The USC Shoah Foundation have taken on the grueling task to index the testimonies from their Armenian Genocide collection. The collection will eventually be added to the Visual History Archive (VHA) in time to come.
Manuk Avedikyan, the official indexer, completed the last of the three hundred and thirty-three testimonies which were added to the collection. Initially, only sixty testimonies were included in the VHA on 24 April 2015, which marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. A further collection of one hundred and eighty-five testimonies were added to the index in April 2016.
During the indexing process, the researcher checks each statement and makes use of USC Shoah Foundation's software so as to assign keywords to each minute of each testimony. In this way, they are fully searchable within the Visual History Archive. It is essential that this process is complete before the testimonies are integrated into the archive.
The Armenian testimonies were used by the filmmaker, J. Michael Hagopian, in seventeen documentaries about the Armenian Genocide. An agreement was drawn up between USC Shoah Foundation and Hagopian, his wife, and the Armenian Film Foundation in 2010, allowing the integration of testimonies into the VHA. The collection is the largest of all the filmed interviews of survivors and witnesses of the Armenian Genocide.
Avedikyan found that the last testimonies created much of a challenge for him as they included testimonies in Arabic, Greek, and Kurdish. Neither of these languages had previously been used in the VHA and translators were required to complete the collection.
Some of these last testimonies include the accounts of Armenians and Greeks during the Great Fire of Smyrna in 1922 which occurred during the Greco-Turkish War of 1922. The historical narrative indicates that the fire was largely aimed at the Greeks although there is also evidence of "anti-Armenian sentiment from the Turkish soldiers." Testimonies from Greek survivors revealed such information.
There are also testimonies from Muslim-Armenians in Syria. This group has been on the periphery of the Armenian society and not discussed as extensively as Muslim-Armenians in Turkey.
The majority of their testimonies suggest that the relations between Armenians and Arabs were good, with Arabs often assisting Armenians who needed help.
The collection includes not only these testimonies but also those of Armenian Genocide scholars. The scholars are well-known and of great value to the resource. Avedikyan says "They provide historical context or specific topics pertaining to the Armenian Genocide."
Avedikyan is set to translate those testimonies which are in foreign languages, subtitle them, as well as update terms in the glossary, his work is expected to be completed by 2017.