Project methodology

PhotoCLEC was undertaken as an ethnographic exercise, using the key methodologies of participant observation, interviews, and archival work.

Each of the national projects, in The Netherlands, Norway and United Kingdom was responsive to the major forms in these countries. These differences were themselves significant because they point to different levels and different forms of visibility of the colonial past in national narratives and different postcolonial expereinces. In UK and Norway the focus was largely on public displays in museums, but these were treated as final outcomes of wider cultural and institutional processes. In the Netherlands, while displays and public dissemination also played an important role, more attention was given to the active development of archives of the colonial past by the Indo-Dutch community.

The project team working

A broadly ethnographic methodology entailed project members working extensively in museums over an 18 month period. Conversations, extending over days and weeks, have taken place with curators, managers, facilitators and community members. Project members have attended planning meetings and focus groups as participant observers, run workshops, done gallery analysis, and undertaken work in museum and photographic archives.  In addition, some 120 hours of formal recorded interviews were undertaken with curators and others about photograph collections, museums, policy, planning, display strategy, and audiences. Overall some 30 museums, archives, and heritage institutions were visited, with more detailed work undertaken with specific institutions in each country.

These activities yielded a body of comparative data about exhibitions, policies, attitudes and concerns . These have been analysed in relation to theoretical questions raised in museology and postcolonial studies which has  both enabled new perspectives on familiar material and established a framework for the analysis of new materials.

An introduction to the results is contained within this web resource. This is supplemented by academic papers, conferences and books, notices of which will be posted on this website as appropriate as many of them will appear beyond the life of the PhotoCLEC project itself.