Pacific Manuscripts Bureau: 50 Years of Preserving and Improving Access to Pacific Histories (December 2018)
This paper was delivered by Kari James, Executive Officer for Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, at the European Society for Oceania conference held in Cambridge, UK, 7-10 December 2018. Part of the 'Intervening Archives of Oceania' session, the presentation reflected on the Bureau's 50 year history, and looked to it's future. While PMB exists within traditional institutions, it does so across institutional and geographic boundaries. Unlike traditional archives, constrained by legal deposit obligations and prescribed collecting policies, PMB copies materials across the region and across disciplines, gathering a range of voices, such as whalers, missionaries and scientists. The dominance of European voices in the archive, and the historical concentration of sponsoring libraries outside of the islands, undoubtedly effects who, how and what some come to know of the Pacific. This paper argued that PMB’s recent transition to digital has enabled the slow dismantling of some of these barriers, with libraries in thirteen Pacific Island countries now able to access PMB digital collections at reduced cost using their existing ICT infrastructure. Consequently, there is greater Pasifika representation in PMB’s management, creating new opportunities for community collaboration, improved access to stories told by Pacific voices and perhaps the shifting of perspectives.