The Lost and Found column in colonial newspapers


Perhaps the most fascinating thing about archival work is the volume of ever-so-interesting-yet-not-related-to-what-you-are-actually-researching snippets of life that you notice (and get distracted by) along the way. Much of my research centres on the Colonial archive, particularly the archives pertaining to New Caledonia. 251px-Loyalty_Islands_mapA few years ago, I combed through thousands of pages of Le Moniteur de la Nouvelle-Calédonie, the local newspaper and mouthpiece of the colonial administration in Noumea from 1862-1886, looking for traces of Reunionese settlers and sugar workers for my research projects. Whilst perusing shipping arrivals, news stories, local decrees and so forth, I became intrigued by the curious and very frequent advertisements in the “objets trouvés” (Lost and Found) column. These ads catalogued all manner of everyday (and occasionally bizarre) items that appeared to be of immense value to their owners.
The objects, often personal accoutrements made of metal or textiles, almost always manufactured, seemed to…

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