Recovering the Material and Visual Cultures of the Southern Sudan: A Museological Resource

The cultures of Southern Sudan have been central to anthropological research and teaching since the publication of Evans-Pritchard’s classic works on the Zande and Nuer in the 1930s and 1940s. A number of collections from Evans-Pritchard and other figures in the history of the study of the cultures of the Southern Sudan are represented in the collections of the University of Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum. Taken as a whole, the Museum’s Southern Sudan collections comprise 1100+ objects—weapons, utensils, domestic goods, ornaments, etc.—and 7500+ historic photographs (negatives, lantern slides, and prints). Such records constitute an extraordinary research resource for extending understanding of a set of complex historic relationships. First, they provide direct evidence of the anthropologists’ interactions with the communities in which they worked. Analysis of objects and photographs can reveal otherwise submerged or masked aspects of anthropologists’ field situations, as well as the ways in which they worked, thought, and reflected on their work. Secondly, they provide direct evidence of historic and contemporary relationships between those communities and the wider world. Analysis of the materials, processes, and types of objects in museum collections and recorded in photographs provides vital evidence of otherwise unrecognized external relationships. Historic collections of objects and photographs provide direct evidence of change and provide the opportunity to shed light on such processes. With developments in ICT, and in the Museum’s own collections management procedures and practices, the opportunity now exists to realise this via the web.

Principal investigator
Mr Jeremy Coote
Principal project staff
Mrs Elizabeth Edwards; Mr Jeremy Coote
Start date
Wednesday, October 1, 2003
Completion date
Thursday, December 1, 2005
Source material
The Museum's collections are the primary source for the resource.