Images as Visual Sources: Representing the Former Danish West Indies

    Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution


    Historical images from the former Danish West Indies have shaped and continue to inform interpretations of the Danish colonial past. Museum, archival and library collections include several depictions of the area and its inhabitants, from Frederik von Scholten's drawings and watercolours from the 1830s to stereographs sold by Elfelt & Co.'s photographic atelier around 1900. The vast majority of these images are created by Danes and as such represent the colonizer's perspective. In historiographical publications, exhibitions, and popular culture at large these images often occur as mere illustrations of places and people, as neutral windows to the world of the colonial past. They are rarely considered as representations with a viewpoint and a history of their own. Exhibiting these images in an exhibition on representations of the Caribbean with a focus on the former Danish West Indies, how does one elucidate the image as a representation and direct the spectator's attention to its context of creation and interpretation? How does one reproduce or present the image without reproducing the understanding of it as transparent? The paper gives an insight into the preparation of an exhibition at The Royal Library of Copenhagen in 2017 commemorating the centenary of the sale of the Danish West Indies. Following the works of scholars such as Nicholas Mirzoeff, Krista A. Thompson, and Marcus Wood it investigates a number of different images in order to point to certain visual tropes and genres in what could be identified as a visual discourse on the Danish West Indies.
    Period26 May 2016
    Event titleCuratorial Challenges
    Event typeConference
    LocationCopenhagen, DenmarkShow on map