Report from the International Association of Labour History Institutions (IALHI)

By Jen Eidson, Assistant Labor Collections Archivist, University of Maryland

The International Association of Labour History Institutions (IALHI) held its 47th annual conference in Helsinki, Finland from September 7-10, 2016.  Attendance was around 60 participants, from Finland, Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, United Kingdom, Japan, Greece, Russia, Namibia, and United States of America.  A reception was held the first day in the Finnish Labour Archives (Työväen Arkisto).  The rest of the conference took place across the street at The Trade Union for the Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL).  Coffee and lunch was served in their cafeteria!


The conference started out with the business of the IAHLI General Assembly.  A good portion of this time was an update on their Social History Portal which was developed within the project HOPE – Heritage of the People’s Europe (co-financed by the European Commission). The portal gives access to digital collections of fifteen IALHI members – over 900,000 digital objects (archives, books, brochures, leaflets, photographs, posters, prints, cartoons, sound, films and videos).  They hope to bring in new data providers each year.  In 2016 they added new records from Greece, Sweden, Belgium, and UK, in addition to updating their aggregator software to MINT (Metadata Interoperability Platform).

ialhi5The theme of the conference was “Heritage of Social Movements in a Global Perspective: Collecting and Preservation of Sources.” The main part of the program took part over two days –20 presentations in 5 sessions, including two keynotes.  The conference did not have overlapping sessions, so all could attend the entire program.  Many presentations discussed current projects and initiatives such as oral history projects, online exhibits, mapping historical buildings.  Other presentations discussed their organization’s efforts to collect born digital records, create digital archives, and work with digital humanity projects.

ialhi6The two keynote presentations on Friday were very interesting as well.  The first was a University professor from University of Namibia; she discussed her research for her book Historical narratives of five village women in Namibia.  The second keynote was given by a professor at the University of Helsinki about her book The river has a memory, and so do we: struggles for water justice in Mexico.

For more details about the conference:



Flickr Photo Album

I attended this conference because I work with a large labor history archive at the University of Maryland, and several of our collections and record groups have strong international ties.  I was happy to make new contacts with other labor archives.  Some of the attendees have visited my archive to do research for articles and books, so it was good to talk to them again in person.  I also appreciated learning about current projects and new collections and resources at these international archives.  My presentation was about digital archives at University of Maryland and I was interested to hear about others’ efforts with digital archives – we’re all in the same boat!  Sharing and learning in such a diverse setting is invaluable.

Tours, sightseeing, and dining were also fun experiences.  I discovered my hotel was across the street from a famous bakery “Ekberg” and I explored the city and waterfront by a light rail system and on foot.








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