Academy Job Shadow Days Report

Esther Nijland at DANS

Esther Nijland, catalographer/archivist at the International Institute of Social History (IISH), shadowed Marieke Polhout, data manager at DANS (Data Archiving and Networked Services). We spoke to Esther after she’d gone home. Her toddler joined the conversation in the background.

‘It was really nice to see Marieke again. Last Monday she shadowed me at IISH. Now she showed me what she does and introduced me to many of her colleagues. It was a very instructive day. I not only learned about her work, I also found out the best place to buy tickets to the opera in Verona!

The Job Shadow Days taught me that none of us works in isolation. I knew that already, but I felt even more connected during my visit. I work in a print archive, and Marieke works with digital sources. Ultimately, our jobs have more similarities than the differences I noticed at first glance. In my job, I’m responsible for providing access to physical material that may be useful at some point. But for that to happen, researchers of the future have to be able to find it. Like IISH, the main challenge at DANS is good access. And how do you preserve your archives in the long term? Both physical and digital collections face the same issues.’

‘It was very exciting to find my own work in DANS’s digital collection. My background is in archaeology and I also worked as an archaeologist for a few years. DANS still has my archaeological reports from back then in its archives. It surprised me to see how much really fascinating material the DANS archives contain. For example, there are interviews with people in Rotterdam who were taken away by the Nazis during a raid and sent to a labour camp. The DANS archives are a goldmine for historians!

I really enjoyed participating in the Job Shadow Days. I learned a great deal and talked to a lot of people. Next time, I'd like to shadow someone at the Huygens Institute, out of both professional and personal interest.’