ECSAS 2023 – Turin 26-29 July

Colonial Archives: the history, discovery, and access of South Asian colonial records in the UK


Carter Alia - University College London, London, United Kingdom


12 – South Asian Collections in European Museums: Examining their acquisition, display, and futures


Alia Carter will present findings from her dissertation on the history, discovery, and access of colonial Indian records in the British Library’s India Office and The National Archives UK. As part of the ongoing debate in the Museum sector on reparations and restitution, “archives barely figure in the substantial and global techno-juridical apparatus for the protection and restitution of moveable cultural heritage” (1)She will look at how ‘migrated’ archives and records, including those surrounding and created on objects, are as valuable to a person and a community as the ‘big-ticket’ high value cultural objects in a museum that they are linked to, and a vital part of helping people trace identity and history of communities that have been affected by the trauma of colonialism.She’ll take a post-colonial look at why Indian colonial records are in the UK in the first place, present a critical user journey on finding them, and highlight results from a user survey of global users of the material. She will also look at recent high profile returns of contested museum objects and whether related paperwork was/is part of the return.She will also highlight her work with the UK Migrated Archives Working Group at the Centre for Critical Archives & Records Management Studies (UCL), set up to highlight the issue of displaced archives from Britain’s colonial entanglements.1.Lowry, James, ed. Disputed Archival Heritage, Routledge Tylor and Francis Group 2023, DOI: 10.4324/9781003057765