Tag Archives: Rwanda

Partnering to Preserve and Persevere: The Genocide Archive of Rwanda

Photos of victims of the Rwandan Genocide.

On June 9 — International Archives Day — the Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) partners Aegis Trust and the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre launched a new, greatly updated and expanded online Genocide Archive of Rwanda (http://www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw).

One of the most important resources online documenting the causes, processes, and consequences of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, GAR demonstrates the generative impact that the Libraries’ programming can have. The HRDI project, begun in Rwanda in 2008, engaged staff and volunteers at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, a museum and documentation center for education and memory in Rwanda, to combine their personal experiences, deep knowledge, and historical resources with the technical expertise at UT Libraries in order to preserve and provide access to the fragile record of the Genocide that was daily being lost.

T-Kay Sangwand and Christian Kelleher meet with Rwandan officials.The first version of GAR, developed by the Libraries’ Technology Integration Services, Information Technology Architecture and Strategy, and Digitization Services departments using Glifos media software, was installed on a laptop and hand-carried by me and human rights archivist T-Kay Sangwand to Rwanda, where it spent the next year demoing the project to build local community, government, and international support.

Launched online in 2010, GAR enabled people in Rwanda and around the world to hear testimonies from Genocide survivors as well as perpetrators and elders in Rwanda about their experiences of Genocide, its root causes, and the lives and society that it destroyed. Photographs and historical documents were collected and digitized by Aegis Trust’s Rwandan staff to be added to the Archives at the Kigali Memorial Centre.Archive and preserved digitally by UT Libraries, and soon UTL was consulting on construction of a climate-controlled physical archive in Kigali in addition to the online digital archive.

The new Genocide Archive of Rwanda moves the archive to the cloud and integrates new mapping features, improved access to documents and photographs, and interactive tours of memorial sites around the country. The new site also includes features to engage youth in peace-building, and highlights important community renewal and reconciliation programs.

When recently retired Vice Provost Dr. Fred Heath and I attended the Kwibuka 20 commemoration ceremonies marking 20 years since the Genocide, Rwandan president Paul Kagame stated that, “Historical clarity is a duty of memory that we cannot escape. Behind the words ‘Never Again’, there is a story whose truth must be told in full, no matter how uncomfortable.” Born in the basement at Perry-Castañeda Library, and now managed in the cloud by a team of new information professionals in Rwanda, the Genocide Archive of Rwanda is a resource that preserves and gives clarity to the 1994 Genocide in support of memory, reconciliation, education, and scholarship in Rwanda, Texas, and around the globe.

The global impact of the University of Texas Libraries is made possible in large part to the financial support of individual, corporate and foundation donors. To contribute to projects like the Human Rights Digitization Project, please contact Natalie Moore or visit our online giving page today.

Chat with a Rwandan Youth Leader

Aegis Trust Youth Ambassador Dydine Umunyana. Photo by Christian Kelleher.
Aegis Trust Youth Ambassador Dydine Umunyana. Photo by Christian Kelleher.

For a little over two weeks in January and February, UT Libraries was the home base for a visit by Rwandan Dydine Umunyana who works with Aegis Trust, a project partner with the Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative. HRDI project manager and Benson Collection archivist Christian Kelleher sat down with Dydine to ask her about her work in the U.S.

We’re so excited to have you here, Dydine. Can you tell me what brought you to the U.S.?

I came to the U.S. to advocate for young people from my country and to bring awareness to youth internationally as a Youth Ambassador for Peace from Aegis Trust, a nonprofit organization that combats genocide around the world. Aegis is based in England where they run the National Holocaust Center and Museum, and they help manage the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda.

UT Libraries connected to Aegis Trust and the Kigali Genocide Memorial through our partnership to preserve documentation of the 1994 Genocide. How did you first get involved with Aegis Trust?

In 2009, I was selected as one of 30 influential students at my high school and they brought us to the Kigali Genocide Memorial to learn the real history of my country and to go through their peace-building education program. The goal of the peace-building education program is to learn from the past, to help to stop cycles of hatred and be able to build the future. A few years later, as a result of what I had learned from the peace-building education program, I started a nonprofit company Umbrella Cinema Promoters that educates young women in Rwanda to share their own stories through film. We had a workshop in 2013 and launched the organization then, and that’s when I reconnected with Aegis Trust and was appointed a Youth Ambassador.

Tell me more about your filmmaking work!

After my high school I wasn’t able to continue my university studies, as so many young people in Rwanda. I had experience as a singer and songwriter, and I was asked to compose a song for a short film. I had to spend a week in the studio composing the song and learning the story of the film, and I also learned how they were doing things about filming and scriptwriting and I became so much interested in how they were making the film. So I went home and began writing a script for my own short film. In Rwanda you can’t do shooting of a film without permission from the government, so I went to the Ministry of Sport and Culture for a recommendation letter but they refused because I didn’t have a company that I worked for. I got the idea that I probably wasn’t the only young person who had ideas but no organization for support, so I decided I should start my own nonprofit company for that purpose, to encourage and empower young women to tell their own stories. I met some students from USC who were in Rwanda and they asked if I had a project and I took my script and called all my friends and we shot my first short film about the problem of HIV in Rwanda.

What have you done during your time visiting the University of Texas?

I’ve done a lot! I toured UT and it was tiring because of how big it is. I’ve been here for more than two weeks and I have had so many meetings engaging and bringing awareness about what’s going on in post conflict countries. I met with students in the White Rose Society at Texas Hillel and from Amnesty International, and with professors in so many departments like Women’s and Gender Studies and Theater and more. And I’ve spent a lot of time in the library because of the partnership between you and Aegis Trust and the Rwanda Genocide Archive.

And beyond UT, what have been some of the things you’ve done in Austin?

I met with Greg Kwedar who is producer of an amazing film Rising From Ashes about the Rwanda cycling team. I’ve experienced different food like barbecue and how Texans are so proud, and with [retired Vice Provost and Director of UT Libraries] Fred and Jean Heath I visited the Capitol building and learned about La Belle and the history of Texas at the Bullock Museum with the giant star. One day in the night I watched Selma, which was a great film for me to see how you can resolve conflict without fighting and I think it should be screened everywhere in the world, and in the morning went to the LBJ Library and saw how was America at that time. I didn’t even know there were libraries for presidents and I was able to listen to his calls with Martin Luther King and others!

Learn more about Dydine on her blog http://dydineadventures.com/, and Aegis Trust at http://www.aegistrust.org/.

International Human Rights Day, Our Role (Updated)

It’s International Human Rights Day, and in the spirit of it, the Libraries can share news of its part in the opening of a new resource for the study of human rights.

Thanks in large part to the generous philanthropy of the Bridgeway Foundation in Houston, the Libraries established the Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) in 2008, its initial charge to preserve digitally the records of human rights abuses in the Rwandan Genocide.

Though HRDI’s mission has expanded in scope since that time – it has since established projects with the Free Burma Rangers and the Texas After Violence Project, and is currently negotiating new plans in Latin America – the project to collect, preserve and make accessible the Rwandan records has continued with itinerant staff constantly moving between Austin and Kigali, the site of the Kigali Memorial Centre where the fragile and sometimes anachronistic materials were being held.

Today, the project reaches a milestone with the inauguration of the Genocide Archive of Rwanda, a new and comprehensive repository for information related to the genocide. The physical archive housed on-site at the at the Kigali Genocide Memorial facility in Kigali will contain the original audiovisual, documentary and photographic materials in a secure, controlled environment. The digital archive will eventually contain copies of all audiovisual recordings and scans of all known documents and photographs will be accessible to researchers through a cross-referenced system that allows key word searches, first on-site and ultimately online. The Kigali Genocide Memorial will maintain network infrastructure, servers, and digitization and storage equipment for the digital archive, and a copy will also reside with the University of Texas Libraries.

Find more information about the project and the Libraries’ participation here.

You can see a featured interview video from the Archive here.

HRDI Archivist T-Kay Sangwand sat down for a reporter from National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition to talk about our role in the project. You can hear the interview and view some images from the Archive here.

HRDI meets with Shoah Foundation

imageOn March 10-11, 2010 the UT Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) hosted a visit from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education (SFI).

Best known for its extensive archive of 52,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies, the USC SFI continues to expand its programming to include testimonies from genocide survivors worldwide. Dr. Stephen Smith, Executive Director, Sam Gustman, Chief Technology Officer, and Karen Jungblut, Director of Research and Documentation, met with members of the HRDI team to discuss opportunities for collaboration on their respective projects in Rwanda as well as best practices for digital preservation and metadata exchange. Continue reading