Elizabeth Edwards, The Invisibility of History. Photography, the Colonial and the Refiguring of Nation
This presentation reports on some of the conclusions drawn from ‘Photographs, Colonial Legacy and Museums in Contemporary European Culture (PhotoCLEC), a major international research project funded by HERA (Humanities in the European Research Area) and European Framework Programme 7 which ran from June 2010 to January 2012. The project 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. 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? Some images, sounds or other media used in the following presentation are subject to copyright restrictions that prevent them being shown. In order to provide a complete record of the conference, these items have been blurred or silenced. Should we obtain permission to use these images, sounds and other media in the future the films will be updated.