Accepted Paper:

Picturing a History of Malaita, Solomon Islands  

Author:

Ben Burt (British Museum)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is introduces a history of Malaita island based on images of persons, places and artefacts made over more than a century, with a focus on the interpretation of images to present an anthropologically-informed description and on the technical, practical and ethical issues involved.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is a draft Introduction to a history of Malaita island based on images of persons, places and artefacts from more than a century of involvement in the wider world. It will give a historical review of the sources of the images, colonial, academic and indigenous, illustrated by a selection annotated for publication by the British Museum as a digital catalogue or book. The focus of the presentation will be how such a pictorial assemblage can be interpreted to present an anthropologically-informed description of Malaita, its culture and colonial transformation during the twentieth century. What can an assemblage of images from a diverse range of sources communicate which written history and ethnography cannot? How should the images be classified and described to realise this potential? What information will the collection omit or obscure? How may it represent local perspectives on history and culture? What are the technical, practical and ethical issues involved in representing the history of this island in images as an online database or book? Can the experience of this project inform other work to represent local histories through the interpretation of local images?

Panel P05
Reviving the archives as pictorial histories