October is History Month in the Netherlands. To celebrate this, archives from across the country have selected one piece from their collections to enter into a competition called Stuk van het jaar (Piece of the Year). This annual competition started last year and proved to be a great way to showcase the diversity of material in Dutch archives. The Expatriate Archive Centre is one of the smaller private archives taking part and so we ask you to show your support by voting for us at: https://www.stukvanhetjaar.nl/.
This year’s theme is Vriend en Vijand, Friend and Foe. In the collections of the Expatriate Archive Centre, we have many examples of expats and their families suddenly finding themselves facing times of conflict. Among other items there are ration books and censored letters from the Netherlands in World War II, a war diary and internment records from 1940s Indonesia, and photographs of armoured vehicles in Kuwait in 1991.
The piece we selected is from the Nigerian civil war in 1967. It is a memorandum sent to Shell employees advising them of what to take with them when they evacuated the country. It gives a sense of the sudden impact of being faced with an unexpected situation in a foreign land, and shows how international companies have to sometimes take charge and assist their staff in dealing with emergencies.
A Shell geologist moved with his wife and two children to Nigeria in 1966. The following year, civil war broke out and the family were told that they needed to evacuate back to the Netherlands. This list was given to all expatriate staff by Shell, detailing the things they should take with them – “one suitcase per person” and no more than “£5.0.0. in Nigerian currency”. They were advised to pack warm clothing, a first aid kit and anti-malaria pills. A handwritten note at the side reads, “Tuesday / day before: everything is quiet. Next day they got the news of the evacuation”.
Vote for the Expatriate Archive Centre at https://www.stukvanhetjaar.nl/. Click the “Stem” button, and then confirm by clicking “Ja, stem”. See all submitted pieces on the Stuk van het jaar website at www.stukvanhetjaar.nl. You may vote only once for each piece, voting closes on October 26th.