FACEBOOK Redeemed? Co-curation of visual heritage

On Teop Island, 1969

John Terrell

SOCIAL MEDIA IN GENERAL, and FACEBOOK in particular, have taken a lot of heat lately for a range of social and political misdeeds centering on, but not limited to, the misappropriation of the personal data of 87 million people.

I generally believe the seemingly trite wisdom that when given a lemon, you should make lemonade.

Teop Island from the Bougainville mainland.

Back in 1969—or almost 50 years ago—while I was doing my  dissertation field research in Pacific archaeology on Bougainville Island in the North Solomons, I lived for a number of months on beautiful little Teop Island just off the northeast corner of Bougainville, one of the largest islands in the Southwest Pacific.

Buin, 1970

Several months ago I discovered that lots of people from Teop are now on FACEBOOK. It turns out some people there even remember me and where the house was I lived in (it is no longer there). Some may remember, too, the clan name I was given back then.

 

I started “friending” folks there, and vice versa. Then I began posting my old pictures of people and events on the island to local applause.

Several of us at Field Museum in Chicago are now working remotely via email and FACEBOOK with Geoffrey Purupuru and others from Teop to create a forum at our website PacificAnthropology.org where all of my photos from Teop back in 1969 can be seen, commented on, and freely shared with others.

An unexpected way of “returning” that would only be possible today. Thanks be to FACEBOOK.

But more to the point I want to end with here, we see this collaborative venture as further demonstration of how museums today can form partnerships with communities beyond their walls to celebrate world cultural heritage, And share old memories, too.

Text updated: 6.26.2018

A sample of the photos soon to be available on the Internet.
Canoe-making on Teop Island, Bougainville, 1969
Sampson Purupuru, Teop 1969
Vasipuana ceremony, April 1969
Vasipuana ceremony, April 1969

Leave a Reply