Looking back through a lens on Commonwealth Day
Welcome to the first in a series of blogs for the Caribbean though a lens project, which focuses on Colonial Office images that are now online. We’ve had a great year exploring the Caribbean collections and we hope that you have too. Community groups across the country came up with their own ideas for projects, and with the valued support of our regional community partners, we cast our nets wide to reach as many people as possible.
We have captured all of the insightful and fascinating comments online through Flickr. These comments are important to us; we use them to add more social context to our collections and to encourage further academic research where there is none. Through our Outreach projects, this helps us to bring archives to life and out of boxes.
The photographic images in the collection were taken by government colonial officials whose duty was to report back on the development of British Caribbean colonies. Often these officials had little, if any, previous knowledge or experience of the regional, cultural and social dynamics of the country. What we see in the collection can be perceived as an ‘outsider’ coming in, capturing a moment; a photographic record seen through a very different lens.
To expand on this a little further, the image above is a typical example of a recording on people (in many cases nameless) observed and studied through a foreign colonial gaze. I wonder what her response would be to us all?
Over the next few months, we will showcase a range of projects inspired by the collections. We will also highlight academic research, creative re-interpretations and articles from a host of exceptionally talented individuals who really delved deeper into the records.
To mark Commonwealth Day and to get the ball rolling, we are starting with our most viewed file to date, Trinidad & Tobago. There are many striking portraiture images held in the collection. This one in particular features a woman of Indian origin. Do you know who she is? What can we learn from her clothing and jewellery? What do we know of her life in Trinidad?
Do you have ideas for developing your own projects using this collection? We would love to have your comments on this blog. Stay tuned for the next blog post, we’ll share live recordings with you from our marvellous March mash up event, which we blogged about last year. Keep exploring Caribbean through a lens!