Archives, Evidence and Human Rights

Graduate Program (& Advanced Certificate) Status

Course Level: 
Course Open to: 
Remote students
Academic Year: 
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ECTS Credits: 
Course Description: 

The Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA), an organizational unit of CEU, is an international archival, research and educational institution committed to collect, preserve, provide open access to and actively interpret records on recent history, and human rights movements and violations ( OSA is also the records management provider for and the final repository of the historic records of the Central European University and the Open Society Foundations. OSA's holdings, coming from three dozen countries in over 30 languages and in all media and formats, are frequently used in its public programs, including physical and virtual exhibitions, film screenings, artistic performances, as well as lectures, workshops and seminars. OSA organizes yearly the Verzio International Human Rights Documentary Film Festival.

In an effort to find innovative ways of archiving and making records as widely available as possible, OSA developed and promotes a new, collaborative and distributed digital archival model which relies primarily on its users in the archiving process and research as well, and engage its community of researchers into professional dialog, thus facilitating critical approach to the documents.

OSA offers the three-credit course Archives, Evidence and Human Rights to the Human Rights Program of the Legal Studies Department, cross-listed to the History Department. The course seeks to attract students with different backgrounds, working on topics related to recorded memory, historical analysis and representations of oppressive regimes, and retroactive justice. The multidisciplinary course includes an introduction to the history and philosophy of preserving recorded memory and gives an overview of the basic functions and types of modern human rights archives. It further aims at analyzing the legal and ethical problems of using human rights documents containing personal data, as well as basic provisions of archival and information law. Case studies illustrate the problems of using and evaluating evidence on mass atrocities, the historical, ethical, and legal aspects of making justice for past abuses and the difficulties of making state leaders liable for human rights violations. New methods of (re)creating historical/human rights narratives from diverse archival sources are introduced, along with innovative digital systems of managing human rights information. The course also explores practices of memorializing grave human rights violations in the archival space. In addition, students gain skills in doing archival research and handling archival documents in practice.

The course is taught by a team of OSA experts: Iván Székely (social informatist, course leader), András Mink (historian), and Csaba Szilágyi (human rights archivist). The venue is the permanent home of OSA, the Goldberger House, located just a few blocks away from CEU’s main Budapest campus.

Learning Outcomes: 

− Guide students in understanding common archival goals and processes, and different approaches to gathering and organizing information
− Develop students’ ability to find and use primary sources in their research and thesis writing
− Orientate students in the area of online search possibilities, especially in finding and using trusted search engines, databases and online repositories
− Urge students to reconsider the use of recorded memory in evaluating the moral and legal aspects of justice-making
− Challenge students to evaluate, critically approach and innovatively use different kinds of archival documents relating to violations of human rights
− Strengthen students' ability to demonstrate an awareness and understanding of documentary evidence in the context of human rights
− Completing the course is a prerequisite of taking the Archives and Evidentiary
Practices Specialization


Grading is based on the take-home essay prepared on the students’ individual research topic (60% weight), as well as the quality of the written and oral contributions to classes and workshops (10% weight), mid-term presentations (10% weight), their individual research into OSA documents and individual consultations with the respective supervisors (20% weight).