Academy Job Shadow Days report

Kahliya Ronde at NIOD

Kahliya Ronde, communications officer at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIAS), shadowed Tessa Free, communication advisor for the Netherlands War Sources Network, a programme facilitated by NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies.

8.28 This day is different from others. I have to supress my commuter instinct to prevent myself from stumbling off the train at Amstel Station. Today, I can remain in my seat for one more stop, until Amsterdam Central Station. That’s because this morning, I’m shadowing Tessa Free of the Netherlands War Sources Network (quintessential example of a name suiting a job!). After our inspiring first meeting, I’m looking forward to shadowing her.

09.04 I’ve arrived. There are bicycles everywhere. Even in front of NIOD’s imposing building, where the Netherlands War Sources Network team has its offices..

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09.05 While I’m waiting in the lobby of this majestic former residence, I study how NIOD organises and uses information on the screen in the reception area.

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09.10 First things first. ‘Shadowing’ also means shadowing Tessa when she walks to the coffee dispenser.

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09.11 Without spilling...

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09.22 While we’re having coffee (with a view of the flowery wallpaper), Tessa tells me about the organisation and her work, and about the crowdsourcing-project The prisoners of Camp Vught, which shows that scanning isn’t all that’s involved in making an archive digitally searchable.

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09.36 I’m also given a guided tour. I inspect NIOD’s famous bathroom, right next door to Tessa’s team office. Who do you think left those ducks there?

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09.39 Another image of the Moorish-style bathroom. Like the Trip brothers who built the Trippenhuis Building – the Academy’s headquarters – from their profits in the arms trade, the former owner of the NIOD building made his fortune in a questionable line of business: colonial plantations. I'm glad that the building is now being put to respectable use.

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09.48 We walk to the archives, passing through the impressive photographic exhibition War in the City.

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09.52 The overabundance of marble along our route to the safe makes me feel as if I’m entering a tomb. The door of the safe was installed in 1921 when Deutsche Bank moved into the building. But there are no banknotes here now...

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10.01 The prison records of Camp Vught, a Nazi concentration camp located outside the town of Vught in the Netherlands. In June, volunteers recruited by the Netherlands War Sources Network began digitalising the personal data recorded on the old index cards. That means that the information will be searchable and that the database they are creating can be linked to other Second World War sources with names. It is still an impressive sight, all those index cards. I think of the circumstances in which they were written, and how confrontational it is to see tangible evidence of the fate of so many prisoners. The total madness and banality of war and holocaust recordkeeping.

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10.18 170 volunteers have spent the past several months reading and converting all 26,000 index cards in the Camp Vught archives into online records. Right now, they’re checking the information entered into the database (another 6,664 index cards to go!). I’m impressed by the dedication and commitment of the volunteers, and the obvious impact on society of the work being done by the Netherlands War Sources Network.

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11.00 Tessa shows me her communication toolkit on the website, and we share other tips and tricks. She gives me the name of some design software that I plan to test out right away, tomorrow.

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11.22 The clock in the corridor says that it's almost time to leave.

11.49 I still have just enough time to drop in at the Atheneum book shop. I purchase The Great Leveller by Walter Scheidel, who will be giving the first public NIAS lecture on 11 April 2018. After a successful Job Shadow day, I will be returning to my job at NIAS with more knowledge and a broader view.