By International Social Service, the Global Social Work Organization
ISS - 100 Years : 11-12 January 2024 Workshop: Searching for Documents, Restoring Links: Exploring the Archives of ISS in Geneva.

11-12 January 2024 Workshop: Searching for Documents, Restoring Links: Exploring the Archives of ISS in Geneva.

On the 11th and 12th of January 2024, the International Social Service (ISS), represented by Jean Ayoub (CEO and Secretary General ISS), Cilgia Caratsch (Director ISS Switzerland), and Francesca Piana (ISS Historian, University of Trento), hosted the HIDDEN workshop titled ‘Searching for Documents, Restoring Links: Exploring the Archives of the International Social Service in Geneva.’

The workshop, organized by Francesca Piana, and chaired by Dr. Jennifer Redmond from Maynooth University, Ireland, and Chair of the HIDDEN project, brought together scholars from diverse fields, including history, migration studies, geography, sociology, law, linguistics, postcolonial studies, and human rights.

The History of Identity Documentation in European Nations (HIDDEN) network, a European Cooperation in Science and Technology initiative, seeks to examine the history of Identity Documentation regimes in Europe and beyond, forging connections between past and present.

Given the shared interest in identity documents and migration, as well as the concurrent 100th Anniversary celebrations of ISS, including an exhibition highlighting 100 years of ISS history, the HIDDEN network and ISS organized this workshop. Held at the ISS headquarters in Geneva, the venue provided participants the opportunity to visit ISS archives.

Historians from across Europe and various disciplines convened to discuss ISS history, the challenges, and opportunities of organizing the centennial exhibit, and other pertinent topics. Discussions spanned ISS advocacy, the unique methodology of ISS Cross Border Casework, the role of women in social reforms, assistance to migrants and refugees by various actors, and ethical mobilization of individual stories. The participants also explored how beneficiaries could be included in the exhibit. Questions arose: Should beneficiaries share their stories themselves? Should we fictionalize their stories to protect identities while still conveying the essence of their experiences ?

Crucial were the discussions about the ongoing project of digitalization of ISS archives, which will make archival sources not only available to a public worldwide including academics, beneficiaries, and experts, but also easier to work with as they will be searchable.

After two days of rich multidisciplinary discussions, participants concluded that the 100 years history of ISS is important yet under-explored, urging more historians to engage with the potential of ISS archives soon to be digitalized and available online. The workshop underscored the need for continued dialogue between historians and practitioners, encouraging the exchange of experiences and knowledge.

ISS, the Global Social Work Organization

ISS is present in more than 120 countries, constituting a well-connected network of NGOs, authorities and private social work practices. The ISS global network is coordinated by the ISS General Secretariat in Geneva.
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