Historical photographs of Australian Aboriginal people were amassed during the colonial period for a range of purposes, yet rarely to further an Indigenous agenda. Today, however, such images have been recontextualized, used to reconstruct family history, document culture, and express connections to place. They have become a significant heritage resource for relatives and descendants. Images stand in for relatives lost through processes of official assimilation—or as this sad history is now known in Australia, the Stolen Generations. This article explores the potential healing power of the photos in addressing loss and dislocation, and emerging tools for supporting this process through reviewing the Returning Photos project outcomes.
Photography and Critical Heritage: Australian Aboriginal Photographic Archives and the Stolen Generations
Jane Lydon is professor of history at the University of Western Australia. She has been involved in the study of heritage, colonial legacies, and material culture for over two decades and she directed the “Globalization, Photography, and Race: the Circulation and Return of Aboriginal Photographs in Europe” project between 2011–2017. Her books include: Eye Contact: Photographing Indigenous Australians (2005), Fantastic Dreaming: the Archaeology of an Australian Aboriginal Mission (2009), The Flash of Recognition: Photography and the Emergence of Indigenous Rights (2012), and Photography, Humanitarianism, Empire (2016).
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Jane Lydon; Photography and Critical Heritage: Australian Aboriginal Photographic Archives and the Stolen Generations. The Public Historian 1 February 2019; 41 (1): 18–33. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/tph.2019.41.1.18
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