Workshop: Searching for Documents, Restoring Links: Exploring the Archives of the International Social Service in Geneva, organized by Working Group 5.

On January 11 and 12, 2024, the International Social Service (ISS) in Geneva, Switzerland,  hosted a transformative workshop titled “Searching for Documents, Restoring Links: Exploring the Archives,” organized by Working Group 5. The event brought together scholars, researchers, and archivists from around the world to delve into the ISS archives.

The workshop began with a warm welcome from the HIDDEN group leaders: Jean Ayoub from the ISS General Secretariat, Cilgia Caratsch representing ISS-CH, and Francesca Piana from UniTrento. Their opening remarks set the tone for a day of exploration into the rich history of the International Social Service. The workshop features numerous outstanding speakers and presentations.

The first morning session, chaired by Dr. Jennifer Redmond, included the following presentations:

  • The Reconstruction of the ‘Legitimate Family’: Francesca Piana from UniTrento shed light on international social assistance for displaced Italians from 1921 to 1940.
  • Between Public and Private Spheres: Apolline Foedit of GIIDS shared about the work of the International Social Service Switzerland for refugees during the tumultuous 1930s-1950s.
  • Casework, A Resourceful Practice: Cilgia Caratsch, representing ISS-CH, provided insights into the intricacies of casework and its role in supporting vulnerable populations.
  • Advocacy in the 21st Century: Jean Ayoub, from the ISS General Secretariat, discussed the evolving landscape of advocacy efforts in the modern era.

The sessions provided an overview of the International Social Service’s history and impactful work, showcasing the organization’s dedication to helping those in need. Furthermore, the roundtable session, chaired by Dr. Beatrice Scutaru, focused on the activities of reformist circles, religious, moral, and women’s associations. Presentations included:

  • Irish migrant philanthropy in the post First World War era – evidence from Irish and UK archives. Jennifer Redmond (Maynooth University, Chair, HIDDEN COST Action)
  • The Red Cross action towards migrants: the case of the repatriated population of Portuguese decolonization, 1975-1980. Morgane Delaunay (Universidade de Lisboa)
  • The World Council of Churches action towards Romanian refugees in the 1970s and 1980s. Luciana Jinga (Institutul de Investigare a Crimelor Comunismului si Memoria Exilului Romanesc) In the afternoon sessions, participants explored the process of preparing the International Social Service (ISS) exhibit. The discussions focused on the emergence, development, and representation of the exhibit. Presentations included:

  • Celebrating a century of ISS: the emergence and the development of the exhibit. Carole Baumgart-Aubert & Cilgia Caratsch (ISS-CH)
  • Representing the work of the International Social Service: an interdisciplinary perspective. Ursula Gillmann (Hochschule Darmstadt), Susanna Sulzer & Fausto Tisato (Peer-Campaigns)
  • Unexplored archives, fragmented stories: efforts in interdisciplinary cooperation. Francesca Piana (UniTrento)

The final session of the first day consisted of a roundtable discussion that covered several topics related to public history, including ethical considerations and valuable research-based resources.

On the second day of the event, the session titled “Looking Inward, Creating Connections: The Archives of the ISS and Beyond” took place. Basma Makhlouf from HES-SO presented an overview of the ISS archives, discussing the challenges and opportunities associated with accessing and utilizing these archives for research purposes. Additionally, Hermine Diebolt from the United Nations in Geneva shared valuable insights into the UN archives, highlighting their relevance and significance to researchers. The workshop also focused on the practical aspects of working with casework material and translating archival data into research questions. Besides informative presentations, the participants were given a guided tour of the ISS General Secretariat archives. This allowed participants to gain firsthand experience of navigating these archives and exploring their contents. Overall, the session provided participants with valuable insights into archival research methods and opportunities. It further fostered collaboration and knowledge exchange among scholars and practitioners.

More information about The International Social Service (ISS) is available at: ISS – SSI – The International Social Service (