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Workshops on how to use the ITS database

For five days, representatives from various institutions that work with the digital database of the International Tracing Service (ITS) conferred in two joint workshops in Bad Arolsen. The meetings take place regularly and serve the exchange of information and the improvement of access to the documents in the ITS archives.

The first workshop, at the beginning of February 2017, was devoted to the application of the ITS database. The representatives from the ITS, Yad Vashem, the USHMM, the Wiener Library, the IPN Institute of Remembrance in Poland and the French National Archives formed small groups in which they undertook research in the database and discussed the best ways of arriving at the most complete possible results in the search for documents.

“It was my first time at the ITS – a good experience”, remarked Sara-Joelle Clark of the USHMM. “It’s helpful to see how other institutes go about research in the ITS database.” Elise Bath of the Wiener Library agreed: “Excellent, very useful, especially the workshop groups, the experience of the ITS staff members, seeing how different people doing an ITS search use little tricks I wouldn’t have discovered on my own.” As part of the workshop, the ITS gave a presentation on the general inventory recently published online, along with various search functions and other archival sub-collections within the ITS database. “It was an interesting get-together that will benefit me greatly”, commented Aurore Lafolie of the French National Archives. “It’s good to hear what the ITS is planning for the future, what paths it’s going to take.”

The ITS offered the second workshop, entitled “Improving Access”, jointly with the USHMM and the Wiener Library. Here the focus was on discussing and developing finding aids for further improving access to the digital documents. This also involved testing various formats for so-called user guides designed to demonstrate possible research routes in the ITS database, for example in the form of short explanatory videos. These user guides are to be developed to help researchers prepare for their visits to the ITS or its partner institutions, and for their work with the ITS database.

As Diane Afoumado from the USHMM reported, the participants also talked about how working processes related to the indexing can be sped up. “If we put our knowledge together, it would be great.” After all, Zvi Bernhardt of Israel pointed out, Yad Vashem and the ITS together have 140 years of experience. “It’s exciting to meet with people who do the same work in different places, who understand what you do, and who you can talk to about it.” His conclusion: “It’s amazing.”