This carved wooden photograph album cover was collected by UN World War II displaced persons' camp worker Esma Banner in a Displaced Person Camp in 1948. It was created by a refugee in one of the displaced persons' camps in the US Zone in Germany.The album cover was displayed as an example of craftswork from the Association of Latvian Art Craftsmen in Germany at the International Refugee Organisation's Area 2 International Exhibition in Stuttgart, Germany from April 2nd to May 18th in 1948.
Esma Banner worked in displaced persons' camps in the US Zone of Germany after World War II as an employment and welfare officer for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and the International Refugee Organization (IRO), from 1945 to 1951. Esma was one of 39 Australians who went to Germany to assist with post-war repatriation and re-settlement of refugees displaced by the war. More than 1000 displaced persons' camps were established by the Allied Forces. Initially created as temporary processing centres, the camps became longer term sites of accommodation, employment, education and recreation for refugees who could not, or did not want to, be repatriated to their countries of origin.
Esma acquired examples of textiles, woodwork, leatherwork and other traditional craftwork from displaced persons' who made them from predominantly recycled and donated materials. While many traditional handcrafts were made out of necessity, others were made as a means to pass time, to express cultural identity, and occasionally to sell or exhibit. During the course of her time in Germany, Esma sent these objects home to her family in Australia.
Carved wooden photograph album cover. The cover features a border that is carved with metal strips inserted into the wood to create a pattern of snowflake, cross and star motifs. In the centre is a raised wooden carving of two birds facing a cross. The album front and back cover is connected by a hinge that allows it to open up and sit almost flat. The inside of the album is unadorned bar for a minimal border engravining on the inside cover.
The Esma Banner World War II UN Worker Collection is an extensive and diverse collection of objects, documents, photographs and archival material which explores the experiences of an Australian woman working for the United Nations assisting in the relief and rehabilitation of millions of displaced people in Europe after World War II. Esma Banner served with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) and later with the International Refugee Organization (IRO) at displaced persons’ camps in Germany from 1946 to 1951. She was one of fewer than 40 Australians employed by UNRRA and IRO during this period.
This collection recounts the often untold story of immigration from the perspective of a migration worker and enables the documentation of many themes relating to post World War II migration including life in the displaced person camps, international refugee management, creativity and cultural maintenance, and the political complexities of post-war resettlement. Of particular note are the craft items created by refugees living in displaced persons’ camps. This collection holds a variety of men’s and women’s work, thus providing a significant insight into life within the camps. These objects also serve as valuable examples of cultural practices and traditional skills.
This collection and accompanying documentation presents a unique perspective of the post-World War II relief effort. Esma’s diaries and letters in particular offer her personal insights and observations and demonstrate how civilians contributed to the reconstruction effort in Europe. In addition, these items add to the emerging collections of material describing women’s involvements during times of conflict, as well as the larger narratives that illustrate Australia’s wartime experience. After World War II hundreds of thousands of homeless, stateless or displaced people lived in camps before resettling in Western countries including Australia. This collection retains ongoing cultural relevance to these large migrant communities across Victoria and Australia. With the population of post-war displaced persons’ survivors aging, the collection contributes to preserve their stories and experiences as part of a greater Australian migration narrative.
Donation from Helen Fitzgerald, 14/03/2012
Inside Cover: 'MISS ESMA BANNER DOIRO ARCA 2 INTERNATIONAL EXHIBITION IN STUTTGART FROM APRIL 2nd TO MAY 18th 1948, ASSOCIATION OF LATVIAN ARTCRAFTSMEN IN GERMANY'
Type of item
420 mm (Length), 260 mm (Width), 37 mm (Depth)
Displaced Persons, Displaced Persons Camps, Crafts, Carving, Home Decorating, Homecrafts, Handcrafts, Cultural Identity, Cultural Traditions, National Identity, World War II, 1939-1945, Wars & Conflicts, Woodworking, Albums, Photo Albums, Latvian Communities, Craft Shows, Exhibitions, Exhibition Organizers, Migration & Settlement