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Roman Catholic Archdiocese Archives Project
Suva, Fiji
November 4-12, 2022

  Roman Catholic Archdiocese Archives Project

After a three-year hiatus of working on this project due to Covid-19, it felt great to return to the Archdiocese Archives at the Nicolas House in Suva Fiji. In March of 2020, I was practically on my way to the airport for a flight to Fiji to work on Archdiocese Archives, when I decided that it would be prudent to postpone the trip due to the spread of the virus. It was good thing that I did. A few days later I hunkered down in quarantine, and Fiji closed its borders. If I had boarded that flight, there was a good chance that I would have been stuck in Fiji for over a year. Of course, that doesn't sound all too bad. There are worse places in the world to get stuck in for a long period of time. Fiji would have been a lovely place to be held indefinitely. However, it would have drained my resources, and even worse, there was the possibility that I would've been away from my family for a very long time. Nevertheless, it was terrific to return in November of 2022 and pick up where I left off in 2019.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Fiji (RCAF) Project consisted of preserving and describing the RCAF collection. The collection contained approximately 200 boxes of predominantly paper records that included letters, reports, minutes, hand drawn maps, and photographs. They covered the time period from the about 1837 when the missionaries first arrive in Fiji to the 1980s. The collection was the main source of records regarding the different archbishops who guided the Catholic Church throughout Fiji during this time period.

Preserving the records was the first step of the project and was performed by volunteer, Katherine Foi, and myself. Thankfully, the archival supplies that were shipped in 2019 were still there and ready to use. Most of the supplies waiting for us were new acid-free folders that we replaced the old folder with. Items from the folders were also cleaned, and when appropriate were straightened. However, due to the age and fragility of some of the items particularly correspondences, it was deemed best to keep them folded until the time comes to digitize the collection. Photographs were placed in their own acid-free envelope, and hand drawn maps were encapsulated in clear archival slips for better protection. Books and pamphlets were cleaned and were placed in acid-free folders or envelopes depending on their size. The original boxes that held the folders were left intact as we felt that they were in good shape and fit the contents really well. Because the exterior of the boxes were quite dusty, we did take the time to brush the dust off them and cleaned them as best as we could.

Describing the collection during the project was extremely significant because it allowed us to know what records the collection possesses. It will also be important for access when the time comes for patrons to use the archives. We used a simple form of description that consisted of producing box lists. Not only did we write the contents of each folder on the folder themselves, but we also typed the contents into a Word document. Fortunately, the contents were written on the old folders, and so we simply transposed them to the new folders. Katherine's knowledge of the Catholic Church of Fiji's history was crucial as she was able to correct spelling, identify people and places, and fix any discrepancies. Eventually, these box lists will be used to create a finding guide for access.

  Sacred Heart Cathedral, Suva, Fiji

Overall, the project continues to be successful. During this week of work, we were able to process over 75 boxes and have now completed 180 boxes of the collection. We should be able to complete the project with another week's work slated for early 2023.

The goal moving forward is to continue to appraise, preserve and process the rest of the archives. Access to the records is very limited because nobody knows what is actually in the archives or how to find it. The archdiocese is considering on hiring a full or part time archivist. At the moment, however, it is only Katherine and myself who are trying to take physical and intellectual control of the archives. They are also thinking about the possibility of moving the archives to a larger space, which is badly needed and will help the longevity of the records.

Looking forward to continuing the good work in 2023!

Brandon Oswald