Identity Documents

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Date range: 
CE 1836 to CE 2013
Identity Documents

The Migration Museum holds a substantial collection of documents that record migrants’ ‘vital statistics’, such as date and place of birth, age, nationality, sex, marriage, parentage, children, profession, and date of death.  These are primarily government-issued papers, such as birth, death and marriage certificates, passports, movement permits/passes, naturalisation or citizenship certificates, and documents generated through health checks, such as immunisation certificates.  Records relating to recognition of overseas qualifications, licenses and employment, such as curricula vitae/résumés, degrees and reference letters, and military-related identity documents, such as enlistment forms, service records and discharge certificates, also feature in the collection.

An important and almost universal aspect of the migration experience is formal confirmation of identity. This is particularly true for Displaced Persons and asylum seekers, who often need to establish their identity in the absence of appropriate papers. This historical collection demonstrates national governments’ changing approaches to, and various technology used for, capturing personal identity in a portable, secure and verifiable format. The level of control imposed upon individuals often reflects the contemporary political situation. Consequently, the collection illustrates the different requirements placed on migrants at sites of departure, transit and arrival. Preference is given to acquiring sets of documents and personal effects that record as much of a person’s life as possible, so that official public records are complemented by those of a more personal nature. This might include evidence of group membership or affiliation, private correspondence, diaries, photographs, or other forms of documentation.
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