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Looking back over 150 years of humanitarian action: the photographic archives of the ICRC

31-12-2012 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 888, by Valérie Gorin

Abstract

The purpose of this article is to suggest some historical milestones for a retrospective reflection on the photographic archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). This collection is little used by researchers, although the 120,000
photographs which it contains have helped to forge the symbolism and identity of the institution and to document its operations in accordance with a memory preservation policy which gradually emerged in the course of the 20th century. The photographs shown in this article are divided into three main themes (the ICRC delegate, the context of action, suffering and the victims), in order to make it easier to discuss the key aspects of this tremendous visual heritage which looks at humanitarian action, its protagonists and its beneficiaries from an anthropological and ethnological point of view.


Keywords: photography, humanitarian action, archives, memory, history, visual heritage, war.

Biography

Valérie Gorin is a Scientific Assistant and Lecturer at the Geneva University and the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action.


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