Starting from a humble beginning as an old leather suitcase full of diaries and yellowing documents, the Expatriate Archive Centre has grown into a lovely residential office where a trove of expat-related documents and ephemera are collected for future research.
“To collect, preserve, promote and make accessible a collection of primary source materials documenting the social history of expatriate life.” – Expatriate Archive Centre Mission Statement
That is the mission of the Expatriate Archive Centre and they take it very seriously. Living and working abroad is one of the most influential decisions an expat can make, but the reasons behind that decision and the experiences after it vary widely. By bringing together the experiences of expats, organizations, and their families left at home, the Centre is creating a collection useful for all sorts of researchers interested in multicultural experiences, immigration, and even genealogy. The materials can also be used to support future expats by creating higher value experiences for them or simply by letting each of us know we are not alone.
I believe the choice of the Den Haag as the home of the Expatriate Archive Centre was a coincidence, but it is appropriate. In addition to being the home of the UN’s judicial branch and the Dutch seat of government, Den Haag is home to a variety of international companies with a strong expat community. The Netherlands itself is quite centrally located for European-based expats.
Although the archive is located in the Netherlands, it accepts donations from expats living worldwide and in all languages. They have a relationship with a translation program to translate all contributions into English for access.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of this young archive. While they do have a small, professional staff who maintain the archive, seek out new donations, and assist researchers, it is the volunteers who read diaries, scan materials, translate documents, and build the archive’s presence online and outside of Den Haag. New volunteers are asked to attend the regular Introductory Workshop to ensure that they know what they are doing and why it is being done. Other volunteers help conduct oral interviews and they have an additional training workshop as well.
Despite the distance of Maastricht from Den Haag, my archivist background simply made volunteering with the archive too good of an opportunity to pass up. I originally met Donna from the archive at the “I’m not a Tourist” Fair in Amsterdam but circumstances conspired to keep me away from the facility for several months. After my trip last Thursday I will be helping to read and summarize diaries, as well as sharing the Archive with the Maastricht area in the hopes that some of you will want to share your documents and experiences with the wider database.
The Expat Archive Centre is growing their collection of expat-related materials and they need your help. All expats, regardless of country of residence or origin are welcome to contact the archive with donations of diaries, journals, letters, paperwork, photos, audio recordings, newsletters, and other items related to your experiences. They are also beginning to archive some blogs/weblogs; with permission of the creators of course.
As with any archive donation, you will be asked to give the Archive control of the copyright. This will allow them to use the materials in research and/or simply care for the documents over time. You can require that some materials not be released right away if you are concerned about repercussions. If you have an item that you’re like to share but don’t want to part with, the archive will happily scan the item and return it to you in good condition. Please contact the archive at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and do please swing by the website to see more examples of the collection or sign up for a workshop.
Photos from the Archive’s website used with permission.