Accepted paper:

Engaging With the Past - Archiving Fieldwork Photos After 30 Years


Patti Langton (Pitt Rivers Museum)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is an account of the personal experience of archiving my digitized photographs within a museum context thirty years after fieldwork and will consider the intellectual and emotional issues, which arose from that experience.

Paper long abstract:

This paper follows the progress of an archive, from my being approached by the Pitt Rivers Museum to donate my photographs of Moru, Dinka and Larim (Boya) people from fieldwork in the Southern Sudan in 1979-1980, through digitisation and curating, to their subsequent appearance online as part of the Museum's research database. This process after thirty years was suffused with memory, when re-connecting with the photographs. The paper will reflect on the impact of working as a visiting researcher at the Pitt Rivers. Many fieldworkers donate their photographic archives to museums, but it is unusual to have the opportunity to annotate them in situ. I was able to see the collection in relation to others, as part of a long Sudanese archive including photographs from the anthropological pioneers Evans-Pritchard and Godfrey Lienhardt. This paper will also follow the archive to when contact was renewed, after 30 years of civil war in Sudan, with Peter Longole, my former Larim colleague and researcher. I was able to return some of the photographs and ethnography to him, and learned how he used them in the context of today's Larim people. In conclusion I reflect on my fieldwork archive, on the influence of working in a museum environment; how changing attitudes affect my perceptions; how difficulties I faced then can be viewed now; how revisiting an archive after many years impacted on my self and how the archive impacts in the present day on the new realities of the Larim people.

panel P13
Archiving Photographs and Photographing Archives