Soulful Eyes: The Identification of Kalaupapa Residents in Photographs Taken by Fr. Joseph Julliote, SS.CC., 1901-1907
This afternoon I attended a public talk which shared the details of a special program sponsored by Congregation of the Sacred Hearts U.S. Province, the Hawaii Council for the Humanities, Damien and Marianne Foundation, Ka ʻOhana O' Kalaupapa and IDEA Center for the Voices of Humanity. The program entailed taking archival photographs of residents in Kalaupapa, and attempting to identify them. The Kalaupapa peninsula, located on the island of Molokaʻi, was where people afflicted with Hansen's disease were sent to live out their days. Through outreach with the community, author Anwei Law and archivist Stuart Ching, have worked through 800+ glass plate negatives, of which approximately 300 involve people. This project attempts to identify the residents captured in the images taken by Fr. Joseph Julliote, SS.CC., between 1901-1907. In addition to its cultural and historical value, the project is also a service to the residents themselves, as well as their desendants who (in some instances) had never seen a photo of their relatives before. The photos were superb, and showed residents of many different ages in an assortment of beautiful clothing poised with dignity and grace. It was unlike anything I would have imagined about Kalaupapa from the limited knowledge I had going into this.
I enjoyed hearing about the sleuthing being done -- comparing facial features as well as expressions, and knowing some of the subjects were aging in the photos, or had changes in appearance due to their illness. Anwei remarked it was easier at times to distinguish women due to their unique hairstyles, or manner of dress. She also mentioned trying to examine writing seen in a photo on a blackboard with other documented handwritings as a means of trying to identify one man, which I thought was really neat.
Access issues: Allowing glass plate negatives to be digitized: The act of digitization itself allowed access, and also made it easier to examine photos without having to handle originals. Further, the images will be catalogued and input into a database. There are questions about how much of this should be publicly accessible, and those issues are still being examined from the sound of it. I really enjoyed this talk today.
Dropping Mad Library Science!
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