9 December 2010

Major Award for Research on Colonial Photographs and Museums

An international team of scholars and former curators from UK, The Netherlands and Norway, lead by Elizabeth Edwards, University of the Arts. London,  (ex-Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford and MEG Chair) has been awarded a major grant of just under €500,000 in HERA’s (Humanities in the European Research Area) European Cultural Identities strand. 

The project, PhotoCLEC, explores the complex possibilities and relevance of the photographic legacy of the colonial past in a post-colonial and multi-cultural European societies. But while this past is fundamental to the making of contemporary European societies it is largely excluded from national narratives - an area of ‘disavowed history’ as Stuart Hall called it.  

At the heart of the study is the question of how museums use photographs to construct historical narratives as an ‘economy of truth’, or as a critical disturbance. Our project asks does the intersection of two  ‘difficulties’ - the complexity and sensitivity of the colonial past and the volatility of photographs as historical sources – render both ‘unspeakable’ in the museum space ?  

Although we are contacting many people in a wide variety of museums, we would welcome hearing from anyone who has thoughts to share on the experience of addressing complex and difficult visual colonial histories within the museum space. Much of this engagement has been in ethnographic collections and their histories but we would also be interested to hear also of projects in social history, natural history and history of science. 

Please contact: e.edwards@lcc.arts.ac.uk or m.mead@lcc.arts.ac.uk.

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