About this collection

This collection of images is from older books in the Haddon Library, digitised by Digital Himalaya from slides made in the 1980s by Janet Hall.

The digitisation has been generously supported by Prof. Alan Macfarlane, who was behind the earlier photography. In an interview, recorded by Aidan Baker on 16 September 2011, Alan explained his use of the slides as follows:

"I envisaged using the slides for four sets of lectures.

One was a general introduction to social anthropology. I sat down before term and made a multi-media film, - the exploration and encounter of the west with the rest from the days of Columbus onwards. As I told the long story in the lectures I used one or two of the slides, just to show what 17th, 18th, 19th century representations of other societies were.

Later I was giving a series of lectures on changing paradigms - how our concepts of the other, and of time, and of our relations with it, changed over a long period. I started with Montaigne and his essays on other peoples and societies, and moved through 17th, 18th century representations, the early encyclopedists, and then the early voyages of discovery in the Pacific. Slides are very very vivid - in 10 seconds you can suddenly see people dressed up as wolves, tracking animals, or wonderful tattoos in some of those 18th-century books.

A third set was that I was giving lectures on visual anthropology and a fourth was on the history of technology. An anthropologist's understanding and communication of facts about the societies will be shaped by the technology of capturing the information. So the advent of the wax cylinder recording, with Haddon, the early use of ethnographic film, and the early use of cameras changed the way we perceived - it was all very well to talk about 'savages', as long as you didn't have photographs showing quite clearly they didn't have three heads and walked in a normal manner. But also I wanted to show that this wasn't just an effect of modern film technologies. Even when you moved on from woodcut to metal plate productions, things became much more detailed, much more accurate, you couldn't embellish, or you didn't want to embellish in the same way. Then you've got the arrival of aquatint, the arrival of coloured plates, the late eighteenth century. It's all very much tied up with the Romantic movement, with the romanticisation of the 'noble savage' and of the kind of tragedy and loss of other civilisations. All that comes exactly in parallel with these very beautiful but somewhat sad paintings and reproductions. So as soon as the technology of plate production in books changed, so too did the theories about the societies that were being represented".

Alan's own DSpace presence draws on his explorations of new technologies for information storage and retrieval embraced since the 1980s. Alan led the making of Cambridge University's first videodisc - a major project holding 6500 black and white field photographs; 1350 colour photographs of museum objects; 150 sequences of moving film; maps, sketches, painting and 72 minutes of sound and about 5000 pages of text &emdash; all devoted to the study of the Naga peoples of the North-Eastern frontier of India and Burma.

Anthropologists traditionally have gathered material in those forms. But the unit of academic value was the published book. The sketches and artefacts and sound recordings and photographs were the raw material for the book. The 1980s videodiscs made it possible to store digital copies of materials of all kinds - locked down on the discs, which were playable on rare, expensive equipment.

The web, in contrast, is a technology for rapid copying from machine to machine. Alan's more recent media experiments have been there.

The web is about sharing information. It's about recognising that no one library's holdings are enough, or definitive. It's about libraries, and other holders of information, contributing to a collection that is bigger, much bigger, open-ended.

Disclaimer: The photograph titles in this collection are the captions used in the books from which the images were taken. All these captions, therefore, were written in earlier centuries, and many use terms that are no longer considered acceptable. The titles have been preserved in this gallery as they convey a sense of the time and the attitudes of the people involved.

Publishers wishing to use these images may purchase a reproduction licence for the high resolution files of them from us — free or charged depending on the nature of the publication. Contact haddon-library@lists.cam.ac.uk

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