PACIFIC ISLANDS by hjkuiw354

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									          PACIFIC ISLANDS
                                DOCUMENTATION


Since it was established in
1968, the Pacific
Manuscripts Bureau has
performed vital work to
preserve documentation in
this area of the world.
Marion Anthony reports

         he headquarters of the Pacific

T        Manuscripts Bureau consists
         of a room at the Australian
National University. It has a staff of
one. From this small centre, the
Bureau pursues an active
microfilming program to preserve and
improve access to written cultural
heritage material relating to the
Pacific Islands.
  In selecting records for
microfilming, the Bureau gives the
highest priority to preserving
important material at risk of loss. For
example, inadequate storage may have
resulted in insect infestation, mould,
or acidic deterioration. In 1995 the
Bureau released microfilms of the
archives of the Catholic Archdiocese
of Papeete. Much of this material
comprises letters from parishes on
outlying islands to the Bishop in
Papeete; the missionaries mixed their
own ink from local materials and the
records are very fragile because of its
acidity. Also filmed during 1995 were
Tongan Supreme Court and Land             many independent organisations in         George Vete of the Supreme Court of
Court records which had narrowly          the islands—and in Australia—is           Tonga with a stray Tonga Government
escaped being caught in a fire that       reluctant to hand its records over to     letter book, 1870-73, discovered in the
                                                                                    Justice Archives, December 1995
destroyed the adjacent Law Library        the National Archives. The Bureau
earlier in the year.                      began filming them in 1995 and
  Material may also be at risk because    expects to complete the task this year.
of dispersal, cyclones or civil unrest.     Another priority in selecting           important   that islanders should have
When the Fiji Trade Union Congress        material for filming is that the work     formal input into the work of the
building was fire-bombed during the       should benefit Pacific Islanders and      Bureau, particularly in setting
coup in 1987, the records were not        not merely outside academics who          priorities for surveying and filming
damaged, but their situation is           wish to have easier access to unique      records. A number of Pacific Island
scarcely secure. The Congress, like       materials. It is considered extremely     libraries, which have assisted and
12                                                                                  NATIONAL Library of Australia News
                                          continuing loss of documentary             An original Tongan births register
The Bureau provides                       material in the Pacific. As a historian    proposed for microfilming by the Bureau
                                          he felt an obligation to preserve the
a copy of its                             heritage of Pacific Islanders—both for
microfilm to the                          their benefit and for that of outside
                                          academics. In alliance with Gordon         quantity of significant and rare
owners of the original                    Richardson, then the New South             material, much of which was at risk of
                                          Wales State Librarian, Maude secured       loss. The material copied mostly
documents or to                           the agreement of the National Library      documented the European presence in
another suitable                          of Australia, the State Library of New     the Pacific and included personal
                                          South Wales, the National Library of       papers, mission records, administrative
repository in the same                    New Zealand, the University of             material, logs of whaling vessels and
                                          Hawaii Library and the ANU                 some company records.
island group                              Research School of Pacific Studies to        Adrian Cunningham, Executive
                                          establish, fund and operate the Pacific    Officer of the Bureau during 1994,
                                          Manuscripts Bureau.                        argues that the under-representation
benefited from the work of the               The Bureau provides a copy of its       of indigenous and vernacular material
Bureau, would like to become              microfilm to the owners of the             in the Bureau's early output, while
members but have been unable to           original documents or to another           partly reflecting extant sources (there
afford the annual subscription. It is     suitable repository in the same island     were no indigenous literates at the
hoped that in the near future this will   group. A copy of the film is provided      time of first European contact), is also
be addressed by some of the larger        to each of the member libraries and        the result of an unwitting Eurocentric
Pacific Island libraries which are        copies may also be purchased by non-       skewing of the Bureau's work. When
actively exploring funding options for    members. The Bureau publishes              the Bureau was established, many of
Bureau membership.                        online and hard copy bibliographies of     the now independent Pacific Island
  The Bureau was established in 1968      its output and publicises its activities   nations were still under colonial rule.
largely because of the vision and         in its newsletter, PAMBU.                  This, combined with the interest of
initiative of Harry Maude—a scholar          For the first 18 years of its           Pacific-rim academics and researchers
at the Australian National University     operations, the Bureau's Executive         in the impact of Europeans on Pacific
Research School of Pacific Studies.       Officer was Robert Langdon, formerly       culture, greatly influenced the
Maude had been a British colonial         Assistant Editor of the Pacific Islands    selection of material for copying.
administrator in the Gilbert Islands      Monthly. Langdon energetically               Until 1986, when Langdon retired,
and was very much aware of the            sought and microfilmed a large             the Research School paid the salary of

MAY 1996 NATIONAL PRESERVATION OFFICE QUARTERL                                             Y   SUPPLEMENT                  13
                                                                                  to 1989) and Gillian Scott (1989-93)
                                                                                  consolidated the catalogues and
                                                                                  indexes of the Bureau's entire output
                                                                                  and published the results in two
                                                                                  convenient volumes. This was of
                                                                                  enormous help to researchers and
                                                                                  librarians alike. Despite these
                                                                                  advances, funding remained a
                                                                                  problem. Member libraries expressed
                                                                                  concern at the drop in output and the
                                                                                  absence of surveying and filming
                                                                                  work in the islands. By 1993, the
                                                                                  Bureau's future was in considerable
                                                                                  doubt.
                                                                                     At this time the National Library
                                                                                  offered the part-time services of
                                                                                  Adrian Cunningham, a Pacific
                                                                                  scholar working in the Library's
                                                                                  Manuscripts Section, to investigate
                                                                                  and pursue possible sources of
                                                                                  additional funding while acting as the
                                                                                  Bureau's Executive Officer.
                                                                                  Cunningham's secondment was for
                                                                                   12 months, after which time member
                                                                                  libraries would review the situation.
                                                                                  Dr Brij Lal of the ANU Research
                                                                                  School of Pacific Studies was
                                                                                  appointed Chairman of the Bureau's
                                                                                  Management Committee.
                                                                                     Cunningham and Lal spent a
                                                                                  productive year canvassing
                                                                                  membership and funding possibilities,
                                                                                  lobbying via professional and
                                                                                  academic contacts and releasing 90
                                                                                  reels of film. They reaffirmed the
                                                                                  importance of conducting regular
                                                                                  field trips to the islands in order to
                                                                                  locate and film suitable material.
Agreements and affidavits of the                                                  Nineteenth-century records
Magistrates Court, Nuku'alofa, Tonga,     material is subject to                  continued to be filmed, but
surveyed by the Bureau                                                            contemporary documents, often in
                                          the exigencies of                       the vernacular, were also included.
                                          climate, ... is often                   Projects were commenced to locate
the Executive Officer, while                                                      and film records concerning the
subscriptions from member libraries       inappropriately stored                  coups in Fiji and the conflict in
and profits from film sales provided                                              Bougainville.
funds for administration, travel and
                                          and in the care of                         This shift in emphasis resulted from
filming. After Langdon's retirement,      people who do not                       an awareness that a considerable
the Research School was no longer                                                 amount of contemporary and
prepared to pay the Executive             have the resources to                   vernacular material could be gone
Officer's salary. The Bureau's                                                    within 10 years if it were not preserved
finances were reconstituted, with
                                          preserve it                             soon. Not only is this kind of material
member library annual subscriptions                                               subject to the exigencies of climate, it
doubled to cover part of the funding      at San Diego—a recent membership        is often inappropriately stored and in
shortfall. The ANU Library became a       addition—maintained its                 the care of people who do not have the
formal member, but the State Library      commitment.                             resources to preserve it.
of Victoria, which had joined in the        During the seven years to 1993, the      During 1994, Cunningham and
early 1970s, withdrew because of the      Bureau was somewhat hampered by a       Lal adopted the policy that when
increased subscription cost. The          shortage of adequate funding. Bess      filming records the condition of the
Library of the University of California   Flores (Executive Officer from 1987     originals should, where possible, be
14                                                                                NATIONAL Library of Australia News
improved. The Bureau now                   George Vete with Tonga Land Court
endeavours to improve the storage of       minute books, Nuku'alofa, after
the original documents by supplying        microfilming by the Bureau
archival storage boxes and acid-free
folders. Material formerly out of
order is replaced in proper order,         disorganised and infested by insects
numbered and listed. Busy Pacific          and mice. Other proposed filming
librarians and archivists with few staff   projects include Melanesian mining
at their disposal must find this very      industry records and the archives of
useful. Proper storage increases the       environmental and anti-nuclear
long-term survival of records.             groups, women's organisations,
However, the most important                employer organisations and other
preservation activity of the Bureau is     NGOs.
microfilming. If the worst happens           The Bureau is now on a sounder
and the filmed originals are lost, there   financial footing with the added
is always the insurance of the             membership of the University of
microfilm surrogate produced by the        Auckland Library. Other membership
Bureau.                                    prospects can only be encouraged by
   The Bureau's leap in film output in     the present program of active filming.
 1994, together with the prospect of       The Bureau has also applied for
increased membership, encouraged           funding to UNESCO's Memory of
member libraries to continue their         the World Program, and is exploring
participation. In 1995, Ewan               other funding options.                    CONSERVATION
Maidment, an archivist at the ANU            The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau is        RESOURCES
Noel Butlin Archives, was appointed        a significant scholarly resource which              Affiliate Offices in
full-time Executive Officer. He and        makes available a wide range of           Springfield VA USA, & Oxford, England
                                                                                          A Division of HAXTON PTY LTD
Brij Lal are continuing the energetic      material which would otherwise be            187 Hyde Road, Yeronga QId Australia
policies of Cunningham's time.             difficult to access. The importance of    PO Box 6184, FAIRFIELD GARDENS 4103

Maidment conducted three field trips       its role in preserving unique                 Fax 07 3848 5503
during 1995, visiting Tahiti, Fiji and     documents in a region where archival          Phone 07 3848 0199
Tonga. Records of Pacific trade            preservation programs are often non-
 unions, including those of the            existent or severely under-resourced is          FREE CATALOGUE
 Solomon Islands National Union of         hard to overestimate.
Workers dating from the late 1960s,                                                         Mastercard accepted.
have been targeted for filming.                                                               Established 1977
 Despite their relatively recent origin,   MARION ANTHONY is         a Canberra-
 these records are damp, mouldy,           based writer
MAY 1996 NATIONAL PRESERVATION OFFICE QUARTERL                                          Y   SUPPLEMENT                         15

								
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