Endangered Archives

EAP110: Tuvalu National Archives major project

Mr Richard Overy, Australian National University
2006 award - Major project
£29,130 for 21 months

Archival partner: Tuvalu National Library and Archives

VIEW FILES FROM THIS PROJECT

Project Overview

The Tuvalu National Archives Pilot Project confirmed that vital documentation of the cultural, social and political heritage of Tuvalu is currently held by the Archives. The surviving records of the Ellice Islands District Administration of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony (GEIC) are held in good order at the Tuvalu National Library and Archives (TNLA) together with the item lists prepared by the Western Pacific Archives. In addition the TNLA controls archives of the Government of Tuvalu.

The GEIC archives and part of the Tuvalu government archives are held in an intermittently air-conditioned room on the low-lying atoll of Funafuti. Although comparatively well housed, the archives are endangered, at best, through frequent and heavy use and, at worst, through risk of being washed away in a cyclone-prone area. Environmental and handling damage is occurring to key customary records. There is evidence to indicate that sea levels have risen and that flooding in Tuvalu is more prevalent than formerly. Many garden pits and wells that formerly held a fresh water lens are now directly affected by high tides and are now saline; parts of the underlying coral structure have been so damaged both by nature and by man (especially during World War II) that formerly productive lands are no longer useful.

The National Librarian and Archivist, Mrs Mila Tulimanu, and others on Funafuti feel a sense of urgency regarding the need to secure Tuvalu 's archival holdings in the immediate future, particularly since the flooding of archives in Niue by Cyclone Heta in January 2004. (Tuvalu is a much lower island and more vulnerable than Niue.)

The Pilot Project successfully used a combination of microfilm and digital reformatting to produce over 10,000 images of documents held by the TNLA. The Major Project would use the same combination of reformatting equipment.

Based on the survey results and reformatting experience gained in the Tuvalu National Archives Pilot Project, the major project would undertake the following activities:

  • Complete the microfilming, commenced in the Pilot Project, of GEIC's Ellice Islands District land records held by the Tuvalu National Library and Archives, covering the following islands: Vaitupu, Nanumanga, Nui, Nukulaelae, Nukufetau, Niutao (and Niulakita). The microfilm images to be scanned to .tif and .pdf files on DVD for supply to TNLA and EAP.
  • Continue digital copying of GEIC and other records held in the Tuvalu National Library and Archives documenting Tuvaluan language, history, environment, culture, traditions, customs, skills and arts.
  • Undertake digital copying outside the TNLA, in particular in the outer islands at, for example, Motufoua School, Vaitupu Agricultural Research Station, Elisefou School, churches and Island Councils.
  • Microfilm the Tuvalu New Sheet and Tuvalu Echoes (1976+) and scan to digital format for Island use.
  • Microfilm the main series GEIC correspondence, covering all districts of the Colony, now held in the National Archives of Kiribati and scan to digital format for supply to Tuvalu, Kiribati and Nauru.
  • Continue exposure of TNLA staff to reformatting techniques giving additional hands on experience in microfilming and, especially, digital reformatting. Digital reformatting equipment will remain with the TNLA to enable staff to carry on reformatting programs in the future.
  • Create systematic metadata for digital images produced during the pilot and major projects to enable longterm storage and retrieval of digital masters.

Project Outcome

This major project has accomplished extensive preservation reformatting of document in or relating to Tuvalu, as follows:

  • Archives of the Ellice Islands District of the Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony (GEIC) as arranged by the Western Pacific Archives held in the Tuvalu National Library and Archives (TNLA) in Funafuti;
  • A selection of 67 miscellaneous reports on Tuvaluan language, history, environment, culture, traditions, customs, skills and arts held in the TNLA;
  • GEIC correspondence files relating to the Ellice Islands District held at the Kiribati National Archives in Tarawa;
  • And seven Tuvaluan newspapers held in the TNLA and elsewhere.

In total, combined with the pilot project EAP005, 70,343 image files, comprising 1,276 documents, and 55 reels of microfilm have been produced.

This extensive body of reformatted documents provides insurance against possible damage to the original records which are vulnerable to storms, cyclones, sea surges, floods and rising sea levels.

Copies of all the digital material are held by the TNLA, the British Library and by the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau at the Australian National University Canberra. Duplicate negatives and positive prints of the microfilms are held by the British Library. Positive prints are held by the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau member libraries: the Mitchell Library in Sydney, the National Library of Australia, the Australian National University Library, the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, the University of Auckland Library, Canterbury University Library, Christchurch, the University of Hawaii Library, the Library of the University of California San Diego, Yale University Library, and the University of Michigan Library.

Master negatives of the microfilms will be held in cold storage in the National Library of Australia.

The records copied by this project have been catalogued as:

  • EAP110/1 Tuvalu National Archives major project

The catalogue is available here.