Seven years of Malach Centre

On Monday, January 30, 2017 the seventh annual meeting of the Malach Centre for Visual History took place in Prague‘s Lesser Town. We witnessed the presentation of several projects, which came into existence with the support of the centre in the past period.

The Malach Centre for Visual History is the third in Europe to gain access to the extensive digital archive of USC Shoah Foundation. The archive comprises more than 54,000 audiovisual recordings of interviews with Holocaust survivors or witnesses of other tragic events of the 20th century. The centre’s long-term goal is not only to help preserve valuable testimonies for future generations but also to make them publicly accessible. The reunion on the occasion of the Malach Centre’s seventh anniversary confirmed these objectives are being met successfully.

According to Malach Centre coordinator Dr. Jiří Kocián, the number of users of the digital database has been flourishing. “Researchers as well as students have been working with the archived data and several publications have been based upon it,” Kocián said in the beginning of the reunion. So far, authors of more than 50 scientific publications have drawn information from the archive. Six books, five research papers, and more than forty theses have been published in the Czech and Slovak languages.

Dr. Hana Kubátová from the Faculty of Social Sciences, Charles University (FSV UK) introduced one such new publication at the meeting. The monograph called Návraty. Poválečná rekonstrukce židovských komunit v zemích středovýchodní, jihovýchodní a východní Evropy (Returns. Postwar reconstruction of Jewish communities in the countries of East-Central, South-Eastern, and Eastern Europe) is a joint creation of students and researchers at FSV UK and it represents the most extensive Czech research project to date which uses the USC Shoah Foundation archive. The book contains several case studies, wherein the matter of fates of Jews in post-war Europe is problematized based on more than a hundred interviews from the archive.

Educators also work with the digital archive actively. Several ways of applying the archived recordings in classes of history or social sciences on primary and secondary schools are provided by the internet education platform IWitness, which was presented at the meeting by Martin Šmok, USC Shoah Foundation representative for the Czech Republic. The platform holds one and a half thousand interviews, with 68 interviews conducted in Czech or Slovak. In addition to the videos the education portal provides students and teachers with a wide range of activities including online video cutters for making auctorial documentaries. Students of Lauder schools have had experience with the platform. Elisa Speváková and Ruth Schimdtová completed a six months seminar titled Předkové a my (Our ancestors and us) conducted by the Malach Centre. During the seminar, they created their own ten-minute films on topics of their choice, which they then presented to visitors at the annual meeting.

It would not be possible to work with the archive if it was not for effective search tools created and tested among others by the Institute of Formal and Applied Linguistics (UFAL) MFF UK. Mgr. Petra Galuščáková (UFAL) and Doc. Pavel Ircing (Department of Cybernetics at the University of West Bohemia in Pilsen) talked about news and research in this area.

The morning programme also saw the presentations of Mgr. Marie Barešová from the National Film Archive and Prof. Miroslav Vaněk from the Institute of Contemporary History at the Czech Academy of Sciences who explained the role of oral history as a specific research method exploiting the testimonies of eyewitnesses.

On the occasion of its seventh anniversary, the Malach Centre has announced the fifth year of their comics contest designed for students of primary and secondary schools. The task was to create a comic piece based on the narrative of a WWII eyewitness whose story can be found in the USC Shoah Foundation archive. The panel’s pick for winner was made by Michaela Kramárová from Pedagogická a kultúrna akadémia Modra (Academy of pedagogy and culture in Modra). The winner created a graphic retelling of the story of Luďek Eliáš, who together with his brother had been dragged to the Auschwitz concentration camp. The hypothetical second place went to Le Thanh Qui from Religious School Pilsen. Sharing the third place were Karolína Horváthová and Simona Pavličová, who also study at Pedagogická a kultúrna akadémia Modra.

The Malach Centre is open to public from Mondays to Thursdays in the MFF UK library at Malostranské náměstí 25. After a free-of-charge registration users have at their disposal six computers with access to the archives of USC Shoah Foundation and Refugee Voices as well as selected interviews from the Jewish Holocaust Centre in Australia.

– OMK –

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