Last November, I went to Senegal to teach on a course taught at the Ecole des Bibliothécaires, Archivistes et Documentalistes (EBAD) where I came across a CD entitled “Images et Colonies” containing a collection of ca. 1500 postcards of French West Africa published between 1900 and 1960. These postcards were slowly collected by the Archives nationales du Senegal staff and were subsequently put in a database by Oumy Coume and Ngouda Diene under the direction of Adama Aly Pam.
With Adama Pam’s authorisation, I made some of these postcards more widely available online (a few of them are already here). It is hoped that modern-day West Africans and researchers interested in the history of colonial French West Africa will be able to use these postcards. These sources of the African past can be analysed in many different ways. For example, they tell us much about the way the French colonisers wanted to depict West Africa; these postcards also show us how African men and women were represented by photographers and postcard publishers; we can discover what colonial urban landscapes looked like…
A few technical points:
I have used Omeka to display these postcards. I first exported the content the CD Access database 2000 to a CSV file. I subsequently imported the CSV file into Omeka with the ‘CSV import‘ plugin (it was quite a slow process as the PHP CLI binary used by the plugin is not installed on my server). I didn’t create the metadata for these postcards but managed to map the columns used by the Access database to different Dublin Core fields. As a result, the postcards and their different fields are fully searchable by users and search engines.