Mr Robin Yarrow is the currently the Chairman of the Board at National Trust of Fiji, a retired civil servant, he has served as Permanent Secretary in over four ministries in a 30 year career. He also serves in Boards and Committees such as Nature Fiji and NGOs. A committed advocate of heritage protection, Mr Yarrow is involved in various activities related to biodiversity conservation and protection.
1. How did you find last Saturday’s Museum Open Day?
I consider this Museum Open Day to be the best to date. There was a broad range of participating organizations plus interesting activities and moreover the weather was very good. Importantly, the attendance was excellent, particularly of young people and possibly exceeded expectations. The fact that so many organizations were present sent a strong message to the public that these are all inter-related and ‘connected’ in a heritage sense. It goes almost without saying that information on Fiji’s history and diverse heritage is fundamental to all that we are currently doing as this constitutes an integral part of current knowledge – because not only is this information unique to Fiji but it helps to shape our future. The old saying that if you do not know where you are coming from then how can you determine where you are going to, holds a great deal of truth. In addition, it is always vital to take stock from the past, in terms of both successes and lessons, to not lose track of these and to use this historical information in a careful and thorough manner in order to build on the achievements already made – and in the process to avoid having to ‘reinvent the wheel’ in making wise decisions relating to national development. The fact that National Archives were participating in full force on a historic site within an institution dedicated to heritage conservation was also most pleasing to me personally given my links to both the National Trust of Fiji and the relatively new NGO, NatureFijiMareqetiViti – both of which were also participating in the Open Day. It would be proper that I acknowledge the hard work put into organizing this event by all concerned and in particular by the Director and staff of the host entity, the Fiji Museum.
2. What were your impression of the Archives display?
This display was set up and manned very well and conveyed much valuable historic information. By it being part of a wider group display conveyed the key message that the work and outputs of our National Archives are very much part of the bigger picture and therefore should not be looked at in isolation from other activities. Archival information is also termed public records and it is so important that an arm of Government be dedicated to this mission, to ensure that this responsibility is discharged properly in the interests of the nation – this task cannot be left to simply ‘happen’ on its own. But archives should not be seen as a stand-alone activity and this why it was beneficial and desirable for the participation to have been undertaken with other relevant partners/players.
3. Was there any part of the Archives display that you found particularly memorable? If so why?
As a more ‘senior’ citizen I was particularly interested in the DVDs featuring some wonderful archival film records – that on the Hibiscus Festival stood out for me as I clearly remember the First Hibiscus Festival from the mid-1950s as I attended Boys Grammar School, then located only 200 meters from Albert Park. When the Festival started it was a very modest affair over only 2 days. Watching the various festivals and events over the decades since, including the public judging of the Queens, the float parade, the various cultural nights and other activities brought back many happy memories. In addition, the other DVDs were all most interesting in particular those on the Military and on Infrastructure. The display of selected historic photographs was also a well-mounted one in terms of both subject coverage and geographical distribution.
4. Were you aware that our team were also conducting genealogy assistance with registers to assist descendants of girmitya’s to find details of their forebears? Do you think this was a worthwhile effort?
While I was aware of this excellent initiative, I was surprised by the detailed capacity available. This is a most commendable service which connects families with their ancestors.
5. Do you have any opinion on the Archives Outreach programme like those carried out in Rotuma (and last week Macuata) where we give away to isolated rural communities information packages including DVD’s on the province/area concerned?
Fiji still possesses a large rural population and people in the more isolated areas do not have many opportunities to enjoy and also learn from the important public records and products of our National Archives Service, as these are for all Fijians – Outreach Programmes are therefore extremely valuable and should be continued on the basis of sound planning, so as to progressively cover more of our more remote rural dwellers. However, as internet coverage becomes increasingly available and our rural dwellers become more e-savvy, their ability to access information digitally, including by schools, will assist greatly to make more material from National Archives of Fiji available.