Choose Our Piece of the Year / Stuk van het Jaar

July 30th 2013

Update 03/10/2013: The national competition is now open! Please vote for the Expatriate Archive Centre:

Voting closed on 27th August. The piece chosen was “Making Alcohol in Libya, 1972”. It has been entered into the national competition and voting will open in October during History Month.

Help us select an interesting piece from our collection of expatriate life stories to submit to this year’s Stuk van het Jaar (Piece of the Year) competition. The competition will take place in October, to coincide with the annual Maand van de Geschiedenis (History Month). Many archives in the Netherlands are participating, and we expect to see some beautiful, unusual, and interesting records submitted.

It was hard work narrowing our selection down to just a few pieces, but we have found five which represent the diversity of our collection. Please select the one that really captures your imagination. The piece that receives the most votes will be entered into the national competition at the end of August, so you have until 23rd August to vote.

Choose Your Favourite Piece

Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet in Nigeria, 1966

stuk-sinterklaas-full Photo taken by a Dutch family living in Nigeria, of Sinterklaas and Zwarte Piet arriving in Port Harcourt. The family were in Nigeria because the husband worked for Shell; they moved from The Hague in 1966 and returned due to civil war in Nigeria in 1967. The wife wrote (translated from the original Dutch): “It really was like in Holland, the only difference was the temperature, around 30 degrees and the burning sun was shining down… Now you could see him (Sinterklaas) and his helpers (Zwarte Pieten) in their costumes suffering: the sweat was running down their faces – and with it their colour. There were many light stripes in the Piets’ faces. Then we asked ourselves what on earth the Nigerians were thinking when they saw all this.”

Snake Man Potions in 1970s Nigeria

stuk-snakeman-fullThis price list is from “The Head of Snake Chairman” visiting a Shell camp in 1970s Warri in Nigeria. The many exotic potions listed include “Medicine for Promotion”, “To prevent bad Juju”, “To go in contact with woman and no disease”, “Medicine to catch Thieves” and more. The piece comes from a collection donated by a Canadian man who joined Shell in 1952 and was posted to Borneo, Venezuela, Nigeria, and the Netherlands. As he explains in the note attached to the list, “The “Snake Man” used to visit the Warri Club on regular basis. Always had a basket full of hooded cobras. Got 5 or 6 of them to bite his arm and went round with them hanging from his arm trying to get the audience to buy his various medicines against snake bite and just about everything else as you can see from his attached price-list”.

Making Alcohol in Libya, 1972

stuk-homebrew-fullFrom a fascinating collection donated by a Dutch couple who moved all over the world – including Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Turkey, Iraq, Congo, Libya, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria – because of the husband’s job with KLM. In his account of his family’s time in Tripoli, Libya, from 1971 – 1974 he recounts what life was like for foreigners. Clubs were forbidden and you could not have more than 8 people in your house without permission, and if permission was granted, there would be two Libyans standing outside the house on guard. The family began to make their own alcohol, in a country where the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned, with a detailed account of the process included in the collection – starting with a pressure cooker which was found to be too small, and eventually progressing to jerrycans and milk churns.

Life Story Recovered from a Flea Market

stuk-manuscript-fullAn elderly man cleared out his house, throwing away all his personal items that he thought no-one would be interested in anymore. Into the bin went his photo albums, letters and children’s drawings – mostly from his time in Barranquilla, Colombia, where he worked for Chevron/Shell in the 1940s. Somehow, all these items ended up bundled together on a stall in a flea market. They were discovered by a collector, who managed to trace the owner. The old man was happy that someone was interested in his story, and gave the collector an additional piece – a manuscript of a book that he had never managed to get published. The book tells of the author’s experiences during the World War II, before he became an expat, including the tale of a nameless girl on a bicycle who came to his rescue during an encounter with German police. The collector donated it to our archive with the rest of the collection, ensuring that the manuscript and bundle will be preserved together for posterity.

Neptune Diploma for Crossing the Equator, 1947

stuk-equator-fullIn a tradition that continues to this day, new sailors in the Navy are given an initiation ceremony the first time they cross the Equator. More experienced sailors form a “Court of Neptune” and various rituals are performed with the initiates, to ensure that they are – as the certificate says – hardy enough to handle all the hazards that lie ahead in their journey. This certificate was presented to Jan Bruinsma in such a ceremony in 1947. Jan was conscripted in 1946 when he was 20, and the following year left the Netherlands for the first time on the boat MV ‘Johan van Oldenbarnevelt’. The boat was bound for Indonesia, travelling via the Rock of Gibraltar, Port Said in Egypt, the Gulf of Suez, the Red Sea, Aden in Yemen, and then across the Indian Ocean. Jan returned to the Netherlands in 1950, but his collection at our archive continues later when his son began working at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Categories: Donations, Events

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Photography Project “Nico let op” Shows an Outsider’s Perspective of Dutch Signs

July 11th 2013

A new photography project, Nico let op, is a study in communication, curiosity and confusion. Photographer Kalle Kuikkaniemi decided to look at the Netherlands from an outsider’s perspective, and carried out his initial research at the Expatriate Archive Centre last year.

Kalle is originally from Finland and has been living in the Netherlands for several years. He has been studying at AKV|St. Joost, and found the EAC while he was searching for inspiration for his graduate project.


Nico let op is the result. Kalle explains,

“As an expatriate, I look at the Netherlands from a different perspective than people who are born in the country. The Dutch customs and ways of communicating are often confusing to me – the first time I saw a photograph commemorating someone’s 50th birthday, I thought a person named Abraham had gone missing. My curiosity towards the Dutch culture and confusion created by unfamiliar customs are the driving force behind my photography.

I am fascinated by how people communicate with images and texts in public spaces. I photograph the messages people create, such as advertisements, texts written on walls or images pasted on lamp posts. With my photographs, I show the absurdity I see in the communication (and miscommunication) in mundane living environments.”

Originally interested in exploring the feeling of disconnectedness as an expat, Kalle began his research by looking through the collections of expat life stories at the EAC. He says, “My visit to the Expatriate Archive Centre gave me more insight into my own process and myself and the dilemmas I am facing as an expat. In the end, I came to the conclusion, that me being an expatriate is not be the main subject of my photography, but rather the driving force behind my work – it makes me look at the Dutch society the way I do.”

For more information on Kalle’s work, visit his website at

The Expatriate Archive Centre collects the life stories of expatriates and repatriates and their families. The collection could be of interest to researchers, including historians and social scientists as well as individuals looking into the expatriate life of their own families. If you are interested in carrying out research at our archive, please contact us.

Categories: Articles, Research

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Saying Farewell to EAC Director Elske van Holk

July 8th 2013

Elske van Holk was the Director of the Expatriate Archive Centre when it became an independent organisation in 2008. She has overseen the archive grow and expand, in size and stature, to become the respected institution that it is today.

Notable highlights of her five year career included the successful open day held in 2011 to mark the annual International Archives Day, and the 2013 academic symposium “The Expatriate Experience: Past and Present”, which drew migration history researchers from the Netherlands, UK, and even as far away as the USA.

The Expatriate Archive Centre held a party to say farewell to Elske on 26th June 2013. It was attended by staff, volunteers, board members, and supporters of the EAC. Here are some photos from the day:



Categories: Articles

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New Director for the Expatriate Archive Centre

July 1st 2013

The Expatriate Archive Centre has this week said farewell to Elske van Holk, who has been the Director of the Archive since it became an independent institution in 2008. Elske leaves an impressive legacy, having overseen the organisation grow in size and stature, with the recent academic symposium “The Expatriate Experience: Past and Present” being a particularly notable achievement.


The new Director for the Expatriate Archive Centre is Kristine Racina. Kristine is originally from Latvia and is married to a Dutch diplomat. She has a degree in Economics and Business Administration, is fluent in English, Russian and Latvian, and also speaks Dutch and French. Kristine has first-hand experience as an expatriate in Yemen and the Netherlands, and is already a well-known figure in the international community of The Hague having organised the Feel at Home Fair 2012. Especially important for her role in the Expatriate Archive Centre is Kristine’s previous experience as a volunteer for The Hague Municipal Archives on the history of international schools.

The EAC relies on their hard-working and enthusiastic volunteers, who work on projects ranging from archiving and cataloguing to article-writing and marketing. Volunteers at the Archive have always commented on the welcoming atmosphere and helpful staff, and the EAC intends to maintain the professional, friendly and international environment.

Kristine Racina said, “I am really excited to start working for such a unique organisation like the EAC. Being an expat myself, the EAC mission and goals are close to my heart. The EAC strives to become the first stop in the research process of expat issues and I am looking forward to the new challenges and opportunities ahead. ”

Elske van Holk commented, “I am convinced that, thanks to the wonderful staff and volunteers, I leave the EAC in a very good state. Kristine is a very safe pair of hands to which I entrust the EAC with great confidence. The future of the Archive Centre is bright and looks extremely good.”

Categories: Articles

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