In April 2021, we are reflecting on the past years the EAC has spent collecting and preserving life stories of expatriates worldwide and celebrating people who have played an important role in making the EAC what it is now.
Sarah Kunz is a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the University of Bristol and is one of the jurors for the 2021 EAC Thesis Award; read more about Sarah in her juror bio. Her PhD is titled ‘The expatriate: the postcolonial history and politics of a migration category’.
I joined the Expatriate Archive Centre in a dual role, as researcher and intern, between October 2015 and January 2016. At the time, I was developing my PhD project and I had come across the EAC online, instantly fascinated by its distinctive focus on the history of privileged forms of migration.
When I joined the EAC I was a novice to archival research and I could not have wished for a better place to start this journey. Initially, I mainly assisted with organising and recording personal collections in my role as intern, while simultaneously familiarising myself with the EAC’s various collections to figure out what my own research might focus on. Later on, I primarily did my own research, combing through materials relating to life in Kenya in the 1950s, through accounts of working in 1930s Venezuela, and reading the many memories contained in the Shell Ladies Project anthologies. I was brilliantly supported throughout by Eva and Kristine, as well as all the other dedicated and helpful staff and volunteers. I always found the Expatriate Archive Centre a welcoming, supportive and stimulating place and being at the EAC in this dual role of researcher and intern proved to be a uniquely instructive experience. It allowed me to gain an understanding of the processes of researching in archives as well as of the processes of archiving itself, insights that would have been hard to gain otherwise. Learning about the different institutional processes and the complexities of organising and running an archive not only proved to be fascinating but it also enriched my skills as a researcher.
The EAC does not only hold documents of historical interest, but the institution also has an interesting history itself, which I came to appreciate during my time there. The EAC has evolved and grown, invented and re-invented itself, all through the initiative and dedication of women from varied ways of life and different parts of the world. Its various collections speak of this history and document the different experiences captured by the historically unstable and politically contentious term expatriate. The migrations I read about in the archive, as much as the people I met at the archive, profoundly shaped my research and my thinking on migration more generally. I still fondly remember my daily walks from the Den Haag Centraal train station through beautiful, cobbled streets to work in the EAC’s cosy front room, and I hope that I will soon be able to return to continue my research at the EAC.