Tag Archives: human rights

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 Photographs and historical documents were collected and digitized by Aegis Trust’s Rwandan staff to be added to the Archives at the Kigali Memorial Centre.Archive and preserved digitally by UT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/.

The Libraries Afield: Launching the Guatemalan National Police Archives Website

Documents at the Guatemalan National Police Archive (AHPN). Photo courtesy Archivo Histórico de la Policía Nacional, Guatemala.

University of Texas Libraries Director Fred Heath traveled to Guatemala in December 2011 to participate in the launch of a joint project between the Guatemalan National Police Archive (AHPN) and The University of Texas at Austin. Together, AHPN and the Libraries would provide public access via the web to records of human rights violations by government agents that were discovered in a military munitions dump in 2004.

This is Dr. Heath’s travelogue of his trip.

Our flight to Guatemala City, 5,000 feet up in the Central American highlands took two and a half hours.  Our destination was the National Police Archives, where on Friday we would celebrate with our colleagues, the recent opening of the AHPN website.  I had yet to write my brief remarks.

In the cramped rear coach seat of the Boeing 737, I held my laptop in my lap, with the screen tilted slightly forward to accommodate the encroaching seatback of the traveler in front of me, and edited my three-minute talk.  I was working from the draft I delivered the week before, when we first opened the web site of the Guatemalan National Police Archive.

Our next day — Friday, December 9 — would be International Human Rights Day, and AHPN director Gustavo Meoño had shrewdly decided to reciprocate the previous week’s events with a ceremony in Guatemala City celebrating the partnership between AHPN, administratively housed within the Ministry of Culture, and the University of Texas.

At 35,000 feet, I was not sure what to expect.  I did know that Christian Kelleher (program coordinator for the Human Rights Documentation Initiative), Karen Engle (director of the Rapaport Center for Human Rights and Justice) and Daniel Brinks (professor and co-director of Rapaport) would all address the audience at AHPN, projected to be some 200 in number, but I knew little about the attendees.  I also knew that all three of my colleagues would deliver their remarks in Spanish; so I was determined to keep my Anglo remarks brief.   As I wrote, I wanted to answer the question of why democracies elect to archive and preserve even the dark chapters of their histories, rather than deny or erase them.  I chose to use the example of the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library & Museum, whose holdings allow researchers to address the issues of the transfer of presidential power in the aftermath of the assassination of John Kennedy, to study an epochal period in our own tumultuous civil rights movement, and to inquire into the dark chapter that was the war in Vietnam.  My hope was that in my brief remarks I could remind our Guatemalan audience that in a democracy it is necessary to study all parts of our past, in order to learn from our accomplishments, and avoid the recurrences of our missteps. Continue reading

HRDI Shares Best Practices

From a HRDI Rwanda trip.

(Cross-posted at the HRDI blog.)

In September, UT Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative representatives Christian Kelleher and T-Kay Sangwand traveled to Columbia University to participate in an advisory group meeting for the Center for Research Libraries (CRL) MacArthur Foundation funded project, Human Rights Electronic Evidence Study.  The Human Rights Electronic Evidence Study aims to understand the human rights documentation landscape – technologies, documentation creators and end users – and to identify tools and practices for improving documentation’s uses for advocacy and scholarship.

In addition to Kelleher and Sangwand, the advisory group consisted of librarians and archivists from Columbia University, Duke University and human rights organization, WITNESS, as well as practicing lawyers and professors from the University of Texas School of Law. During this day-long meeting, the group discussed how human rights documentation is used from the point of creation by an organization/activist to how it ends up in an archive for educational purposes and a courtroom for legal purposes. Based on their experience of establishing digital preservation partnerships with organizations that create human right documentation, Kelleher and Sangwand shared some of the challenges that can prevent such documentation from ever arriving to the archive (namely, trust and ownership disputes) as well as the HRDI’s approach to overcoming this challenge – the use of the post custodial archival model that allows organizations to maintain physical and intellectual ownership of their materials while depositing digital copies at UT for long-term preservation. Through presentations by legal experts (including the Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice  Co-Director, Dan Brinks) on how human rights documentation may be used in U.S. and international courts, the HRDI was proud to learn that its metadata and preservation standards meet and even surpass the general recommended criteria for documentation authentication in a court of law.

The meeting’s discussion on the creation, preservation, and use of human rights documentation will be synthesized with the study’s findings in CRL’s final report due out in late 2011/early 2012.

T-Kay Sangwand is the Human Rights Archivist for the University of Texas Libraries Human Rights Documentation Initiative.

HRDI Project Earns Grant

From the Genocide Archive of Rwanda

The Aegis Trust is one of eight organizations that have been awarded an EMC Heritage Trust Project grant through the company’s Information Heritage Initiative program for its work on the Genocide Archive of Rwanda. Aegis partnered with the Rwandan government and the Libraries’ Human Rights Documentation Initiative (HRDI) to build the framework for the Archive, the digital files of which reside with HRDI.

The grant will provide for ongoing archival activities including the digitization and preservation of audiovisual testimonies, historical photographs, documents, newspapers and genocide victims’ information which is made available through the Archive’s site.

Congratulations to the HRDI team for their continuing excellent work on this important project.

HRDI in DC

T-Kay Sangwand is the Archivist for the Human Rights Documentation Initiative.

Since its inception in 2008, the Human Rights Documentation Initiative has garnered attention within the academic, archival, and human rights communities.  At the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Annual Meeting this week in Washington D.C., the HRDI hopes to raise awareness of its preservation partnerships and connect with members of the archival community who are working on similar projects.

At this year’s Annual Meeting, the newly formed Human Rights Archives Roundtable will hold its inaugural meeting.  In 2009, I worked with Valerie Love, Curator for Human Rights and Alternative Press Collections at the University of Connecticut, to establish SAA’s first Human Rights Archives Roundtable.  The Roundtable “aims to create a space for SAA members and other stakeholders (human rights advocates, scholars, government officials, and non-governmental organization workers) to increase dialogue and collaboration on issues related to the collection, preservation, disclosure, legal implications, and ethics of human rights documentation.”  The first half of the Roundtable meeting will be jointly held with the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives (LACCHA) Roundtable and will feature the panel, “Silence No More! Archives Threatened by Political Instability in Central America.”  The second half of the meeting will feature a presentation on the Center for Research Libraries’ “Human Rights Electronic Evidence Study” preliminary findings by project coordinator, Dr. Sarah Van Deusen Phillips.

SAA’s Oral History Section has invited HRDI Project Manager / Benson Latin American Collection Archivist, Christian Kelleher, to present on the HRDI’s work with the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre and its collection of Rwanda Genocide survivor testimonies.  The Oral History Section Meeting will feature three other speakers discussing archival projects with human rights and social justice components.

If you’re in the D.C. area this week, please join us!

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