The colonial 16mm gaze

The Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, or Institute of Scientific Tropical Research, is the home of a great deal of valuable archival material from colonial times.

Having worked in the Arquivo Histórico Ultramarino (Overseas Historical Archive) in Lisbon, and visited their other library in Belém, I’ve always been aware of the enormous responsibility the IICT has to divulge this material.

As with every institution of its kind, the Institute has had to make decisions about how to prioritize different materials. Yet one gets the idea that there was not a lot going on in terms of modernizing and increasing access in the 1980s and 1990s. There are indications that things have been changing.

With the age of Web2.0, and video on the web, it is really heartening to see the IICT beginning to put up never-before seen material from colonial “scientific” missions. Luckily, somebody at IICT has a pronounced interest in Timor, and António de Almeida, a colonial researcher who left a rich collection of what can only be considered a mixture of science and propaganda. I hope the lucky few in Timor may find the bandwidth to watch them.

Some of my informants in Timor remember these “missions”, the over-enthusiastic malais who often misinterpreted their descriptions of history and geography.

I’ve put links to the IICT’s new videos on the “PICTURES” section. Here are the individual links:


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