Telling a different story: a new reading of subalternity in notebooks


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During his fieldwork in Vanuatu (1910-1912), the ethnologist Felix Speiser (1880-1949) was using different formats of notebooks to collect data. After returning to Basel, he spent years to manage this data and allocate it to museum categories. His huge collection of objects and photographs is well known as well as his publications. Browsing his notebooks, however, one can find a wild assemblage of different genres, from names of people and places, to anthropometric calculations, from cartoons to true to detail drawings, from detailed observations to strands of thoughts. As this material is so extensive and on top, his handwriting is very hard to read, this data seems to refuse access and analyzation.

Having the colonial burden of museum categories in mind, our project seeks not to use those categories again, but to find alternative ways to make the Felix Speiser archive accessible. Although the archive should be open to the public, we want to reach out to communities from Vanuatu and other stakeholders to work with the Felix Speiser archive and the Museum der Kulturen Basel as an institution. How can this extensive material be tamed, and its mostly unknown content be made accessible so that not only the museum can work with it but people around the world?

To achieve more accessibility, we would be very interested in being able to search Speiser notebooks for certain key terms. Toponyms, people names or travel routes, that are dispersed in different formats of notebooks, could be particularly valuable. Or data on objects, certain cluster of words, colonial content or architectural features to name a few examples. In shifting the focus, we hope to reconsider and finally decolonize Felix Speiser’s legacy.

Image source: abebooks

Event finished

30.09.2023 15:30

Event started

29.09.2023 09:00

Joined the team

28.09.2023 16:43 ~ Basil

Edited content version 7

28.09.2023 15:40 ~ gaston

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28.09.2023 11:35 ~ piloublan


27.09.2023 20:00

Edited content version 3

27.09.2023 20:00 ~ MauriceBonvin


26.09.2023 20:12

Edited content version 1

26.09.2023 20:12 ~ MauriceBonvin

Joined the team

26.09.2023 20:09 ~ MauriceBonvin

Challenge posted

26.09.2023 19:57 ~ MauriceBonvin
Contributed 2 months ago by MauriceBonvin for GLAMhack 2023
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