Contested Histories

Photographs from Mandate Palestine in the JH Iliffe Collection


This stunning photograph of the Palestine Archaeological Museum, taken from the roof of the Reading Room, deliberately contrasts the domed forms of the Old City of Jerusalem with those of the recently completed Museum.

JH ‘Harry’ Iliffe was Keeper of the Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem during the controversial period of the British Mandate for Palestine (1922-1948).

While Keeper (1931-1948), Iliffe not only acquisitioned for the Museum a remarkable 100,000 artefacts representing the prehistoric though to the Muslim phases of Palestine’s history, c. 200,000 BC - AD 1700, but was also rarely without a camera. Through exploring Iliffe’s photographic archive, Contested Histories challenges viewers to consider the practice of recording, interpreting, and in some cases, creating history.

Iliffe’s photographs document many of the complex social, political, cultural and religious issues transforming life in Mandate Palestine (present day Israel and the Palestinian territories). They encourage us today to think more deeply about both the historical and ongoing effects of colonialism, imperialism, and the nature and use of physical monuments and spaces, including the seemingly neutral space of a museum.


Curated by Dr Janette McWilliam & Mr James Donaldson.
Designed by Mr James Donaldson.
Presented in Partnership with the Fryer Library, University of Queensland Library.
Digitisation of original images and documents completed by the UQ Library Digitisation Team.
Physical exhibition converted to Omeka online format for the RD Milns Antiquities Museum by Ms Alessandra Schultz.
Contested Histories