On 10 December, at the Kigali Genocide Memorial (KGM) in Rwanda, on slopes above mass graves containing over 250,000 of those murdered, a documentation facility was unveiled that is set to make the 1994 genocide one of the most comprehensively documented – and most easily researchable – genocides of all time.
Established by the Aegis Trust in association with Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), the Genocide Archive of Rwanda will become the unified repository where all information relating to the genocide can be found. Its physical archive will preserve original audiovisual, documentary and photographic materials in a secure, controlled environment managed to international standards. Its research programmes will continue to trace materials from the genocide period, to map and gather information at sites of the genocide, and to record fresh survivor testimony. And its digital archive, created in collaboration with the University of Texas Libraries, will make all of this material fully accessible to researchers through a cross-referenced system that allows key word searches, first on site and ultimately online (see www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw).
“The Genocide Archive of Rwanda will provide unique and growing evidence for the present and future generations to enquire more about how genocide develops in order to better understand how it may be prevented,” says Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust. “It’s an important collaboration with CNLG and we’re delighted to be able to work with them on a project of such long-term significance both for Rwanda and the international community.”
“Preserving and providing access to an unprecedented range and depth of material, the Genocide Archive of Rwanda will be an important learning tool both for Rwandans and the wider world,” says Jean de Dieu Mucyo, Executive Secretary of the CNLG. “We want to thank the Aegis Trust for making this project a reality and we look forward to a continued close partnership with them as the Archive develops through the coming years.”
When it opens on Friday, the physical archive at the Genocide Archive of Rwanda will already hold over 1,500 audiovisual recordings and over 20,000 documents and photographs. Stored in accordance with advice from Wilhelm Imaging Research, a US-based authority on archival preservation, this includes material from Rwandan radio, TV and print media; recordings from gacaca court proceedings; material from the National University of Rwanda, National Museum, National Archive, and private institutions; and materials from abroad, particularly from France. It also includes material donated by individual survivors or gathered directly by the Aegis Trust’s own field researchers.
“It means a lot to me to know that my testimony and photographs will be kept at the Genocide Archive of Rwanda,” says survivor Rosette Sebasoni. “Thanks to the Archive, the memory of my loved ones will not be lost, and future generations will be able to learn from my experience – and the experience of thousands like me.”
Developed in collaboration with a team of specialists from the University of Texas, the digital archive at the Genocide Archive of Rwanda will eventually contain copies of all recordings and scans of all documents and photographs held. Audiovisual recordings will be accompanied by transcripts in three languages; Kinyarwanda, English and French. Transcripts will be searchable by key words and will be linked to the footage, so that users of the digital archive can view the relevant footage at the same time as viewing the text. The IT department of the Rwanda Development Board continues to work closely with the Kigali Genocide Memorial to provide network infrastructure, servers, and digitization and storage equipment for the digital archive, a full 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,” says Fred Heath, Vice Provost and Director of the University of Texas Libraries.
In 2004 and 2005, Aegis conducted pilot projects testing the feasibility of mapping genocide sites in Rwanda, combining use of GPS technology with site photography and interviews with survivors, perpetrators and eyewitnesses at the locations of roadblocks and mass graves. Over 1,000 relevant sites were identified in Kigali alone. Aegis is now working with the Pervasive Monuments project (run by Horizon Digital Economy Research at the University of Nottingham, UK), towards creation of a comprehensive GPS-mapped database of Rwanda’s genocide sites. The database will be held at the Genocide Archive and be made accessible online.
“The Rwandan genocide will not necessarily leave a permanent scar on the nation’s landscape,” says Dr David Kirk, Lecturer in Human Computer Interaction at the University of Nottingham’s School of Computer Science. “This project will allow future generations to see the extent of the genocide in Rwanda even after urban and rural development. It will help analysts exploring the methodology behind the genocide and may also aid survivors in mapping the final movements of their loved ones. Ultimately, the project hopes to explore the use of such data in the development of lasting digital memorials to those affected by the genocide.”
Aegis is also working with the Shoah Foundation (University of Southern California, USA) to set up a nationwide programme filming interviews with survivors about their experiences during the genocide. Established by Stephen Spielberg, the Shoah Foundation has almost 52,000 Holocaust survivor testimonies on film and is now applying its expertise to the documentation of other genocides. The interviews recorded will be held both by the Shoah Foundation and the Genocide Archive.
Organisations partnering the Aegis Trust and CNLG in the creation of the Genocide Archive of Rwanda include the Annenberg Foundation, the Bridgeway Foundation, the Rwanda Development Board, the Rwanda Tea Authority, SIDA (the Swedish International Development Agency), Sulfo Rwanda, the University of Nottingham (UK), the University of Southern California (USA), and the University of Texas (USA).
sommaire en français
L’Archive du Génocide au Rwanda a été ouverte le 10 Décembre. Il consiste d’un archive physique et une archive numérique disponible à http://www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw (en anglais)
resumen en español
El Archivo del Genocidio de Rwanda fue inaugurado el 10 de diciembre. Se trata de un archivo físico y un archivo digital disponible en http://www.genocidearchiverwanda.org.rw (en inglés)