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Oceania Newsletter 15, March 1995


Adrian Cunningham

1994 was a period of transition for the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau. Following the resignation of the previous Executive Officer, Gillian Scott, in 1993, the PMB Management Committee decided that the Bureau's precarious financial situation needed to be addressed before a permanent replacement could be appointed. As an interim measure the National Library of Australia offered the services of Adrian Cunningham to the Bureau on a part time basis for 12 months. Adrian's instructions were to investigate and pursue the possibility of additional funding and to see through to completion filming commitments.

Throughout the year an extensive recruitment drive was mounted in an effort to increase the size of the Bureau's funding consortium. By the end of 1994 no new members had been recruited. There was, however, some optimism that certain libraries which had expressed interest in the proposal may formally agree to become PMB members in the early months of 1995. On this basis the existing member libraries committed themselves to continue funding the Bureau for a further 12 months while these and other funding avenues are fully pursued. In January Adrian Cunningham returned to work in the Manuscript Section of the National Library and the position of PMB Executive Officer was advertised in the press. Initially, the appointment of an E/O will be for 12 months. It is anticipated that if the funding issue is resolved favourably this appointment will be extended.

During 1994 some 90 reels of microfilm were released by the PMB. These include: 53 reels of film of the Archives of the Catholic Church Diocese of Rarotonga and Nuie, 1894-1992; 6 reels of manuscripts from the Cook Islands Library and Museum Society; 11 reels of the papers and Gilbertese publications of London Missionary Society Missionary George Herbert Eastman of the Cook Islands and the Gilbert Islands, 1913-69; 3 reels of the papers of Fijian/Pacific leader Setareki Tuilovoni, 1946-87; 3 reels of the papers of German/Pacific linguist Otto Dempwolff, 1897-1938; 2 reels of the papers of Tongan writer and tradition expert Tupou Posesi Fanua, 1959-92; the diaries and other papers of the Witts Family, planters of the New Hebrides, 1899-1917; and a variety of single reels relating to wartime and post-war Papua New Guinea.

It is anticipated that in early 1995 some 58 reels of film of the Methodist Church Overseas Mission records, the originals of which are held by the Mitchell Library, will be released. These records will be chiefly minutes and associated correspondence, 1855-1939. At the same time some 20 reels of film of Bachelor of Divinity and Masters of Theology theses, 1968-1993, held in the Pacific Theological College Library, Suva, should be released. Two filming and surveying field trips are planned for 1995. The major field trip will be to French Polynesia where work will be done at the Catholic Church Archives in Papeete and at other repositories. Another field trip will be made to Fiji where the records of the Fiji Trades Union Congress will be filmed. Finally, it is hoped that during 1995 a variety of collections in private hands relating to the 1987 Fiji coup and to the Bougainville crisis will be filmed and released.

If the PMB continues beyond 1995, future filming projects should include field trips to Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands; filming of the archives of the Western Pacific High Commission and the New Hebrides British Service which are currently located in England; filming of the records of various Pacific trade unions; filming of the records of the Methodist Church in Fiji, most of which are held by the National Archives of Fiji; the filming of further papers of Otto Dempwolff which are located in Germany; filming of the papers of Rev. John Noble Mackenzie, missionary of the New Hebrides, 1895-1909; and the possibility of further filming at the Marist Archives in Rome.

The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau can be contacted at the Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200 Australia (Fax: 6/2490198; email:

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