – a massive undertaking that is expected to take over eight years to complete.

Q: How do I request and set up a VHA trial?

Please contact your ProQuest account manager or specialist to set up a VHA trial, and make sure to provide all relevant IP ranges.  

Q:  Will other testimonies from Armenia follow the USC Shoah Foundation methodology, or will they continue to be 15 minutes in duration?

The Armenian testimonies currently in the VHA are from the partnership with Armenian Film Foundation (AFF), who recorded the testimonies for documentaries founder J. Michael Hagopian made such as The River Ran Red. These testimonies will remain shorter in duration and will focus on the genocide period only.


Q: Are there transcripts in the VHA?

Yes, there are 984 English Holocaust-related and 900 German Holocaust-related transcripts, to date, with a commitment to more transcription going forward. In 2019, we expect all available transcripts will be searchable on the ProQuest platform.

Q: Are there subtitles/closed captioning for any collections?

Yes, there are English subtitles for 74 Rwandan, 30 Nanjing, 77 Armenian, and 2 Cambodian testimonies.

Q: Are all foreign language transcripts going to be translated into English?

No, from a research perspective, it is important that the transcript is in the spoken language. ProQuest does not translate for other primary sources.

Q: Is USC Shoah Foundation or ProQuest prioritizing languages that are transcribed?  

ProQuest has a long-term commitment with USC Shoah Foundation, whereby a portion of new VHA sales help fund testimony transcription. Transcripts will be made available over time as they are produced, with English testimonies being transcribed first. It will take at least five years to transcribe the 27K+ testimonies in English alone. Please send us any customer requests for transcription demand of other languages.

Q:  Will there be a box we can check in the VHA interface to ensure there is a transcript in the search results?

Yes, in 2018, there will be a check box on search pages which will limit results to testimonies that include transcripts. Also, within a testimony, a user can search the transcript by word.


Q: Are there any VHA access restrictions?

Yes, the VHA does not come with exhibition display rights or rights to reuse in documentaries or feature films. Also, the ProQuest “supplementary license terms” read as follows: “Authorized Users may create derivative materials for teaching purposes as part of courses offered by their subscribing institution and may post such materials to a virtual learning environment on the internet solely for the duration of the course. Notwithstanding 6(c) of the Permitted Uses, only transcripts of the videos will be available for file delivery and local loading where a PAL has been purchased.”
Click here for more information on the Terms of Use. 

Q:  Can users download testimonies/videos?

There is no video download option available in the VHA.

Q:  What are the terms of use of materials on VHA?

When a user registers in the VHA, there is a checkbox on the registration form that says “I have read the Terms of Use and I agree to them.” The Terms of Use for the VHA are located at which elaborate on use restrictions.

Q: Is a VHA per-testimony durable URL be available to embed into LMS course packs?

Yes, each testimony has a URL now (in fact, one may pause a video testimony at any point and grab the segment URL); these may be embedded in course packs, but once a student clicks on each link, they will still need to sign in to the VHA with their unique UN/PW.

Q:  Is the VHA ADA Section-508 compliant?

The VHA is ADA 508 compliant for the testimonies with a complete transcript only. Those testimonies with subtitles may be partially compliant.