Academy Job Shadow Days report

Marjo Bakker at IISH

Marjo Bakker, subject consultant and information specialist at NIOD Institute for War, Holocaust and Genocide Studies, shadowed Eva van Oene. Eva is a digitalisation project officer at the International Institute of Social History (IISH).

Marjo Bakker visits Eva van Oene


Last week, Eva came to my workplace to shadow me. I really enjoyed telling her about my work and NIOD and I was very curious about Eva’s work and IISH. We naturally took a look round the imposing repositories and I met Eva’s colleagues. The first thing that struck me is that IISH is much bigger than NIOD, and its collections are much more international in nature. They’re located in a huge former warehouse. Our offices are in a family home built in 1893. I think our building is more inviting, but being big has its advantages. They have a cafeteria at IISH, and it’s nice to have lunch with colleagues from different departments.

Flaws and folds

Eva and I did some actual work together too. Her job is to prepare documents for scanning by an external specialist firm. She first checks whether there are any flaws in the document’s digital description. Then she smooths out any folds in the pages using a small iron with a long handle, to ensure that all the text is legible for the scanner. She let me try it. You have to be very careful. After all, you’re ironing paper and you don’t want to set it on fire. The documents we worked on were about a Russian spy who defected to the West. Unfortunately, neither of us reads Russian, so the contents remained a mystery. At any rate, the story will soon be placed safely in the digital archives.

Marjo Bakker uses a special iron to smooth out folds in a page


The visit was certainly well worth it. It’s always interesting to see how things are done elsewhere. A few years ago, IISH restructured its collections work. Collection specialists now basically deal with all types of material instead of being limited to archive material or publications. I discussed the pros and cons of the new system with Eva’s colleagues. We’re right in the midst of analysing our working processes at NIOD, so the extra input comes in handy.