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SESSION ONE:  Refugees I


Dietmar Osses, Director of the LWL Industrial Museum Hannover Colliery in Bochum, Germany

Longing for Home: Polish Displaced Persons in Germany

The paper focuses on the fate of the Polish Displaced Persons in Germany. At the end of the World War II about 11 million people from more than 20 nations remained as Displace Persons in Germany - some 6,5 million of them in the zones of the western allied forces. Most of them were former slave laborer who were removed from their countries by the Nazis and were forced to work in the industry or farming.

Due to the agreement of the four Allies at the Jalta conference, DPs from the Soviet Union were repatriated first. Until the end of 1945, about one million DPs remained as Displaced Persons in Germany. The biggest group of them with about 700.000 were DPs from Poland, others came mainly from the Baltic states and Yugoslavia. Faced with the politics of the new established communist government in Poland, most of the Polish DPs could not re-migrated to their home country because of the fear of persecution. In Germany they had to live in camps which were organized by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). A lot of these camps were based on former Wehrmacht barracks or concentration camps.

In 1947 the new established International Refugee Organization (IRO) assumed responsibility for the DPs. Following a new policy of resettlement, the USA, Canada and Australia accepted a large number of DPs as immigrants as parts of national labor programs. At the end of 1951, 140.000 DPs still remained in Germany. They got the legal status as "Heimatlose Ausländer" with the right of residence. With help from the United Nations the regional governments established a number of urban settlements as a new permanent home for the DPs.

Based on three case studies, the paper focuses on the everyday life of the Polish DPs in Germany: life in the camps, the establishment of organizations and the relationship to the authorities and the Germans.


Maija Krūmiņa, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, University of Latvia, Latvia

The New „ Home”: Latvian Refugee’s First Steps in Their Host Countries

At the end of World War II, approximately 200 000 Latvians had found themselves in the Western occupation zones of Germany thus escaping Soviet power. According to the decisions made by Allied authorities, refugees were accommodated in Displaced Persons (DP) camps where they spent about 2-5 years before the most part of them emigrated to the Great Britain, the USA, Canada, South America and Australia. Each host country had its own agenda when admitting refugees and there were more or less strict conditions under which one could enter each country (e.g. Great Britain took only single, young and healthy males and women in the first stage of the immigration process). After entering the new “home”, Latvian refugees usually had to work manual labor and only some had the chance to work according to their former profession in Latvia.

The aim of the proposed paper is to examine how Latvian refugees chose (and to what degree it was possible to choose for themselves) their new host countries and how did they managed to settle themselves in this new “home”. The examination will be based on the life story interviews of the National Oral History archive which are recorded with Latvians from Great Britain, the USA, Brazil, and Australia, which will allow comparing these different experiences.


Jacek Barski, Porta Polonica - Documentation Centre for the Culture and History of Poles in Germany, Bochum, Germany

Remembrance Places on Polish Slave Laborer, Displaced Persons and the Polish Enclave on the New Internet Site Porta Polonica

In summer 2014 the established "Porta Polonica - Documentation Centre for the Culture and History of Poles in Germany went online. As a new migration institution in Europe the Porta Polonica will research and document the traces and influences of Polish life in Germany and make them visible to a broad public.

The internet site is dedicated to discover places of memory as well as to present documents, media and objects of the concerning all facets of the culture and history of Poles in Germany. The core of the internet site is the digital "Atlas of Remembrance Places" which gives interactive access to many different places of remembrance in Germany. With texts, photos, films, sound documents, reports from contemporary witnesses and tales of personal experiences the Atlas creates a digital topography on the history and culture of Poles in Germany.

For the AEMI conference, the paper will present the examples of places of memory concerning forced migration: an historical site and memorial place on Polish slave laborers, the lost traces of a former DP camp and vanishing traces of the Polish enclave Maczków, a Polish city under Polish military government in Western Germany from 1945 to 1948.

On basis of these examples, the papers will discuss the question of remembrance on forced migration and its consequences in Germany.


Porta Polonica was established in 2013 and went online in June 2014. The founding of the Documentation Centre goes back to a round table initiative on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the German-Polish Friendship Treaty in 2011. Following a decision made by the German parliament it receives financial help from the German government. Porta Polonica is based on the co-operation and partnership with Polonia societies in Germany, mainly the Union of Poles in Germany, Rodło.


Maria Beatriz Rocha-Trindade, Universidade Aberta, Portugal

Portugal: Foreseeing the Refuge: Movements and Personalities

A brief introduction will give an account of the many directions the social and geographic mobility, seeking to list the diversity of concepts that can be inserted into that very ample category.

Portugal, taken as an example, constitutes the analysis space for the presentation of an oral communication that has in mind the permanent movement of the peoples in it, leading to facts and to individuals who characterize relevant periods of their History. A historical landmark, the 25th of April, that separates a long dictatorship period of almost fifty years (1926-1974) from the implementation of democracy, frames the two spaces under scrutiny. 

A political frame will establish the figures that initiated the change, the, so called, driving forces, capable of dragging wills and surpassing the encountered difficulties.

The social causes that lead to the search for refuge and that kept in exile those forced to move from their country intertwine in an international setting that will help unveil the background situations that occurred. The memory of what happened and the ways to preserve the remembrance of controversial figures translates the individual or collective representation of achievements that were at a given point in time criticized and in a different period praised.



Xabier Irujo, University of Nevada, USA, and Susana Sabín-Fernández, independent researcher, UK

Haven to Little Basque Refugees

On 21 May 1937, during the Spanish Civil War and soon after the bombing of the Basque town of Gernika, nearly 3,900 Basque children were evacuated to the UK. Whilst countries such as France had already received thousands of refugees, the UK government had firmly refused to take refugees arguing that this was against its policy of non-intervention. The evacuation to the UK only materialised as a result of enormous public pressure on the British government.

Simultaneously there was an attempt to evacuate 500 Basque children to the US. Initially this initiative was supported by numerous government officials and a considerable section of the population, to the extent that it was debated to increase the number to 2,000. However, the project was eventually rejected and no refugee children were authorised to enter the country.

This article examines who were the key players involved in the process of negotiating the evacuations, and the societal impact of the strategies these players employed in order to succeed. It also explores the reasons why despite significant disagreement between interest groups in both countries, one of them finally came to be a host for the children but the other did not.

Which agents became involved and finally decided the outcome of this endeavour? What was their agenda? How did they manage to engage other parties to gain the necessary support? How did they influence the decision makers in power? These fundamental issues are addressed from a comparative perspective which utilises a wide range of primary sources.

Ultimately it is argued here that the powerful pro-Francoist Catholic circle in Boston was a main agent responsible in stopping the evacuation to the US by placing the debate within a religious and anti-communist perspective. On the other hand, in the UK the Roman Catholic Church was not a key player and society put the emphasis on the humanitarian aspect of the venture.


Drago Župarić-Iljić, Simona Kuti, Snježana Gregurović, Margareta Gregurović, Dubravka Mlinarić, Mario Bara, Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies, Zagreb

Old Wounds, New Displacements? The Last 25 Years of Forced Migrations in Croatia

Violent dissolution of Yugoslavia caused the exile and displacement of a significant proportion of population from and within multinational territories of the ex-Yugoslav republics. Ideologically motivated ethno-national conflicts in this region caused the displacement of more than 3 million persons who were expelled from their homes during the 1990s. However, in the post-war period and especially during the process of joining the EU, Croatia has improved its legal, political and material conditions aiming to end IDP and refugee circle, and to enable the return of displaced persons to their homes. Also, starting from 2003, Croatia has been simultaneously developing the system of asylum, dealing with persons in need of protection, nowadays coming mostly from Asian and African countries. Even though the statistics show a steady increase of irregular and asylum flows, nowadays Croatia still mainly represents a transit territory for the majority of different types of irregular migrants, even for recognized refugees (asylum grantees) on their way to Western Europe.

This paper provides an overview of facts and figures on displaced and returnee population from and within Croatia, during the 1990s and in the post-war period. It also offers data on “new refugees” and discusses issues concerning asylum and irregular migration flows from the Croatian perspective. In May 2014, eastern Croatia, one of the most war-devastated areas, was hit by severe floods which, in turn, led to a new significant wave of endangered, temporary and involuntary displaced population. Therefore, in addition, the paper reflects upon recent events of this climate natural disaster as a sort of “a new cause” that induced forced displacement in the areas that had already experienced atrocities of the war. It also argues how these diverse categories of forced migrants and various causes of displacement contribute to the complexity of forced migration studies in the Croatian context.


Ieva Garda-Rozenberga, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, University of Latvia

Latvians in Sweden: crossing the real, imagined and storied borders

Personal narratives, including life stories, still hold particular importance in the former totalitarian countries, also Latvia. The conditions for developing a collection of life stories and for studying oral history were set in place by the late 1980s, when th e country experienced the Atmoda (Reawakening). The long years of keeping silent had finally come to an end and people began talking about all they had experienced, thereby creating a multi-voiced counteraction to Soviet-era history. The Latvian exile communities were one of the most ideologically misrepresented topics during the Soviet era, only after the Atmoda it was finally possible to talk about them freely. How people felt when they left Latvia? What were they thinking? How did it happen? How did they adjust themselves in the new countries of residence? What did it mean to be an exile?

In 1996 Latvian oral history researchers took an opportunity to go over the border and listen to up until then silenced stories of Latvian community in nearby Sweden. That year 24 Latvians were interviewed. Repeated expeditions took place in 2006, 2007 and 2011, and as a result our collection currently holds 63 life story recordings. One of the questions we looked upon both then and now was as following – what did it mean for Latvians in Sweden to cross the Latvian border, not only in geographical and political, but also in a social and cultural sense?

To find the answer to this question, the paper is arranged into three parts. The first part deals with the real border crossing or the so-called boat stories, as well as with explaining the reasons and circumstances under which the decision to flee was made. In the second part the audience will be introduced to one of the ferrymen, Pēteris Jansons, who crossed the maritime border for 28 times, moving several hundred Latvians across the Baltic Sea. Finally, in the end part I will analyze the so-called imaginary borders (social and cultural) which were formed when Latvians settled down in Sweden.

SESSION THREE: Scandinavian Migration


Knut Djupedal, Museum of Migration, Norway

Some Thoughts on Norwegian Emigration for Religious Reasons in the 16th Century

Received wisdom» has for nearly two centuries told us that the Norwegian emigration began in 1825 with the «Sloopers»; 52 poor Quakers who left Norway seeking religious freedom in The United States. This received wisdom is incorrect. The «Sloopers» were not the first Norwegian emigrants to the United States. Nor were they all poor Quakers driven by a wish for religious freedom.

But while religious persecution was indeed a part of the reason that they left their homes, they were not the first religious refugees from Norway. I wish to present new research which indicates traces of a catholic emigration for religious reasons as early as 1570, a pietistic movement in the 1750’s, and a Mormon migration after 1852, all driven in part by government persecution.


Maria Jarlsdotter Enckell, Åland Islands Emigrant Institute, Finland

1798-1867: Russian America and Its Latvians

My proposed presentation will focus on the non-Russian North European population’s multifold contributions toward the development of the North Pacific region, with specific focus on the mostly far too ignored Estonian and Latvian contributions. To get a grip on the many questions of why, I have for the past 30 years worked towards the full identification of each one, which is still ongoing.

A bit of background history:

My presentation focuses on this often willfully suppressed history concerning the entire non-Russian north European labor-force, recruited from 1798 to 1867 to fill the Russian American Company’s ever present needs at Novo Archangelsk/Sitka, its administrative site on Baranoff Island (today part of US held State of Alaska), and its many operating sites around the North Pacific Rim. This covered everything from governors to sea captains down to cabin boys and personal and household servants. These recruitment activities weren’t only directed towards the Grand Duchy of Finland, where Finnish and Swedish speaking Finlanders were engaged, but also Ingria, and the Baltic Provinces of Estland, Lifland, Kurland where Baltic Germans, Estonians and Latvians were engaged, and furthermore to such nations as Poland, Prussia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Norway.

This multiethnic population adhering mostly to the Evangelical Lutheran persuasion consisted of no less than 1/3 of the white population stationed at the Russian American Company’s many stations around the North Pacific. Here this population nestled both with ease, and documented unease within the ethnic Russian population adhering to the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic persuasion. Each one, governor or sailor, gold smith, shoemaker, tailor or baker, was at all times aware of his/her place within his own people, as well as his/her place as a conquered people under Imperial rule


Ann-Kristin Högman, Department of Political, Historical, Religious and Cultural Studies, Karlstad University

Old and Alone? The Impact of the Great Emigration on Social Networks of the Elderly

In the 19th and early 20th centuries approximately 33 million people emigrated from Europe to the United States. The countries of Scandinavia reached a state of massive emigration during the 1860s, which peaked in the 1880s and continued until the turn of the century. The majority of the emigrants belonged to the age groups 20-35. The emigration patterns are well documented but we still have a limited knowledge about the elderly parents who stayed. This paper focuses on the living conditions of rural old widows and widowers at the beginning of the 20th century, when children were supposed to be the main carers of their old parents and the welfare state was in its infancy. How did those elderly whose children had emigrated arrange their living? Comparisons between communities with different social structures are of greatest importance since previous research has showed differences in living arrangement of elderly women and men belonging to various social groups. Furthermore, comparisons between widows and widowers are interesting to make due to demographic and social factors. Because of women’s higher life expectancy the number of elderly women markedly exceeded the number of elderly men, meaning that living conditions differed a great deal between elderly men and women. Furthermore, men were supposed to be the main breadwinners and women were looked upon as more caring with closer relations to their children. Also discussed is the significance of the community for the support of widows and widowers, when the idea of self-help dominated social policy. Can an increasing dependency of poor relief be detected among these widows and widowers?

This paper deals with transnational relationships between migrants and their ageing parents seen from both a historical and contemporary perspective. The participants discuss changes connected to the life cycle such as the importance of family networks, direction of care between migrants and their parents as well as the importance of savings and remittances. It also deals with caring traditions associated with the relations between the role of family care and the responsibility of the community.

SESSION FOUR:  Child and Return Migrations - Rewards and Challenges


Paul-Heinz Pauseback, Noordfriisk Instituut: Germany

Dreams, Ex-emigrants and Millions of Dollars – What We Get Back from Overseas

The paper will be about return migrants and things or thoughts they send or take back with them from overseas. Since the beginning of migration and even before people brought back home things or an image from the New World. For North Frisia and Schleswig-Holstein I will show some examples beginning in the 17th centuries, continuing up to the 1950ties.

I show the poor sailor and the soldier in Dutch East and West India Company, the very rich pharmacist from Java, the merchant and may be at least a part time dealer in slaves from St. Thomas, the Danish colony in Caribian sea, and of course the richly connections into the USA. There will be some stereotypes of visitors well-known in other countries too up to the present day. The land of the free and the land of plenty are the most frequent images that were transported back via visitors and countless letters, but here as everywhere negative reports, e.g. about emigrants that failed were seldom, and I will ask why.

Some emphasis will be on years between 1867 and 1914, and on the correlation between migration, return migration and the Prussian military compulsory service, that was a source of frequent troubles for many re-migrants. Especially on the Frisian islands Föhr and Amrum, where in these years an old tradition of moving back and forth across the Atlantic collided with the new and very unloved military service.


Nonja Peters, Curtin University, Australia

Migrants, Refugees and a Sustainable Europe – Then and Now

On 21 May 2014, when for the first time ever, the Council of the European Union adopted ‘Conclusions on cultural heritage as a strategic resource for a sustainable Europe’. Europa Nostra, a rapidly growing citizens’ movement for the safeguarding of Europe’s cultural and natural heritage, were quick to congratulate the leadership of this success, the Hellenic Presidency of the European Union, the Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council. At the EU meeting in Brussels, that day, a historic policy approach to cultural heritage was adopted - tangible, intangible or digital - recognising it as a unique and non-renewable resource and a major asset for Europe and for the entire European project. The ‘Conclusions’ also emphasized the important role that cultural heritage plays in creating and enhancing social capital. As well, it noted the importance of economic impact and its specific role in achieving the Europe 2020 strategy goals for a smart, sustainable and inclusive socio-cultural growth, economic impact and contribution to environmental sustainability. 

What impacted on me – I was born in Europe and grew up in Australia – on a recent cultural heritage tour of Europe, that included visits to the British Museum (London) and Tropen Museum (Amsterdam recently closed), was the volume of plundered artefacts, from diverse countries around the world, acquired during the ‘Age of Exploration, Imperialism and Colonialism. The artefacts are symbolic; they reflect the truism that for many centuries these countries ‘filled the coffers’ of Europe. The colonists, who subsequently settled these countries, continued to help keep up the economic support momentum. Well before Colonialism ended, Europeans, initially mainly from Mediterranean countries, but post-WWII from around the world, left home to find employment in far-off climes – thus peopling the globe.

In this paper, quoting examples from Australia, I explore the impact on a sustainable homeland economy of emigration out of Europe - ‘then’ – from around the turn of the 20th Century in the guise of remittances, and ‘now’ as frequent migrant heritage tourists to their homelands, to meet up with kin but in recent time to also explore their family heritage in a ‘route to roots’ mission. Their stories are now also the focus of emigration museum that have recently ‘sprung up’ in various European countries.


Jeroen Doomernik and Sarah Marijnen, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam

Netherlands: Migration for Adoption: A Specific Kind of Trafficking?

Every year tens of thousands of children migrate involuntarily to another country, usually a western one, without their parents. They are the passive subjects of international adoption practices. In spite of most participants’ best intentions, international adoptation has become akin to a global business. This business thrives on a complex mix of parental desires, humanitarian considerations and the opportunities for profit making for the brokers who connect demand and supply. Perversions, moreover, occur of children being declared as orphans when they are not also. In effect, international adoption has become akin to trafficking in persons, which can be minimally defined as constituting the commodification of humans, being aimed at exploitation, coercion, and deception of the victims.

This paper critically examines where trafficking and adoption practices meet, in theory and in practice. The case study is that of the Netherlands as an importer of children, notably from China.

SESSION FIVE: Media + Migration


Patrick Fitzgerald, Mellon Centre of Migration Studies, N. Ireland

Refugees in Irish Migration History

This paper will attempt to consider the role of refugees within inward and outward migration flows to and from Ireland from the early seventeenth century to date. A range of examples will be considered and an effort made to offer a comparative analysis, seeking out similarity and difference between different groups over an extended chronological frame. In conclusion, the speaker will attempt to consider what lessons may be drawn from past experience in terms of reacting to those seeking asylum today and developing policy in this area for the future.


Mārtiņš Kaprāns & Inta Mieriņa, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology, University of Latvia, Latvia

Latvian Emigrant Communities: Media, Identity and Belonging

This paper offers a first insight into an ongoing large-scale survey of Latvian emigrant communities, conducted with the support of by the ESF research grant “The emigrant communities of Latvia: National identity, transnational relations, and diaspora politics” (Nr. 2013/0055/1DP/ Till the end of September of 2014 more than 8 000 Latvian emigrants were surveyed.

The preliminary data show that, on average, representatives of Latvian diaspora abroad feel more attached to their ethnic group rather than ‘people from Latvia’. Although Latvian diaspora abroad is quite well integrated in terms of developing networks and a sense of belonging to their new country of residence, they still feel closer to people from Latvia rather than people in their current country of residence or neighbourhood. About two thirds of respondents feel closely or very closely attached to Latvia, which is more than to the current country of residence. Interestingly, a global - European or world – identity is also quite common among Latvian emigrants.

Latvian emigrants are very active users of social networking and communication sites such as Facebook and Skype, which allow them to keep in touch regularly with their loved ones back home. Almost all emigrants follow the events in Latvia, and about 2/3 do that regularly – most frequently using Latvian Internet portals. Interestingly, they folow less the events in their own country. Following news about Latvia and using Latvian media is linked to a closer attachment to Latvia and people from Latvia, but a weaker attachment to their current country of residence and the local residents.  One can conclude that media use is one of the mechanisms to build or reinforce one’s identity and sense of belonging. It can help people to integrate into their new communities, or facilitate return migration.


Andris Straumanis, University of Wisconsin - River Falls, USA

The View from Hell: Latvian Press Reports of Emigration to Brazil, 1890-1915

Individual and societal attitudes toward migrants and migration depend on a variety of factors, including representations in the mass media. Research has tended to examine host country media portrayals of immigrants and immigration, less so homeland coverage of emigrants and emigration. This research uses discourse analysis to examine how a specific migration from Latvian territory was covered by Latvian-language newspapers in the homeland. Latvian emigration to Brazil occurred in three waves: in the late 19th century, during the early 1920s, and after World War II. This study examines press coverage of the first wave, which took place during a period of contested national awakening in the homeland and a period of economic and political transformation in Brazil. The bookends for the research are 1890, the year the scholar Pēteris Zālītis published a report on the potential of southern Brazil for Latvian emigrants, and 1915, the year German forces entered Latvian territory, disrupting communication with the diaspora. Using the digital periodical collection of the National Library of Latvia to locate references, the study considers how the press became a site of negotiation between critics of Brazil -- who used terms such as "hell" and "no place for a Latvian" -- and those who saw promise in the new land despite the hardships they endured. Media representation of emigration, it is noted, is a function of multiple factors, including stereotypes of the emigrants, broader societal issues, and the political position of the press.


Sahra-Josephine Hjorth, Aalborg University – Denmark, The Danish Immigration Museum

Combining museum practices, social media and traditional research: Alternative dissemination of the Danish immigration policy from 1950 until today

How is research regarding immigration best disseminated to a wider audience, especially if the goal is reaching children and the Danish youth? That is a question often raised at the Danish Immigration Museum. As a part of the research project entitled ‘Miclue’ Aalborg University and The Danish Immigration Museum has investigated how a mapping of the Danish immigration policy from 1950-2013, along with the implications of the policy changes, are best disseminated using social media and modern advances in technology, such as touch screens, iPads, blogs, mobile apps and animation films.

SESSION SIX: Archives and Museums


Maira Bundža, Western Michigan University, USA

Preservation of Baltic Migrant Culture in Libraries and Archives

Recently there has been renewed interest in studying the Baltic diaspora and preserving the print, archival and material culture of migrants from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  For example, the Baltic Heritage Network, founded in 2008, holds conferences and workshops that support research on the cultural heritage of the Baltic diaspora that was created by waves of migration. The aim of BaltHerNet is to ensure access to relevant information. The Baltic communities in the United States have been holding seminars to address preservation and archiving issues. They are working with North American research institutions as well as with the national libraries and archives in the Baltic countries.

The history of Baltic migration is rich. The wave of migrants after World War II created active communities and was prolific in producing books, newspapers, and magazines, with many communities establishing libraries, archives and museums. What steps are being taken to preserve the rich culture of this generation as it ages? Can a younger generation, digitally motivated, be trusted as stewards for this print-based heritage?

This presentation will highlight those research entities that are actively collecting Baltic print material. It will look at how the national libraries and archives in each of the Baltic countries are addressing materials from these waves of migrations. This presentation will also outline what the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian communities outside of the Baltic countries are doing themselves to preserve this culture.


Emilia García López, Council for Galician Culture, Spain

Letters Galician Exile on the Web: Epistles Project

The aim of our participation in 12th AEMI conference, will be presenting a new project of Council of Galician Culture: Epistles Project ( consisting of scanning, editing, etc. of letters between the Galician exiles and prominent figures in the history of Galician culture and who chose to stay in Galicia (during the years 1939-1975).

The Council of Galician Culture retains different personal archives and private funds donated to the institution that form the basis of Private Collection Archives that have archival technical criteria for treatment. The Council is the central repository of material considered bibliographic and documentary heritage of Galicia. In these private collections are collections of personal letters from authors that are unique documentary material scientific interest in all areas of information: from access to a better understanding of the senders and recipients and details about writing and their contexts, as well as the ability to check facts and circumstances of all kinds. Card sets are one of the most important parts of this documentary Private Collection Archives, consisting of more than 25,000 documents (letters, postcards, business cards, notes...) originals or copies.

Digitized, edited and contextualized by a team of historians, computer and information science, are designed and edited to allow horizontal and exploratory navigation through people or topics mentioned in the letters.


Marie-Charlotte Le Bailly and Nadia Babazia, Red Star Line Museum, Belgium

The Valorisation of Migration Stories as European Biographical Heritage & Their Use as a Museum Tool to Connect Past and Present – The Case of the Red Star Line Museum

Tens of millions of Europeans emigrated to North or South America in the 19th and 20th centuries. For almost two million of them, the journey began in Antwerp. The Red Star Line Museum brings the forgotten history of the legendary shipping company and its passengers back to life in the historic warehouses where third-class passengers were inspected.

Bringing together original artifacts, testimonies of the last surviving witnesses and reconstructions of personal stories,  the Museum tells this story from the point of view of those who experienced it. But the museum looks beyond history and also integrates stories of contemporary migrants and refugees in Europe. Although they are presented in their historical context, the Red Star Line Museum believes in the power of personal stories. They are an imminent thread between past and present and motivate visitors to reflect and dialogue on migration as a universal phenomenon and ever-present reality.

The Red Star Line Museum preserves and investigates an expanding collection of passenger liner artifacts and personal travel memorabilia. Also, it motivates the visitors to share their personal story, to participate in expanding the collection of personal migration stories from the past as well as of today in various ways: an app on its website, story collecting events, educational brochures for secondary schools, a program of storytelling for recent migrants, etc. All those donated stories are digitized and can be consulted at the Magazijn, the digital warehouse of the Museum. Through the collection of this intangible heritage the Red Star Line Museum wants to help preserve an important chapter of European history, as well as connect with the audience by stimulating reflection and debate.

The central question the museum raises is what our shared European (e)migration history means today, and why it is still relevant. This approach is not without tensions and difficulties. Historical migration museums tend to be perceived by the public in the context of ongoing societal debates on European and national migration policies. How do museums handle this tension and what strategies and methodologies do they adopt? In this presentation we want to share and discuss some of our methods and strategies through case presentations.


Maija Hinkle, Latvians Abroad - Museum and Research Centre, USA

Latvians Abroad - an Interim Assessment

In the AEMI meeting in 2007, I laid out the rationale and first steps for the Latvian emigrant museum in Latvia, "Latvians Abroad - Museum and Research Centre". This talk will be an update on what has happened since then, including how the recent economic and demographic changes in Latvia have affected us. I will give an overview of  the various waves of emigration from Latvia, and where we are in researching them, then show how we have tried to build the content of the museum and outline the next steps.

For the initial phase of museum development our priorities have been to 1) assemble a strong team, and work out the structure and goals of the organization, 2) gather a valuable, publicly available collection of artifacts and stories, 3) do outreach with travelling and internet exhibits and other events to show who we are to audiences in Latvia and abroad,  to start a dialogue with society, 4) form mutually beneficial associations and partnerships in Latvia and abroad, 5) find and develop a permanent, physical home for the museum and 6) secure funding for operational costs and the future.

We have been quite successful with the first four goals, less so with the last one. Since communication with society through exhibits and other events has been a strong aspect of building trust with the people, whom we are trying to serve, I will give more detail to that aspect.