A Cambridge qualified anthropologist and museum curator is eager to explore opportunities to collaborate with NAF. Katrina Talei Ingglesden of the Fijian Art Research Project (full name “The Fijian Arts, Social Transformation, and Political Power Collections since 1800s to the Present”) said there is scope to help each other to give the Fiji public more access to their heritage.
“I think in general we are trying to do the same thing. It is the preservation and dissemination of Fijian history, records held in the UK and records held here complement each other and yet they are slightly different so I can see various avenues for sharing and trying to work together. A lot of museums especially the ones we worked with in our project have a vast photographic collection as well.”
She also found a wealth of information in the NAF holdings
“I was pleasantly surprised coming here, I have always known about it, walked by, never came in and the resources you have here, it’s just amazing! I’ve been looking at the microfilm just now; I’ve had to stop myself from looking at everything else (Births Deaths and Marriages records) It’s amazing! The more people I can help with it I will, it is an invaluable resource, for the Fijian public here and anybody else.”
Can you give us a bit more information on the Fijian Art Research Project?
“The Fijian Art research project is technically officially over at the moment but we had an extension on it. So it was from 2011 to 2014. It was a three-year project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK. It is a Government body that funds cultural, arts and humanities projects. It started off as a body that funded only local research but in the past two years they have taken on an internationally exposure, kind of platform where if you work locally and you have international partnership they encourage that more than just staying in the UK. We were really lucky with this project because it allowed us to partner with nine different institutions around the world. We had six in the UK. Being Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts, British Museum, Maidstone Museum & Art Gallery they have a huge Fijian Collection from a local Maidstone man came to Fiji in the 19th century, Liverpool Museum and the National Museum of Scotland we also had the Smithsonian in Washington, DC and the Fiji Museum. We had associate museums in Australia and New Zealand, Auckland Museum, Aberdeen and anyone who wanted to work with us came on as a partner, and basically it was to find out where all the Fijian collections are in the world and the what bulk of each collection is. Within the UK every single regional museum has some kind of Fijian object it might be just be a club or just be a piece of masi but literally every museum has something.”
“Part of that project was to help very small museums who have no staff who special knowledge in Fijian collections to actually show their Fijian collections because none are on display. So we have these small museums do these pocket exhibitions to showcase their materials. So we did all the texts for them and they had money coming in to make educational resources. It was a very large interesting project with two exhibitions one was in Cambridge in 2013 – 2014 and we have this upcoming one in October of this year to February of next year and that will the final bit of the project and two books have come out of it. One specifically on the Cambridge collection which literally focuses on Sir Arthur Gordon, his tenure as Governor so from 1875 to 1880s and this upcoming book which will go for this exhibition from October to February will be the first encompassing art history of Fiji. It will be for 15 lending institutions for this upcoming exhibition whereas for the one in Cambridge was only Cambridge material.”
“We have Fiji Museum objects coming over. The first time Fiji Museum has ever loaned anything since their history of existence. We have 21 loaned objects coming in from Fiji. We are very very excited about that.”
Maybe the next step would be bringing bits of collections home so people could see?
“One of the wish lists that we had and we had many was having a Pacific version of the exhibition we had and possibly have the Australian Museum, Fiji Museum and Auckland Museum all working together to share the costs, because that is one thing people underestimate a lot and that is the costs, unfortunately Fiji Museum can’t afford the cost to build a base. As we were talking last week partnership, collaboration on the best way we can do everything so we are still hoping that can happen.”
“The title of the exhibition is Fiji: Art and Life in the Pacific it wasn’t the title of choice but the English public, we had a few titles out there but it is a general survey on Fijian culture, from early Lapita technology to contemporary manufactures so we had the Drua, 8 metre made here in Suva is being shipped over to the UK for exhibition and it is the first Drua built traditionally probably the one that’s sitting at the Fiji Museum now. It was built in 1913. It’s much smaller than the one on the Fiji Museum but we had to build for the confines of the UK Museum to be able to fit through the doors. If it could be bigger it could be. It is looking at a lot of aspects of Fijian culture and thanks to gender divisions in the institution I work in there are more women than men this time in this particular exhibition a lot of women’s work will be focused on which this doesn’t happen often because textiles and fibres are things don’t preserve especially well but also most of the collectors were men but there is an amazing collection of textile in the UK and we got some textiles coming from Fiji museum as well, collected in 1839 to 1854 by a particular missionary so the big focus on past historical textiles as well as contemporary mainly mats, masi and fashion pieces made out of traditional textiles Adi Litia Mara’s wedding dress that’s at the Fiji Museum is coming over for the exhibition.”
“It’s a lot of work; we’ve had a few years to get this done. The exhibition was meant to open sooner than October but we are just grateful.”
Find a way to bring it home for a period so people can see their heritage
“I am determined to come back so I can stay longer.”
So your time in Fiji is to organise these things?
“So I am basically helping the Museum with the loan and understanding the process, the loan procedures I am just taking them through all that, assisting them in any way.”
Archival preservation methods will soon be used by traditional crafters to preserve masi. This development emerged when Veitinia Lesuma Chung and Mereoni Chung visited the National Archives of Fiji (NAF) to get a better understanding of what we do. Originally from Somosomo in Taveuni Mrs Chung says that the Archives has allowed her to become more aware of how she can better maintain her masi (bark cloth)collection. “I call myself a traditional artist and the processes, the ideas I got from your Conservation Unit using the Japanese paper, distilled water, and the drying rack I will try this on refined masi. If I can try and preserve it for longer that will be so good! Just amazing, you people do such great work here.”
She will be using the archives to build her knowledge of masi, and is eager to bring other masi experts to learn what NAF has to offer . “I work with masi and I am always interested in learning about other masi designs. Your library has some books that I have not read and I will be back for them. I will definitely bring back other women to visit the Archives.”
Daughter Mereoni Chung an Anthropology student at the Australia National University echoed her mother’s sentiments saying that after all that she had witnessed it gave her a sense of hope and inspiration. “After completing this tour I have this feeling of hope, hope that the talanoa sessions we usually have can be backed with evidence, there are materials here that can verify claims to things that have happened. We can connect the dots. The records provide the back up to history.
“My last visit here was in in high school and I thought the place only held political records. I didn’t realise what you had here. After meeting up with Opeta and Jim in Canberra and the discussions we had on their work, I made it a point to visit when I was in Suva. It is just amazing to know that we have avenues to research on what we need to know.”
How important are photographs as historical items?
Photographs are extraordinarily significant. In Australia we get allot of bushfires and if a family home is completely destroyed one of the first things they say is “I’ve lost all my photographs”, or they’ll say “at least I was able to get my photographs and get out.” Its the first thing people mention, forget about legal documents and insurance documents and things like that. Those things can be replaced, its their photographs, the special memories that people really cherish.
Everybody has their own personal collection of photographs, but they also mean allot to a community and to a country as a whole. If townships grow and change, its a fantastic resource to be able to understand how the community used to be and how it has changed and grown. For our own personal collections its about family and community as well, remembering our past, appreciating our present and being able to anticipate our family in the future looking back on these photographs. It can be heart breaking when people loose a collection of photographs, but it can also be incredibly heart warming when people rediscover photographs, or realise that they haven’t actually lost all the photographs in a disaster for example. Photographs to me constitute a core of who we are as people and what our memory is.
Please describe the training you have carried out here at the National Archives.
So myself and the conservation section, and the digital continuity section here at the National Archives of Fiji have spent the week looking at both the preservation of the photographic material, of the collection as a whole and intensive hands on conservation of photographic materials. So we looked at the storage areas and the various collections that the National Archives of Fiji holds and we talked a bit about the ways to go about preserving whole collections of photographs. Then we spent three days in the conservation laboratory here, working on experimental photographs. Photographs which we could practice on, not working on photographs out of the collection, because photographic conservation takes allot of practice, and in the training phase people should have the freedom to experiment and push the boundaries so they understand what works and for one problem and what works for another. So we covered:
- surface cleaning (front and back)
- humidification and flattening
- disaster response
- and in-painting (retouching)
How would you describe your time here at the National Archives of Fiji?
This is my first visit to Fiji and its been absolutely fantastic. The people here at the National Archives of Fiji have been so welcoming and so friendly that personally its just been an uplifting experience.
To come and work here with the conservators at the National Archives of Fiji has been just been a wonderful week and I’ve taught them and they’ve taught me and I think we’ve all come away from it better trained and better educated people.
The team here at the National Archives of Fiji knows everything they need to know about preserving photographs. When a collection comes into the care of the staff here, it will get the best care Fiji can provide, and when it comes to hands on conservation treatment I believe they will probably have the best conservation training in Fiji.
Ms Jackson was able to impart her valuable knowledge with the NAF team as part of the Twinning programme between the National Archives of Fiji and the National Archives of Australia, funded by the people of Australia through the Australian High Commission.
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.
Colonel Ned Taito (Ret) has deposited some important historical publications with NAF. These materials are no longer in print. Below he talks about his deposit.
1) What benefit will these materials bring for Fiji’s collective memory?
To understand the future we have to appreciate the past. The contribution seeks to ensure that the future generations have the opportunity to appreciate the contributions made by those that went before them, in creating the character of the nation we call our homeland.
2) Why have you chosen to bring them to the National Archives for safekeeping?
As custodians of Fiji’s history, the National Archives has not only the mandate but more importantly the will to serve as the custodians of our individual and collective history as a nation.
3) Please describe the materials you have brought to deposit.
The items include publications and images from four peacekeeping mission. Three of which I served in.
The CD of images from the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI) includes images from the tour by the band MAKOMA. I did not serve with RAMSI
Two publications are from the UN Mission in East Timor where I served as Public Information Office (PIO) at the HQ of the Peacekeeping Force (HQ PKF) and was responsible for working with the local media in terms of capacity building and in facilitating coverage of PKF efforts in Timor Leste. The majority of the CD contain images from UN PKF Media Office (PIO).
I served as the Civil Affairs Officer at Sector West HQ from June 200 to December 2000 in the Town of Suai, Covalima District, on the East Timor border with West Timor (Indonesia) under the auspices of the United Nations Transitional Authority East Timor (UNTAET). From October 2002 to September 2003 I served with at the UN PKF in Dili with the United Nations Mission in Support of East Timor (UNMISET). During the courses of the years the country was known as East Timor, then Timor Lorosae then Timor Leste.
There are two blue coffe table booklets highlighting two anniversary’s celebrated by the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Golan Heights. The Golan Journal magazines that I had donated earlier to the National Archives included quarterly magazines published by HQ UNDOF at Camp Faouar, Syria where I served as the Spokesman from July 2013 to August 2014
The two posters were produced during two deployments to Bougainville. The South Pacific Peacekeeping Force (SPPKF) deployed in 1994, while the Truce Monitoring Group or TMG (renamed by the Australian as the Peace Monitoring Group – PMG) deployed in 1997. I deployed with the first Fiji contingent to TMG.
ANU Historian Dr. Vicki Luker, Executive Editor of The Journal of Pacific History visited NAF to investigate World War footage. Dr. Luker was very enthused by the Digital footage available at the Fiji Archives. She has a long association with the Archives stretching back to 1972, and is excited by the opportunities this digitised footage presents to Fiji and those studying our history.
“Exciting work, with potential to preserve heritage and link heritage to descendants and researchers, and involving NAF in cooperation with other agencies with similar interests or complementary expertise.”
Dr. Luker’s visit was enabled by a recent Memorandum signed between The Australian National University and The University of the South Pacific for a close working relationship.
For quarter of a century the Royal New Zealand Air Force made some major contributions to the Fiji. Based at strategic locations in Fiji, the RNZAF built the airfields in Nadi and Nausori and later the establishment of the seaplane station in Laucala Bay, Suva. In addition several of their personnel worked at the Fiji Met office, and were deployed in aircrafts to fly around (often ending up flying right through) hurricanes. They also provided medivac services for emergency cases in remote areas, and were key in providing disaster relief after natural disasters. This important era of the RNZAF operations in Fiji is the very reason why author and oral historian Bee Dawson visited the National Archives of Fiji to carry out research.
With a total of sixteen books to her name, the former psychologist
with the RNZAF took up writing as she loved to tell stories. Having written five other books on the RNZAF, Ms Dawson said she “was just waiting for the opportunity to write about Laucala Bay seaplane base”.
“I had met several people whilst interviewing them for my other books who had served at Laucala Bay and I had a lot of materials on it.”
“I think this book is very important as it covers an era when New Zealand and Fiji were working together very closely. At the beginning of World War Two, New Zealand was responsible for the defense of Fiji until the Americans took over that role in 1942. New Zealand construction teams built the first airfields at Nausori and Nadi, and later established the seaplane station at Laucala Bay. During the war New Zealand aeroplanes carried out many patrols around Fiji and escorted ships that were in Fijian waters.
The Fiji Times issue of December 13th 1948 highlighted “the Royal New Zealand Air Forces Catalinas experimenting with “drops” in preparation for providing emergency supplies to isolated communities in Lau”.
After the war the Catalina flying boats (later Sunderland flying boats) continued to support the Fijian people. They worked closely with meteorological services – whenever a hurricane was building up somewhere in the area an aircraft would be sent to fly around, or into, the developing hurricane to take pressure and wind velocity readings which were sent back to the weather people in Fiji. After hurricanes the RNZAF had a vital role flying relief missions to islands that had sustained damage. They took water, food and building supplies, but sometimes the most crucial thing was the medical support. This included medical evacuation of injured people.
“Medical relief flights around the Pacific were a major part of the RNZAF’s work – and the seaplane station at Laucala Bay was central to these missions.
Search and rescue was also important – flights were often sent out to look for missing boats. One of the most famous rescues was when a boatload of Tongan boxers was rescued from Minerva Reef in 1962. “
She also spoke about the role RNZAF played in the construction of the Nadi and Nausori airfields.“In 1941, the Americans were getting interested in the strategic significance of Fiji, even though they were not in the war yet they realised they wanted a safer southern route.
Later that year the Americans contracted New Zealand to upgrade the Nadi airfield. Within a week about 400 people from New Zealand arrived to begin the airfields upgrade. In the end there were over 1200 Europeans and thousands of local labour.
The construction of the Nadi airfield was according to Ms Dawson highlighted in the “History of the Pacific War” as one of the great achievements of the Pacific War. “It was a massive operation and very quickly done.
“The New Zealanders laid the foundations and then we did the major upgrade for the Americans. They were around for a little while but in 1942 the Americans took over the defence of Fiji and from then on the New Zealand troops and any other troops were under the American command.
The RNZAF station at Laucala Bay was also a significant employer of local Fijian labour. Many local people worked in the hangars, on the marine section boats, in the bars and as house girls.. The officers were encouraged to hire local help as it would assist them during their stay. “They were given allowances to pay and it made life easier and of course the employment it offered.”
At the National Archives, Ms Dawson was able to gather information and identify images for her book.
“There were a number of very comprehensive files that I looked through. These were mostly to do with the closing of the station in the mid 1960s. I also found many photographs – and some of these are absolutely ideal for my book. I have photo-copies and will order them once the manuscript is written. I have got many valuable local insights and some very good photographs. I have also got excellent information from files at the National Archives.”
She commended the National Archives for their friendly and keen-to-help attitude.
Her book likely to be titled ‘RNZAF Station Laucala Bay’ will be published as part of the RNZAF’s 80th birthday celebrations in 2017.
Students of the School of Governance, Development and International Affairs of the University of the South Pacific Post Graduate Studies have lauded the services of the National Archives of Fiji. The visit to the National Archives was to assist students in understanding the functions of the Department and the type of primary and secondary resources available.
In an organised tour, the students were given an overview of access levels for both closed and open records and the volume of the records in the archives’ holdings.
Sela Epeli, a Post Graduate Diploma student that was part of the group, shared on her view of the tour.
“The whole purpose of coming to this organisation is my interest in carrying out a family trace of my grandfather who was a British Official sent to Rotuma and finding out what happened to him when he went back to England,” Mr Epeli said.
“The tour today has been very helpful. I enjoyed visiting all the sections.
“For me the library and archives admin sections were the most interesting for me. I got a lot of information on the processes I will go through and what I will need for my research.
“The National Archives is a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered.”
A total of 12 students from the School of Governance, Development and International Affairs of the USP Post Graduate Studies visited NAF. DEPTFO news
Taito Raione, the senior conservator at the National Archives of Fiji, with a copy of the first The Fiji Times. Picture: ATU RASEA
WHAT was discovered as library deposits is being documented as an important piece at Fiji’s National Archives.
The original volume of copies of The Fiji Times dated September 4, 1869, in Levuka up until December 31, 1870, are being compiled and preserved at the National Archives office in Suva.
National Archive senior conservator Taito Raione said the original copies — if kept in a room with stable temperature and stable relative humidity — would last for another 100 to 200 years.
“This is my 26th year here and when I started here, it was in a very deteriorating state, very brittle. These Fiji Times copies were falling to pieces so we had to collect the pieces and two years ago I decided that we have to do something about this,” Mr Raione said
“Otherwise if people want to come and view these pieces, we will have to give them the microfilm copies and not the original because it was in a deteriorating condition.
“We undergo seven stages before copies of these papers go back to its original stage.”
This, Mr Raione explained, included dismantling of all the pages in this first volume and the recollection of all pieces together and the washing of the papers in special solutions to remove dirt and impurities from them.