Searching for Wanamuchoo: Researching and returning Aboriginal photographs from the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford

A public lecture by Christopher Morton, sponsored by the Institute of Advanced Studies (UWA) (27 August 2013)

Christopher Morton

Wanamuchoo was an Aboriginal man brought by a police trooper to Adelaide for trial in March 1893 for the murder of another Aboriginal man in Innamincka, some 850 miles away. After trial, he was photographed at the City Watchhouse. According to a local newspaper account, his confusion was such that ‘when confronted by the camera he appeared to think that it was some awful instrument of the white man’s vengeance’.

A print of this photograph was sent by an Adelaide resident, John Bagot, in November of that year, to the Curator of the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford. Some years later the Curator mounted the print with a number of others from South Australia, and added the information that Wanamuchoo had been ‘hanged for the murder of a shepherd’. However, it is clear from contemporary reports that he was in fact considered insane at trial and sent to the City Asylum, where he seems to have survived a further eleven years, dying there in March 1903.

The case of Wanamuchoo caused a lively debate in the press of the day on the topic of the applicability of English law to Aboriginal cases such as this, and its themes of dislocation, mistranslation and separation continue to resonate for many Aboriginal people to this day. This lecture will show how the current international research project Globalisation, Photography and Race: the Circulation and Return of Aboriginal Photographs in Europe, led by Jane Lydon at the University of Western Australia, has been exploring visual histories held in remote photograph collections such as Oxford, the ways in which it has attempted to reconnect the images to relevant indigenous communities today, and the research and curatorial issues that have emerge

Found at

Listen to his UWA lecture HERE