2005 Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Award Recipient
The American Historical Association takes great pleasure in awarding its Theodore Roosevelt-Woodrow Wilson Award for Public Service to Steven Spielberg, for his path-breaking establishment of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which has created an archive of unparalleled importance for historical scholarship and for educating students and the public.
The Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation grew out of Steven Spielberg’s experience in making the award winning film Schindler’s List in 1994. Convinced of the need for survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust to tell their stories, he established that same year a non-profit organization dedicated to collecting and permanently preserving their testimonies. This immense undertaking, completed in six years, depended on the efforts of more than 100 regional coordinators on five continents to locate interview subjects as well as the intensive training of thousands of interviewers and videographers by historians and other professionals. In order to make the collection accessible the Foundation also developed new indexing technologies to link 30,000 key words with the content of interviews. The collection has grown to include videotaped interviews with nearly 52,000 individuals from 56 countries, and is recorded in 32 languages. The Shoah Visual History collection is now the largest digital library in the world. Its documentaries, teacher training workshops, educational tools, and archival collections have been used by hundreds of thousands of students and adults in classrooms, museums, archives, and other locations throughout the world.
In October of 2005 Steven Spielberg reached an agreement with the University of Southern California Board of Trustees to move the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History collection to a new and permanent home at the University of Southern California, a highly respected research university with unique resources in the management of digital library collections. In announcing the move, Mr. Spielberg said, “Preservation of these priceless interviews is the Shoah Foundation’s highest priority, and our move to USC ensures both preservation and access. All of us know that the survivors and witnesses have given us a precious gift whose wise use will build a better world for this and future generations.” Steven Spielberg has now given the field of history a precious gift as well.