Over 1400 people walked through the Fiji Museum to be part of its Open Day and to celebrate “International Archives Day”. The three month old programme, an initiative of the Minister of Education has seen a steady increase in the number of visitors since its inception in April of this year.
Chief Guest for the day was His Excellency British High Commissioner Roderick Drummond accompanied by his wife. Also present at the event was His Excellency French Ambassador Michael Djokovic and his wife, Kiribati High Commissioner Reteta Mikuata Rimon and His Excellency New Zealand High Commissioner Mark Ramsden.
Students from various schools from as far as Queen Victoria School in Tailevu were treated to entertainment from groups such as Vou, Suva Multi Cultural Centre, Muanikoso Dance Group and Sigidrigi performances from Veivueti ni Voqa kei Nasau.
An official tour led by Director Archives followed soon after. To commemorate the special occasion, sections such as the Conservation Unit and the Microfilm Unit from the National Archives were there complete with conservation materials and microfilm camera and reader.
Each unit of the Archives provided support for the Open Day by displaying Archival Records, library materials, historical footage and photographs. Thematic displays introduced the items such as Infrastructure, Medical, Education, Armed Forces and Hibiscus. One of the popular areas was the genealogy search that could be conducted by descendants of Indian Immigrants.
Preparations began weeks earlier with staff identifying images, footage and archival materials to go on display. The culmination of the event saw visitor upon visitor being assisted, given advice and thoroughly enjoying the event.
One regular visitor to the previous two Open Days was Mr Robin Yarrow currently the National Trust of Fiji Board Chairman. He commended the organizing committee for day’s event saying it was 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 National Archives of Fiji was recently part of the Macuata Government Roadshow held at the Nabala High School on the 17 – 18th June. The team of three officers led by Senior Archivist Timoci Balenaivalu were able to fulfil their objective for the two day event by providing the best archival service to the people of Macuata. The programme facilitated by the Ministry of Rural and Maritime Development is the third in four Roadshows scheduled for the year.Team Archives was able to answer queries on genealogy, land claims and general information on the history of Macuata and nearby provinces. According to Asst Archivist Jemesa Baleijamani the response from the public was overwhelming. “As soon as the official programme ended people started coming, even way past closing. The National Archives will also be part of the next Roadshow to be held in the Central Division.
10/10/1874 – Cession to Britain
10/10/1970 – Fiji Independence
This was the first of a series of joint efforts by the National Archives of Fiji and the Fiji National University to present portions of Fiji’s history in evocative and engaging exhibitions.
Organisers wanted the public to connect with our history and open up their imagination, to the past, our past. To see our victories, our short comings, our joy and our toil. To learn of the challenges and character of our forebears, and understand from the lessons of our past, that we too can conquer our challenges and take Fiji to new heights.
10/10 featured at the Ratu Iloilovatu Public Gallery in Raiwai at the School of Creative Arts from Oct. 29th – Nov 27th 2015.
Did you know that there is some Fijian blood (Kawa i Taukei) in the Arctic?
A Fiji Times article dated March 3rd 1967 highlights a story of descendants of five Fijians that jumped ship in Tuktoyaktuk in the North West of Canada sometime during mid to late 1800s. The five men said to have been shanghaied were forced to join a whaling ship that was operating outside Fiji waters. These men then adapted to the lifestyle of the Eskimos, inter marrying and making a life for themselves. Here is the article with an interview with author Lucien Ben Burman, who met the descendants 53 years ago.
Photographs are an amazing way of recalling past events, experiences and relationships. The moments captured on them can evoke high levels of interest and provide users with an intense and personal connection with the past.
For the National Archives of Fiji, ensuring Fijians have ready access to their photographic heritage is a core responsibility. A timely visit by Executive Director of Island Culture Archives Support (ICAS) Brandon Oswald allowed Archives staff an opportunity to learn more about preserving and digitizing historical photograph collections.
Mr Oswald took officers through the basic processes of photograph appraisals, identifying causes of deterioration, basic photo preservation and recovery processes in cases of disasters and the digitization of photographs.
“The principal values of photographs tend to be information that goes well beyond the purposes for which they were originally taken. But not all photographs are worth keeping.”
“A photograph is particularly valuable if it contains information not available in other formats”
He added that in assessing the informational value of photographs there are number of factors which needed to be addressed such as subject, age, uniqueness and quality.
Mr Oswald highlighted that the preservation of original photographs, safe and easy access to collections and outreach and fundraising possibilities were some of the benefits of digitization.
Archivist Esther Fesaitu of the Digital Continuity Unit said that training was a timely one as they were in the process of reviewing their digitisation processes.
“After the training, I am now able to identify areas that we needed to work on as a unit. It also made me realise that the unit was more than just digitizing and preserving photographs. I also have a clearer understanding of the policies needed for the unit.
Mr Oswald will be in the country till this Friday.
Prof. Fraenkel is currently on holiday with his family. We asked him to talk about his recent projects and the research he was conducting at the National Archives.
What project are you currently working on right now?
I work on a number of different issues really on the borderline history, politics and economics. I have done quite a lot on the electoral systems in Fiji, current politics on Fiji, the Solomon Islands quite widely on the Pacific as well. I worked on some Papua New Guinea issues, also in Nauru, Kiribati, and Samoa. I was in Tonga during their elections. The project I am currently working on that has brought me to work in the National Archives in Fiji and the National Archives in the UK in London last year is a couple of linked projects. One of the issues of great importance is the sugar industry and what’s happening internationally. In 2017 the LOME Convention and Cotonou Agreement that gave preferential access to the European Market ends and already the impact of that is being felt, I am not only interested in what’s going to happen in 2017 but also the historical origins. Although many people are aware of preferential arrangements were agreed under the LOME and Cotonou Agreements in the 70s to the present few people were aware that these arrangements under LOME Convention were inherited from British Colonial rule under the 1951 Commonwealth Sugar Agreement which tried to stabilise prices but also gave premiums to farmers in Fiji. When you go back the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement was reorganised under the Imperial Preferences in the 1930s in fact the origins of these Imperial Preferences go as far back as 1919. That’s significant for Fiji because in 1920 was the year when the last indenture contract was contract in Fiji so now the sugar industry had to rely on free labour. There was a major crisis back then. Everyone thought the industry would end. Many of the Indian labourers returned to India. It was very significant that these arrangements were put in place that facilitated a reorganisation of the sugar industry. So I am looking through trying to get a historical understanding of exactly how important these arrangements have been at the same time I am also interested in certain incidences that happened back in the 1920s like the PWD strike in Suva which has never really been written up properly. The strike in many ways defined the characteristics of ethnic relations in modern Fiji. I think it is poorly understood event. These are the two projects I am working on.
Where to from here?
I will need to go to the Colonial Sugar Refinery Archives in Canberra from here. From here I go back to work in Wellington and working on the other projects.
What materials have you had access to?
Since I came in this week I have been going through Colonial Reports, Legislative Council Papers, the Fiji Times and Herald and I have also looked through the Colonial Secretaries office files. I am currently constructing the narrative then I will go into specific details later. I am not a historian but I have used the Archives before on other projects. The staff have been very useful and provided me with much assistance. I hope I will be given the opportunity to come again.
On his recent visit:
It’s a lovely thing coming back to Fiji when you have taught at the University of the South Pacific and you meet former students from ten years back who are now in high positions like your Director here.
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.