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 and probably the English speaking South Pacific.”
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.
According to Senior Archivist Digital Continuity, the training will add immensely to Fiji’s heritage. “It was amazing. There were photographs that were badly damaged, and I thought absolutely nothing can be done with these. But now we know how to salvage these important pieces of Fiji’s history, this training was a godsend.”
This is the third stage of a twinning programme between the National Archives of Fiji and the National Archives of Australia made possible by funding through the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.