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23.11.21

Meet Our New Archivist!

Hello, I’m Hari Jonkers, and I’m delighted to have been appointed this September as the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association’s (HSFA) first Archivist. l will be developing our archive and museum collections through a programme of preservation, cataloguing and digitisation, so they can become more accessible and well known to audiences and researchers.  

It’s an exciting time – seven weeks in and there’s already so much to showcase and share, and I can see a lot of potential for our archive. As well as preserving the legacy of Holocaust survivors who settled in Yorkshire, we’re now pro-actively expanding to safeguard collections and record testimonies from across the North of England – so if you or someone you know may wish to donate Holocaust material into our care or have your family’s oral history recorded, we’d love to talk with you and find out more.  

As Holocaust survivors become fewer in number, it is imperative that their records are kept for future generations to tell their stories. These items are precious and of great educational and archival value but may be in danger of being lost – and with them the individual, unique stories which enrich our understanding of the Holocaust and how refugees and survivors established new lives.  

As a 3rd generation Holocaust survivor this really speaks to me because I know there is material out there – be it a bundle of foreign language documents, some worn photographs, a treasured object, or homemade recording – which families may not realise is of significance or be in a position to care for or take an interest in. Perhaps there is doubt about what these records are and who the relatives were that they represent. So often there are unanswered questions in our family histories, or perhaps the questions have not ever been formulated.  

As an archivist, one reason I was drawn to this role was the strong provenance we have for our collections – meaning we know a lot about where they have come from. It’s a privilege to know so much about the survivors, their families, and associates who have generously shared Holocaust stories and donated items to the HSFA. Such close connections are rare within the world of collecting institutions, and it is fulfilling to contribute to the HSFA survivor community in return by looking after these special materials. 

The creative potential of the HSFA archive also appeals to me. I am intrigued by the work of the artists engaging with the collections, be it the new zines by our Digital Intern, Paula, or forthcoming “counter” audio-guides by sound artists. Archives are incredible sources of creative inspiration and it’s wonderful to see this being explored. Personally, I am deeply interested in the connections between artistic practice, trauma (including intergenerational trauma), and therapy, for instance how we process and come to terms with lifechanging events or periods in our lives, through creative output (both formal and informal). 

I look forward to working with the collections in detail and keeping you updated of the project progress via this blog and our social media. 

For more information on gifting your collection please email helc@hud.ac.uk

Hari Jonkers, 22/11/21