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Images as visual sources: Representing the former Danish West Indies

Activity: Talk or presentationLecture and oral contribution

Mette Kia Krabbe Meyer - Lecturer

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. The paper 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. It aims to document their creation and circulation, discussing the interpretation of the images in different historical contexts. Finally it considers different ways of exhibiting these images with the aim of highlighting images as visual sources on the basis of actual research and in an international perspective (Tim Barringer, Elisabeth Edwards, Nicholas Mirzoeff, Wayne Modest, Krista A. Thompson).
16 Jan 2016

Event (Conference)

TitleThe Danish Atlantic
Date15/01/201616/01/2016
LocationAarhus University
CityAarhus
CountryDenmark
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