The Human Rights Documentation Initiative at the University of Texas Libraries is playing a significant role in the establishment of an archive for the preservation of records related to the Rwandan genocide.
Commissioned by Kigali City Council and established by the Aegis Trust (UK) in association with Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide, the Genocide Archive of Rwanda will open at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda this Friday on slopes above mass graves containing more than 250,000 of those murdered. It will make the 1994 genocide one of the most comprehensively documented — and most easily researchable — genocides of all time.
“The Genocide Archive of Rwanda will provide unique and growing evidence for the present and future generations to inquire more about how genocide develops in order to better understand how it may be prevented,” said Dr. James Smith, chief executive of the Aegis Trust.
The archive will become the repository for information relating to the genocide. Its physical archive will preserve original audiovisual, documentary and photographic materials in a secure, controlled environment managed to international standards. Its research programs will continue to trace materials from the genocide period, to map and gather information at sites of the genocide and to record survivor testimony.
“Although the initial collection is relatively modest, we wanted to make the Genocide Archive accessible to everyone as early as possible in the process of research and acquisitions,” said Archive Manager Yves Kamuronsi.
Through a partnership created in 2008 by a grant from the Bridgeway Foundation of Houston, the University of Texas Libraries established the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) to collect, preserve and provide access to records of human rights abuses around the world. Its initial charge was to assist in the digital preservation of survivor testimonies, court proceedings and other records of the Rwandan genocide. Those digital records will be an invaluable resource for the Genocide Archive of Rwanda because they will be accessible to researchers through a cross-referenced system that allows keyword searches, first on site and ultimately online.
Developed in collaboration with the HRDI, the digital archive at the Rwandan facility will eventually contain copies of all recordings and scans of all known documents and photographs. Audiovisual recordings will be accompanied by transcripts in three languages — Kinyarwanda, English and French. Transcripts will be searchable by keywords and will be linked to the footage, so users of the digital archive can view the relevant footage simultaneously with the text. The information technology department of the Rwanda Development Board continues to work with the Kigali Genocide Memorial to provide network infrastructure, servers and digitization and storage equipment for the digital archive, a copy of which will also be held by the University of Texas Libraries.
“Important documentation about the Rwandan genocide will probably always remain dispersed in various locations around the world, but it’s our ambition to include digitally anything that cannot be included in the physical archive,” said Fred Heath, vice provost and director of the University of Texas Libraries.
HRDI has also partnered with the Free Burma Rangers to preserve records of human rights violations by the Burma/Myanmar junta and the Texas After Violence Project, which collects testimonies on the impact of the death penalty in Texas. HRDI is developing other projects in Latin America.