Selecting the past: The relationship between archives, memory and history investigated through NIOD’s war diary collection (1944 – 2010)
Leeuwen, S.P. van
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Three days after the liberation of the Netherlands from Nazi Germany, the Rijksinstituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie (RIOD) was founded. This institute (nowadays known as NIOD Instituut voor Oorlogs-, Holocaust- en Genocidestudies) was created to produce an official history of the Netherlands during World War II. Immediately after its foundation, employees started raising awareness that they were creating a war diary collection and they used radio messages, posters, flyers and personal letters to ask people to send diaries that they had written during the war to the institute. Hundreds of diaries were acquired by RIOD between 1945 and 1955, but these were not all included in the archival collection and sometimes sent back to the authors instead. A selection of NIOD's diary collection was digitized between 2007 and 2010 in a state-led subsidy programme entitled Erfgoed van de Oorlog (Heritage of the War) and the documented experiences of hundreds of people can now be found online. Who was in charge of the selection of the diaries back in 1945 and who decided which diaries were digitized during Erfgoed van de Oorlog? Have the acquisition criteria changed over the years at NIOD, and if so, why? This thesis maps the process in which war diaries were obtained by RIOD, selected or rejected by employees of the institute for the archive, used for scholarly research in the Netherlands and selected or rejected for digitisation. By investigating how NIOD’s war diary collection was created and how these diaries influenced historical studies on World War II in the Netherlands, I aim to clarify the relationship between archives, history and memory. Can archivists be seen as key players in creating or distributing collective memory?