Documentary Things: Round-Up

April 22, 2009


1. Maud Newton calls attention to the World Digital Library, where you can find an eighteenth-century history of Bengal, a nineteenth-century map of Chukotka (above), and an early twentieth-century photograph of Persian Tatars (new banner image).

2. I can’t tell if Amitava Kumar is praising or prodding The Kahani Movement (an audio-video documentary project focused on first-generation South Asian Americans) with this comment: “I’m excited by the prospect of a rich, genuinely diverse, public documentary project.” (Emphasis added.) I hope KM takes it as useful advice and I look forward to seeing the results.

3. Politics, Theory and Photography links to The Bigger Picture, the new Smithsonian photography blog. The site hasn’t hit its stride yet, but it could turn out cool based on the materials at their disposal.

4. Lastly, there’s a new documentary about Melville Herskovits, author of The Myth of the Negro Past. It’s making the rounds, playing in Boston at the International Film Festival this weekend.



  1. This last fall, I got to hear Robert Farris Thompson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Farris_Thompson) speak – Africanists (in art history) tell me that he was the person who put Africa on the map as a serous subject of art historical research, and his later projects dealt a lot with the visual culture connections between Africa and the Americas. His was one of the most unusual but also certainly one of the most memorable academic talks I’ve ever seen. (You can actually watch it – here: http://lecb.physics.lsa.umich.edu/CWIS/browser.php?ResourceId=1183)

  2. That map of Chukotka appears to include all of Kamchatka to the South as well!

  3. That Robert Farris Thompson video is terrific–thanks, kg. He was an early promoter of Eddie Palmieri’s innovative salsa band La Perfecta, around 1967, and had very good things to say about Barry Rogers, trombonist and arranger in the band and the most complete musician I ever met. He could play (besides trombone) alto sax, piano, ≤i≥tres, and probably other instruments; I sat in his Bronx living room one evening forty years ago while he played recordings of Yoruba drumming, hotel orquestas from pre-WW2 Havana, scratchy 78 rpm records of the astonishing trumpeter Felix Chapottìn, and much more, a concentrated intro to Caribbean music starting with its African sources.

  4. Glad you liked the video. I can assure you that most art history talks are not that engaging and involve a lot less music, let alone singing. Alas. But the discipline has its moments nonetheless. And yeah, RFT sure likes him some jazz.

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