Photographs, Colonial Legacy and Museums in Contemporary European Culture
Photographs, Colonial Legacy and Museums in Contemporary European Culture (PhotoCLEC) asked “what is the role of the photographic legacy of colonial relations in the identity of a fluid and multi-cultural modern Europe and its global relations?” It focused on museums and the use of such photographs in museums – their displays and their collections – as major and influential vectors of public history. The research was undertaken in three European countries, The Netherlands, Norway and the UK, which have shared histories of a European colonial activity, but at same different responses and legacies relating to that history. The research was funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) and European Framework Programme 7.
Photographs are probably the most ubiquitous and far reaching records of the colonial past. They trace the experiences of a vast range of people touched by European colonial expansion, both colonised and colonialisers. How is this record understood ? What is its role in the way contemporary European cultures configure their pasts for the benefit of their futures ? To this end PhotoCLEC explored the aims, strategies and efficacy of institutional practices as museums attempt to position colonial photograph collections in ways relevant to contemporary European societies. Underlying this position it also asked the important question – how do differently constituted colonial experiences translate into differently nuanced visual legacies and how do these visual legacies resonate through differently shaped post-colonial experiences?
The project, which ran from June 2010 to January 2012, was realised through three linked and collaborative investigations which emerged from and which were responsive to the specific conditions of colonial legacy in three European countries. These projects, ‘Photographic Heritage, “Difficult Histories”, and Cultural Futures’ in the UK, ‘Indies Images of the Colonial Everyday in a Multi-ethnic Postcolonial Society’ in The Netherlands, and ‘Foreign and Home Images of Unacknowledged Colonial Legacies’ in Norway, formed the basis for a comparative understanding of the cultural processes at work in formulating museum practices around photographs and the colonial past.
The Colonial Album: an Exhibition Case at Pitt Rivers Museum
Photography / Colonial history / Museology /