We are seeking funding to preserve Testaments of Honour’s irreplaceable archive of digital video interviews with Canadian veterans of World War II.
Over the past 15 years, the Testaments of Honour Historical Archive has created a singular collection (on high-resolution digital video) of interviews with Canadian veterans talking about their personal experiences in World War II. The Archive now contains 538 interviews (approximately 1,100 hours of video). In addition, the Archive has more than 12,000 (digitized) photographs from the veterans’ personal albums and over 3,000 documents (diaries, journals, logs, correspondence). The subjects of the interviews can be categorized as following:
The Need for Preservation
When we began interviewing 15 years ago, advances in technology made high-resolution video an accessible tool for our limited budget (recording to digital cards or drives was not an option at that time). Testaments of Honour seized on this new technology, particularly because I felt it was essential to record as many interviews as possible while the veterans were still willing and able to be interviewed.
However, tape deteriorates over time, as well as being extremely vulnerable to physical and electronic damage. Some of our Archive’s oldest tapes are already showing signs of deterioration. Like so many of this country’s priceless archives, these interviews cannot be replaced. Therefore, with the tapes at risk, we are seeking financial support to digitize this irreplaceable archive of interviews on videotape. I want future generations to be able to meet these men and women through the medium of these interviews as a unique way of connecting with our history. There are three stages in the preservation process: Digitization, Optimizing and Mastering, and finally Cataloguing and Metadata.
Additional Artifacts in the Archive
The Testaments Archive has more than 12,000 photographs from the veterans’ personal albums, as well as over 3,000 personal documents (diaries, journals, logs, correspondence). These must be processed and catalogued in the same manner as the video interviews.
The Future of the Archive
Upon the completion of this Digitization Initiative, Testaments of Honour will make digital copies of the Archive’s assets available to interested schools, organizations, and individuals.
We have created and donated video “chapters” (video clips 2-3 minutes long) featuring a range of veterans’ stories. These are on display in dedicated video kiosks at the Juno Beach Centre in Normandy (France) and on HMCS Haida (Hamilton). In addition, we created over 2,500 chapters that have been used on the websites of Veterans’ Affairs Canada and other heritage organizations.
When digitization is complete, we plan to donate the Archive’s full library of videotapes and other physical assets (two rare Japanese PoW diaries, for example) to a heritage organization that has the interest and the resources to provide suitable conservation and access.
These veterans’ interviews capture the men and women’s genuine emotion, often dulled in print, that make their personal accounts so powerful and immediate. There is no other body of work that has the depth and scope of the Testaments of Honour Historical Archive, and for that reason we are determined to see these stories preserved and shared.
Too often we have come to realize the importance of listening to and preserving our history in hindsight. With the Testaments of Honour Digitization Initiative we have the opportunity to preserve our past in way that cannot be replaced.
Please give serious consideration to supporting this time-sensitive initiative. We need your help.