Probably due to my many years of moving from place to place, I am very much invested in decoding and influencing the myriad ways that human migration plays into culture, individual and group identity, and (increasingly relevantly these days) politics across the globe. My day job is doing public relations for a beautiful little institution in The Hague, to which I am utterly devoted: the Expatriate Archive Centre. We collect primary sources documenting expat life around the world, including letters, diaries, blogs, photographs, scrapbooks, etc.
Our collection forms an important repository of material useful for academic research on the social history of expat life, approached from disciplines as varied as geography, history, psychology, etc. We also create exhibitions and other projects designed to invite the public to interact with our collection, as well as to highlight the importance of the type of social history we preserve. For our latest archive-initiated project, Saudade, we invited ten artists from different countries to each create a piece based on inspiration from our collection.
I recently donated my personal collection of the last fifteen years of expat experiences to the archive. It was a prime example of how much things have changed during that time when it comes to how we document our experiences. My collection begins with written letters and journals and printed photographs, and progresses through emails (I also printed those out back in the day) to blogging and social media. Partly as a result of witnessing this transition, I have been spearheading multiple projects at the archive that are aimed toward preserving modern digital media, including a blog archiving initiative and a Twitter Rotation Curation account, @WeAreXpats, which is narrated by a different expat each week. If you are or have been an expat and have original material (paper or digital) documenting your own everyday life abroad, we would love to add it to our collection. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The rest of my free time these days mostly goes to an Amsterdam-based initiative I helped start in the summer of 2016: Hiraeth. At Hiraeth, we believe that the quest for home is a universal feeling and right. We tend to associate migration with those escaping turmoil; seeking refuge, but humans have been migrating for thousands of years in search of food and shelter. Modern migration comes in many forms. Whether it be for work, love, adventure, or refuge, we are always seeking home. Home is a feeling that we can’t quite explain, yet are always trying to find or create, and that journey, that search, that creation, are what we explore at Hiraeth.
The core of Hiraeth is a digital magazine that focuses on the literary, visual, and performing arts. The magazine explores the idea of hiraeth with weekly art and literary features, as well as a bi-weekly podcast with guests from around the world. If the idea of hiraeth resonates with you, we are currently accepting submissions of short fiction and non-fiction, personal and profile essays, poetry, and satire, as well as visual arts of all sorts. In 2017 we will also be doing a series of community-focused events, including poetry readings and storytelling, art exhibitions, and others. If you know of a related event or exhibition, I would love to hear about it so we can profile it in the magazine.
This is very much a “heart” project for me. None of us are making any money on it; we are just concerned citizens who want the world to be a better place and believe that the stories we tell and listen to impact the way we see the world and how we behave, both individually and collectively. Hiraeth’s goal is to use storytelling in its myriad forms to awaken empathy, understanding, and appreciation for the many faces of our shared humanity in the hope that this awakening will lead us as a society toward a more open, tolerant, and welcoming approach to those who join us from outside of our traditional circle.
Would you like to join us? Submit a piece or proposal for the magazine here. Or sign up for our mailing list to be notified of upcoming events and news. And feel free to click below to hear the podcast where I talk about why I joined Hiraeth.