Preserving Expat Memories: The Expatriate Archive Centre
Housing a unique and fascinating collection of life stories from expats across the globe, the Expatriate Archive Centre aims to preserve and make accessible the memories of expatriates of all nationalities. The Centre conserves materials which could otherwise be lost, damaged or discarded, to establish a valuable facility for researchers worldwide.
The Archive was originally founded by Shell spouses and is based in The Hague, the Netherlands. In 2008 it became an independent organisation giving a voice to expats worldwide and from any employment background. Anyone who has spent time temporarily away from their “home” culture can donate their experiences, including Third Culture Kids.
Since its inception in 2002, the historical collection has grown and diversified to include a wide range of writings, diaries, letters, memoirs, photographs, videos, blogs, DVDs and oral history recordings about the lives of people living and working overseas. The collection dates back as far as the 1890s, with pieces including photograph albums from pre-independence Indonesia; family films from as early as the 1930s; experiences from various countries including Nigeria in the 1950s, Guatemala in the 1960s, Pakistan in the 1970s, Japan in the 1980s, Norway in the 1990s, and much more.
The Centre is interested in anything which illustrates day-to-day expatriate life including:
- Journals, diaries and memoirs.
- Letters, emails and blogs.
- Photos, films and DVDs.
- Paperwork e.g. official documents, customs forms, packing lists, invitations, ID cards etc.
Why Donate Your Expat Story?
The Archive always welcomes new contributions from expatriates and their families. Here are some very good reasons to donate your story:
They can preserve your collection better than you can! Everything is stored in acid-free folders and humidity-controlled conditions. Much better than a shoebox under the bed or a shelf in the garage.
Your collection won’t get split or lost. Many people, understandably, want to keep their memories for their children and grandchildren. Unfortunately, this often leads to the collection being broken up and parts being lost or discarded. Your collection will be kept in one piece and will always be safe.
You will get a free digital copy. All documents are scanned, so you can get a CD with your collection on it. It will give you a fresh look at your life story, it’s much easier to transport and store, and you can give copies to family members.
It won’t cost you anything. Postage can be refunded for small items, or pickup arranged for larger collections via a partnership with Voerman International Movers. A fee may be negotiated for certain larger projects e.g. converting old films.
You can send things in installments. You don’t need to collect everything together now, which can be very time-consuming. You can always add things to your collection at a later date. This is particularly helpful for expats who are moving on to other countries – send your paper-trail to the archive instead of throwing it away.
You will be supporting expat research. Academic researchers want to see original source material. Your story will become part of the rich tapestry of expat history. The archive does not exploit your precious memories for gain, but acknowledges the true educational and social value your contribution brings to the greater picture.
Research at the Archive
The collection is available for academic research, and there is a searchable catalogue available online at dlibweb.xpatarchive.com. Research areas might include social history – specifically migration history, psychology and other topics to explore the social and/or emotional impact of expat life, the cultural or political changes of specific places or countries over the years, genealogy, or even background research for art projects.