Ordnungen der Bilder

Marselis, R. L. (Speaker)

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventOrganisation and participation in conference


Digitizing colonial photo albums: On visual repatriation, performative memory work and the risks of decontextualized circulation

Photography was an important tool in colonialism. Numerous photographic genres, from explicitly racializing anthropometric photographs to family snapshots, were used to support race theories and legitimize exploitation. The inclusion of colonial photographs in contemporary museum exhibitions can be difficult and controversial, and curatorial ethics becomes even more difficult to maintain when photo albums are digitized and made available on online portals. This presentation will examine how digital dissemination by museums may result in decontextualized circulation of old stereotypes on commercial social media sites such as Pinterest. However, the presentation will also examine the innovative, visual repatriation project Foto zoekt familie (Photo seeks family) at the Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam, the Netherlands), which engaged repatriates from Indonesia (once the colony Dutch East Indies) and their descendants in performative memory work. In this digitization project, private blogs became important sites for ‘reopening’ colonial photo albums.
Period8 Apr 20199 Apr 2019
Event typeSeminar
LocationBerlin, Germany
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Photo Albums
  • Museums
  • Digitization
  • Colonialism