One of my major projects has been the Culion Museum and Archives, a community institution on Culion Island in the Palawan region of the southwest Philippines. In 2005 and 2006, I worked as a consultant to organize and preserve records of the leprosarium founded on Culion by the U.S. and later continued by the Philippine government. Many individuals afflicted with Hansen’s disease (colloquially known as leprosy) were forcibly taken to the island and incarcerated there in the early twentieth century, which gave rise to Culion’s reputation as an “Island of No Return.” Since the development of treatment for the condition in the 1980s, the image of Culion has changed. As I found in my work there, many of the residents now see the town’s history as a medico-penal colony transformed into a mark of status and community pride.
In 2006, a new exhibit at the Culion Museum celebrated the opening of the town’s newly established and preserved archives. Some of that celebration, including photos and archival records, is documented by the Global Project on the History of Leprosy in their pages on Culion. You can also find a general description of archival records and books available at the Culion archives.
Related: My 2009 article, ‘All the Things We Cannot Articulate.’