Last month there was an interesting article from the Vanuatu Daily Post that slipped past my noticed and which I must immediately share. The article was about a 113 year old map that was given a permanent home at the National Archives of Vanuatu.
The map shows the Havannah Harbour area and is part of a series produced in 1939 for the French state company, Societe Francaise Nouvelle Hebrides (SFNH), which was at the time trying to validate all of its historical land claims. There are 31 maps which cover Efate. Efate and Aore Islands were the only maps completed by SFNH as funding ran out during WW1.
This map was for many years part of the archives collected by the late Professor Darrell Tryon of the Australian National University (ANU) who was a wonderful friend of Vanuatu, committing much of his academic career to the study of the country’s languages (which he started in the late 1960s), and was a key mentor for the Vanuatu Cultural Center fieldworkers whose annual conference he was involved in running for 30 years!
The map was found among Tryon’s archives by another ANU academic and Vanuatu researcher Dr Chris Ballard who immediately recognized its importance. He has been researching these very maps and has visited archives in France and New Caledonia to see if other copies exist but it seems that the only copies of these maps that have survived are those held by the National Archives of Vanuatu.
Rather than send such a valuable item by post, Ballard handed the map to another academic, archaeologist Dr Stuart Bedford, who was about to leave for Vanuatu. It arrived safely to be presented to Lazare Asal, Director of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre, and Margaret Austrai Terry, Chief Librarian of the of the Vanuatu National Library. And it was handed over on International Archive Day.
The chief archivist, Augustine Tevimule said, “This is a missing piece of the 1913 Efate puzzle. It is wonderful that it has found its way back to Vanuatu and can be joined with maps of the same series. These maps are both unique and fragile but we have already scanned the map, along with others from the SFNH series, so that the public can access them without their becoming damaged.”