THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

18 March 2009

Saving the endangered records of Tuvalu

Rising sea levels are swallowing Tuvalu. Increased climate change is a threat to the people who live there and to their archival heritage. The National Archives at Tuvalu is also at risk of being washed away in a cyclone or being saturated and damaged by tidal surges. Little wonder then that they decided to copy some of their records.

The Tuvalu National Archives has formed the focus of two EAP projects. The first, a pilot project, copied quite a number of records from when they formed part of the British Gilbert and Ellice Islands Colony. This was the first project whose material I catalogued after joining the EAP. The final catalogue is available on the EAP web pages.

The records copied by the pilot project cover many aspects of government administration. Most of the records relate to land ownership and use, including a request from the inhabitants of Funafuti for “some form of continuing compensation from the permanent loss of their pulaka pits which were filled in by the Americans during the last war” (EAP005/COL9/4). I also found a letter from 1959, informing the Chairman of the Funafuti Island Council that they won’t be getting a visit from a dentist until 1960 (EAP005/COL1/9/8).

Tuvalu2 Education is also covered. This piece of correspondence lists the items girls needed to bring with them to the government school. Note that they needed to provide their own mosquito net and pillow, as well as 6 handkerchiefs and 1 dancing skirt.

Tuvalu1 Compare this to the items required of the boys. They must bring devotional books, hair oil and also 1 dancing skirt.

Tuvalu3 Finally, I was pleased to come across these tables showing the costs of building works. The “Village Development” table reveals that the Villages valued books and wanted 2 story public libraries in which to house them.

The records in this project were copied by the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau.

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