The British Library : ‘Faces drawn in the sand’: a rescue project of Native Peoples’ photographs stored at the Museum of La Plata, Argentina

The Endangered Archives Programme at the British Library is pleased to announce the addition of a new catalogue to its web pages. The catalogue gives details of material copied by the project EAP207: Faces drawn in the sand’: a rescue project of Native Peoples‘ photographs stored at the Museum of La Plata, Argentina – major project.
The collections stored at La Plata Museum provide a picture of pre-industrial societies of a wide area of South America during the late 19th – early 20th centuries. They include photographs on paper, albumens, and glass plate negatives. During the previous pilot project they were relocated to Archivo Histórico (Museo de La Plata) and are currently kept in good climatic conditions. The albums Boggiani, Bonaparte (Old and New World), and the Bolivian Collection represent objects used by ethnologists as visual data of distant Indian tribes. The Moreno Album contains images of F. P. Moreno’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, established in 1878. This album along with Calchaquí Album were presented at the Paris World Exhibition of 1878 and both contain very rare images (…)
La Plata Museum, Argentina , was established in 1884, dedicated to the study of American Man. It was the first institution of this kind in South America, resulting from the donation of several anthropological and archaeological collections gathered in the Argentinean interior during the 1870s. This Museum envisioned a continental scope: to achieve its goals it organised different strategies to collect objects that encompassed societies that, by those years, were perceived to be in the process of extinction. In the late 1870s and 1880s several campaigns against Native peoples from Patagonia and Chaco were carried out as governmental or private initiatives in order to erase savagery from the lands to be included into the market economy. Besides, indigenous peoples from Northwestern Argentina were incorporated as labour force into the new industries established in that region, such as the Ingenios (sugar refineries) from Tucumán, Salta y Jujuy. Either to record vanishing races or as testimony to the changes experienced by Native peoples in the process of becoming civilized, photographic expeditions were dispatched to the localities and scenes where the process was taking place. As a result, La Plata Museum became one of the repositories of the visual documents of a history that was not deeply analysed (…)

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