ICAS Returns to Pacific with Maps Project in Fiji

Great news! After a two year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) was enthusiastically back in the Pacific Islands in early July proudly working on a project at the National Archives of Fiji (NAF) with generous funding and support provided by the International Council on Archives Fund for the International Development of Archives (FIDA).

appraising & processing maps2

Processing maps at the National Archives of Fiji. Photo by ICAS.

The project dealt with taking physical and intellectual control of an extensive map collection that had been neglected for decades. Maps are, perhaps, as fundamental to society as language and the written word. They have been an important part of human history that stems back past 8000 years, and were created and used as an essential tool to help people define, explain, and navigate their way through the world. Additionally, maps were and still are a preeminent means of recording and communicating information about the location and spatial characteristics of the natural world and of society and culture.

Today, millions of maps are created and used throughout the world by cartographers,researchers, scientists, scholars, tourists, students, governments and businesses to meet environmental, economic, political and social needs. They can be used as general reference to show landforms, political boundaries, water bodies and the position of villages, towns and cities. Maps can act as a guide in places that a person has never before visited.

Incidentally, the appropriate staff members at NAF who were involved with the project treated the project as a workshop on handling oversize material. This was the best kind of workshop as staff not only received hands-on training in regards to handling, preserving and processing large material, but they also worked towards a goal of preserving and processing a collection that had been back-logged, ignored and forgotten. Thus, this workshop group consisted of six staff members of NAF, who spend most of their normal day working with collections, two staff members from the Ministry of Itaukei Affairs, and two volunteers from the United States (one of which included myself).

creating box lists

Preserving and Processing maps at the National Archives of Fiji. Photo by ICAS.

Overall, the project/workshop was a complete success. We were anticipating that the project would take several months and were hoping to finish it by the end of the year. However, we were able to complete the majority of the work after about seven days. Our strict appraisal practices and policies helped us from the start and lighten the burden of records that we had to deal with.

Additionally, the participant’s determination, diligence and enthusiasm towards the project proved to be a very valuable asset in the quick completion of each of the different phases. It can be extremely difficult for staff members in the Pacific region to attend any kind of formal archival training. Thus, it was nice to see the participants take advantage of a hands-on training or workshop opportunity that comes along to them. There was a sense of pride when working on their own map collection. Now, the longevity of these records has been increased, as well as the access to these records has been made a easier. If other oversize material or collections get deposited to the Archives, the staff now will have the skills to deal with the records.

analyzing box

Placing maps in there new home during the maps project at the National Archives of Fiji. Photo by ICAS.

My most sincere thanks goes to Collin Yabaki and the Ministry of Education for their support of the project; the Interim Chief Archivist, Jim Balenaivalu, and the staff at the National Archives of Fiji: Salanieta Rakarawa, Makelesi Rokoleka, Jennifer Voka, Onisimo Volau, Kemueli Raiqeu, Penioni Kauvure- your hard work and camaraderie made the project a complete success; Taito Raione and Taniela Nayasi Soqo of the Ministry of Itaukei Affairs; International Council on Archives Fund for the International Development of Archives (FIDA); volunteer, Devin Oswald; and CEO Jasper Chou of East Lion Enterprises for the valuable help in shipping supplies to Fiji.

Vinaka vaka levu!

To read the full project report please click here.

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