Many memory institutions across Europe contain holdings connected with its colonial past which for many years has been a focus of contestation from both communities of origin, ethnic minorities and civil society at large. Challenging questions are being asked by professionals in the field as to what to do with this problematic cultural heritage, from returning items when appropriate, to rewriting the historical context surrounding them in a more critical and inclusive way. This project aims to identify key instances of colonial audio-visual heritage across the three archives involved, draw a common map of shared racialised representations connected with their respective imperial contexts, identify problematic visualisation and language and open up a dialogue between the archives and a variety of users, including archivists, researchers, filmmakers, and grassroots organisations.
The digitised colonial audio-visual heritage is provided by three national archives: The Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision, the French Institut national de l’audiovisuel and Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford, UK. All these archives have a rich collection of original film and sound, some of it produced at the height of empire, ranging from ethnographers’ footage for ‘educational’ purposes to more direct propaganda films to bolster colonial ideologies. We will explore how archival material created in a ‘colonial mindset’ can be re-appropriated and re-interpreted critically to become an effective source for the ‘decolonization of the mind’ and the basis for a future inclusive society.
The overall outcome of PICCH is to engender a polyvocality that can be incorporated into the archive itself providing new ways to enter and explore the past via a contemporary interpretative frame. To this effect advanced technologies will be used to study how to bridge archival and contemporary languages, and to support transnational exploration of multiple archives via a single interactive user interface.