SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Beyond Shoeboxes in Attics: The Life Biographies of the Peranakan Portrait Photograph and The Art of Keeping, Giving and Archiving

Daphne Ming Lee Ang (SOAS)

Date: 23 October 2013Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 23 October 2013Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B111

Type of Event: Seminar

Portrait photographs often go through complex and sometimes bewildering life biographies; these repositories of history acquire enigmatic personal histories over time. Some age and mature like good wine in shoeboxes in attics, while others disintegrate with time.  The unfortunate others are abandoned and the rest purposefully destroyed during wars. This paper questions the functions of the (portrait photograph) collection and the impetuses of collecting and the importance of constructing a well-designed digital archive,  The primary material consists of painted portraits and photographs of the Peranakan community produced in the Straits Settlements in Colonial Singapore and Malaya as well as the Dutch East Indies from the 1860s up till the late 1950s.  

The second part this paper addresses the presentation of historical information museum image database stressing the ‘life biographies’ of the photographs after it leaves the ownership of the person photographed. The speaker will provide some insights into her collaboration with NUS Museum as a visiting research fellow and also with the Peranakan museum on a project to document a recent donation of Peranakan photographs. As the title of this paper suggests, this presentation narrates the tales of ‘orphaned portraits’ by simulating their journeys from the dusty shoeboxes in the attics, to their present day ‘guardians’.

Organiser: Crispin Branfoot

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