How the Shoah Foundation Works

Act Two: Organization

In the Shoah Foundation video center
In the Shoah Foundation video center
Photo courtesy Shoah Foundation

In order for a collection comprised of 120,000 hours of videotaped testimony to be utilized to its fullest potential, people need to know what exactly lies within the collection and how to get at it, down to the exact bit -- in this case, minute -- of information they need. With textual information, it's relatively straightforward: Think of a typical library that houses thousands of books; any patron can walk in off the street and immediately know which books are there and where to find them by accessing the online catalog. All he needs to know is the title, author, or, in many cases, a specific keyword.

Electronic databases that house full-text articles from magazines, journals, newspapers and other periodicals are organized in much the same way. In addition to being catalogued according to the author and publication information, the articles are also indexed, meaning they are linked to a variety of subject headings related to topics discussed within the articles. By entering keywords, a title or an author's name, the searcher can retrieve a selection of related articles from the database in a matter of seconds.

The people at the Shoah Foundation realized that their collection would also need to be catalogued and indexed, so that researchers could quickly access information from within the visual history testimony archive. Here, the Shoah Foundation had to be a pioneer. Indexing software did exist for text-based collections, but not for their video-based collection. Enter a team of software engineers, information managers, librarians, historians and technology professionals. Together they developed the Shoah Foundation's proprietary software that allows its personnel to do everything from storing, cataloguing and indexing the archive to performing research for clientele.