Collecting, reproducing and exchanging: rephotography as a value creation technology in the nineteenth century
Museums, Societies and the Creation of Value
This paper explores the creation of scientific value in 19th-century studio portraiture of Aboriginal peoples within European academic networks. In particular, the paper explores the role of the Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte and its major photographic dissemination project, the Anthropologisch-ethnologisches Album in Photographien, published in parts by the Dammann studio of Hamburh between 1872 and 1876, its reception at the time, and some of the anxieties surrounding the reliability of source materials for comparative analysis. The paper examines how the collecting, copying, sale, exchange and distribution of early photographs from Australia within European academia and museums can help us understand the important visual basis for the way value was attributed (or negated) in relation to Aboriginal culture from the 1860s onwards. The sources for one section of the Dammann album, that relating to Australia, are examined in detail, revealing a hitherto unknown major source for the Dammann project in Julius Ferdinand Berini, an expatriate who returned to Germany in 1872 with a collection of studio portraits of Aboriginal people. The unreliability of much of Berini’s documentation for his source material is revealed, as are contemporary published accounts questioning his use of visual evidence to support his own travel claims. These historical problems notwithstanding, the paper argues that the replication of Berini’s collection as part of the Dammann project has led to their enduring value for reengagement by historians and Indigenous people alike.