Activity: Participating in or organising an event › Organisation 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.