It has been almost 5 years now since HIPUganda came to life. Even before the name was coined, it started with my (Andrea Stultiens‘) personal interest in getting to know more about Uganda and its history through photographs present in Uganda. When that interest resulted in a couple of photo collections sitting on my hard drive, I strongly felt I needed to take action.
The first collection digitised was Kaddu Wasswa’s. Kaddu Wasswa himself, the owner of the materials, was then, and luckily still is, alive. He added facts and knowledge to what could be seen on the photographs. But there were of course also things he did not remember, or did not consider to be relevant when looking through his documents and photographs with me.
The second collection digitised, with more than 1000 photographs made by the photographic division of the Uganda protectorate public relations department, lacked the luxury of readily available context almost completely. There was hardly any information with the photographs other than a stamp and a number on the back of the prints. And also, these photographs showed me what I thought was a colonial, outsider view I was not so interested in. But the Ugandan custodian of the photographs reminded me that this vantage point should not be seen as the end of the photographs’ potential. He reminded me that now is the time that some Ugandans may still be able to add their perspectives to what the photographs show from their own observations and experiences.
The next question was how to reach those Ugandans who might be interested in the photographs and willing to add what they knew or could find out about them? I could, and did, randomly show some of the photographs to people. That did not lead to much. The images needed to be shared more widely, I felt. But I was not sure how. Until Rumanzi Canon and I met and started talking about this. He suggested to start the sharing on Facebook and together we came up with the name HIPUganda. When the Facebook stragegy seemed to be working, with people responding, adding links and tips, leads to other collections, names of family members, we set up a website.
The website is meant to be a more stable source than Facebook, and ideally it would be just as interactive.
One challenge I have with some related photo collections that have been made available online is that one needs to know what one is searching for quite in detail before finding it. The search is in those cases more text based than image based. We wanted to do that differently and are still trying to work out how to do it. How to give access to materials as collections, but also as topics. The smart collections on the site are a route towards that and we hope and plan to make them more functional.
We though we would here share our experiences in a blog. But it has been a challenge to make this happen regularly. Now that we are on our way to an improved website this moment comes with a resolution. I will, on a weekly basis, evaluate what happened on Facebook. This will connect the two online media HIPUganda uses more strongly, and will give us in the long run an overview of developments from this moment on. Next to that we will use the blog to introduce our off line activities to you more actively than we have been doing so far.
Looking forward to it all, and to your responses whenever you feel they are in place.