In this paper we would like to spark conversation on the workshop’s topics of communication, knowledge and meaning making via two projects currently underway and in development at the NIOD. Both projects reflect on meaning making in the past by the creators of the documents, but also in later times by researchers, archivists and information specialists when studying and curating the sources.
Milan van Lange will go into the project ‘First-Hand Accounts of War’ about letters sent in the period before, during, and after the Second World War and occupation of the Netherlands and Indonesia/Dutch East Indies. Via digitization and datafication this project hopes to unlock insights into communication between ‘ordinary people’: what they knew, experienced, thought about, shared about with family and friends. A key question is how we as researchers can better understand the processes of meaning making during the period of warfare, occupation, persecution, hunger, deportation using the possibilities of digitized sources.
Ismee Tames will follow up to this via a new project on the collections of the ‘Special Jurisdiction’ in the Netherlands: the courts and tribunals investigating those suspected of collaborating with the Nazi-occupier. Digitizing this archive first and foremost reveals ways in which information was collected by the police officers, prosecutors and others involved in this legal framework: the Special Jurisdiction can be understood as a system of knowledge production (incl. production of ignorance, silences etc.). One key question is how the digitization and datafication of this massive collection can help us understand this early postwar mechanism of meaning making and how we best deal with current society’s wish to use this collection to make sense of the war time experience through the lens of victims and perpetrators.