Photographs, Colonial Legacy and Museums in Contemporary European Culture
This project studied the role photographic legacy of colonialism has played in helping determine the multicultural identities of modern Europe. Researchers from the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom explored this through photographic records in museums.
Europe’s current multicultural societies have roots in their colonial history, and this project analysed some of these connections. It raised questions about the way experiences from the colonial past have been translated into the postcolonial present and in turn shaped the photographic archive and engagements with it. A key question was in what ways changing conceptual approaches to collections have been determined by social developments in European communities and their relations with their former colonies that have since become independent nations.
PhotoCLEC adopted an ethnographic methodology using museums as ‘field sites’. The researchers conducted interviews and explored the collections of photographs. This methodology was applied across all aspects of PhotoCLEC because the different sources of photographs, including exhibitions, displays and collections, were all aspects of the same processes and collection, description, management, policy decisions, political pressures, epistemological assumptions and engagement. This meant that the research provided comparable data about patterns of visibility, the forms of articulation of colonial pasts and the institutional policies that shape these discussions.