In conjunction with Toitū Otago Settlers Museum, the Centre hosted the third lecture in the Global Dunedin Speaker Series on Sunday 13 May. Dr. Jill Haley, Curator Human History at Canterbury Museum, and a former archivist at Toitū, spoke to an attentive audience about album culture in colonial Otago and how engagement in this practice helped forge personal identity. In a richly illustrated talk, Jill discussed some the findings from her recent doctorate titled The Colonial Family Album: photography and identity in Otago, 1848-1890 (which can be downloaded from the University of Otago’s library here), which examined over 50 albums from Toitū’s collection. Although it might be assumed that albums were used by migrants to remember family and to assert familial connections to their former homes (whether Scotland, England or Ireland), instead the majority of album makers collected and displayed photographs that asserted their connections to their new home in the Otago colony. But album makers also included photographs that illuminated the global dimensions of their personal connections, including Priscilla Scott’s, which included images relating to places she visited with family, notably Peru, Hawaii and the United States. Increasingly, album makers also purchased photographs of local and international celebrities, as well as the the British Royal Family, for their collection.
Many thanks to Jill for a fantastic and illuminating talk that provided an insight into how the global practices of photography and album culture were shaped by local conditions and utilised to narrate personal identity.