iCHSTM 2013 Programme • Version 5.3.6, 27 July 2013 • ONLINE (includes late changes)
| Paper sessions timetable | Lunch and evening timetable | Main site
E047. Historical and contemporary communications technologies in Africa: a case study in Cameroon and wider reflections
Wed 24 July, 09:10–12:40 ▪ Uni Place 2.219
Special session organisers:
Charlotte Connelly twitter | Science Museum, London, United Kingdom
Mirjam de Bruijn | Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands
E047-A. Generating knowledge
Wed 24 July, 09:10–10:40Uni Place 2.219
Chair: Jon Agar twitter | University College London, United Kingdom
This session will include discussion of precirculated work by Dr Walter Gam Nkwi, a historian working at the University of Buea in Cameroon, who has written extensively about the history of communication in the region. We will present some of his ideas to frame the later discussions around presenting and collecting Cameroonian communication culture in London’s Science Museum.
Mirjam de Bruijn | Universiteit Leiden, Netherlands
Charlotte Connelly twitter | Science Museum, London, United Kingdom
Deanne Naula | Science Museum, London, United Kingdom
E047-B. Using knowledge
Wed 24 July, 11:10–12:40Uni Place 2.219
Chair: Deanne Naula | Science Museum, London, United Kingdom
Jessica Bradford | Science Museum, London, United Kingdom
With contributions from:
Mbeng Pouka, Cameroon community
Martyn Bennett, British Vintage Wireless Society
Gill Conquest, anthropologist
Dr Seraphin Kamdem, linguist, SOAS

In recent years, the urban landscape in much of Africa has been radically changed by the proliferation of mobile phone technologies. This rapid change not only reflects the way mobile technologies are developing today, but also provides the key to understanding the historical development of communications infrastructure in these regions. New kinds of knowledge are being generated and shared through organisations, such as recently founded mobile phone repairers’ associations, and online.

The first session of this symposium will bring together several speakers who have worked in Cameroon, West Africa to document the changing landscape by a variety of means. The three presenters, alongside Walter Gam Nkwi, whose work we will also discuss, were brought together for a field trip to collect artefacts and interviews for a display in Making Modern Communications, a forthcoming gallery about communication and information at the Science Museum, London. The speakers come from a range of different disciplines, and papers will discuss the history of communication in Cameroon, materiality of mobile phones, the challenges of collecting contemporary material culture and the role of community groups in helping to gather and interpret this material for the museum.

The second session will be an interactive workshop investigating the role of participatory practices and work with communities in museums and in wider historical research. With a new wave of public focused research projects and calls for peoples’ museums, peoples’ collections and citizen science, the question must be asked, ‘what does this mean for historical research practices in the future?’ This workshop will explore what the risks and rewards of a participatory approach to historical research can be. The workshop will offer some differing points of view and invite delegates to question their own perceptions of participation and how it could affect their work. The session will open with a paper from Jessica Bradford, content manager for Making Modern Communications, discussing some of the challenges and benefits of this kind of work in a museum context.

The two sessions taken together will unpick some of the challenges of undertaking historical research in the recent past and at a geographical distance. In researching African mobile phone stories, the London-based Making Modern Communciations team has found itself employing anthropoligical and participatory techniques to try and make sense of an otherwise hard-to-grasp topic.

Location: University Place 2.219
Part of: University Place