The Arthur H. Tweedle Collection, Project Naming, and Hidden Stories of Colonialism

  • Stephanie Lett

Abstract

This paper explores the digitized photographs captured by Canadian optometrist and amateur photographer Arthur H. Tweedle during his government-sponsored eye survey of the Arctic in the 1940s, and considers the impact digitization has had on the meanings and functions of these images. Held by Library and Archives Canada (LAC), Tweedle’s collection has been digitized as part of Project Naming¸ a photographic identification project that seeks to identify unnamed Inuit individuals depicted in images held by LAC. While Project Naming’s impact in terms of acknowledging the agency and identities of Inuit depicted in the archival record cannot be underestimated, it is also important to consider the ways in which Tweedle’s collection functions differently after being digitized, and to question the extent to which this new context has led to a reframing of the photographs’ meaning. Analysis of Tweedle’s photographs, and of the textual materials that accompany them in the archives, suggests that the removal of these images from their original context as part of a wider collection has hidden much of their colonial history from the public eye. While one might read the images on the LAC website as simply a visual record collected by a tourist, meant for compilation in a personal or family album, the undigitized textual records in Tweedle’s files suggest that they were used as part of a wider effort to depict Inuit peoples as “others” in Canada.
Published
2017-10-20
Section
Articles