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Solomon Islands - April 2012

Island Culture Archival Support

BSIP Preservation Project Begins in Solomon Islands

Island Culture Archival Support (ICAS) and staff at the National Archives Solomon Islands began working on the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP) collection preservation project in April 2012. Prior to ICAS' arrival, archival supplies were procured and shipped to the archives that included acid-free file folders, interleaving paper, polyester folders, and gloves. Conservation training was conducted the first two days with four staff members and one volunteer of the archives. The best training method was initiating a hands-on approach working with the actual BSIP boxes. This method allowed us to get acquainted with different records deteriorating scenarios as they unfolded, as well as deciding the best way that was at our disposal to deal with them. The staff members learned quickly and became more confident with each subsequent box.

BSIP Preservation Project Begins in Solomon Islands.
BSIP Preservation Project Begins in Solomon Islands.

The BSIP collection consists of 873 boxes. During the two weeks we managed to conserve the contents of 270 boxes. The documents of these boxes were cleaned, straightened, unfolded, and placed in new acid-free folders. Although we did not want to get too burdened with item level conservation, we did pay close attention to important material such as hand written letters, photographs, hand drawn maps, village census takings, etc. These items needed special treatment that included cleaning and stored in special archival folders to ensure their longevity. A few surrogates were created from a few documents that were damaged beyond repair, or because of fading ink. Metal fasteners were removed, especially straight pins, paper clips, and braids. However, we did not take the time to remove small staples, as we found that they were not posing much of a threat to the documents. We also felt that the staples can be removed during future digitization projects.

Additionally, the first draft of the preservation manual for the National Archives Solomon Islands has been written. It will be sent to appropriate archives staff for review. Concerns and suggestions from their review will be taken into account for subsequent drafts. The manual is divided into eight key sections: Introduction, Ideas to Think about First, Low Cost Climate Control, Paper Storage Practices, Planning Digital Projects, Handling Mould Outbreaks, Handling Pest Infestations, Forms, and an Appendix that includes a policy for preservation and mould. The manual is a dynamic document and changes will be made as the need arises.

Some of the staff in action.
Some of the staff in action.

Although the project will continue through the rest of 2012, we anticipate that there will be several interruptions for the remaining of the year. The Pacific Arts Festival in July and the visit of Prince William and Princess Kate in September are important, rare events that will indubitably affect the staff at the archives. International Archives Day, as well as records management trips to other provinces will also take away staff time on the project. Also, it is worth noting that the town of Honiara schedules power outages affecting the archives every day. These outages can last from two to four hours, disrupting the workflow of the staff. In fact, the repository that houses the BSIP collection will become pitch black when the power is off. Thus, to help minimize this interruption, we purchased a flashlight that will provide some light in the repository to retrieve and re-shelve BSIP collection boxes.

Overall, the project is progressing nicely. In fact, one surprise achievement that unfolded during this undertaking are the ideas for exhibits that staff created while working with the records. Instantly, they started planning for future exhibits for International Archives Day and the Pacific Arts Festival. These exhibits will be helpful raising archival awareness to the people of the Solomon Islands.

The National Archives Solomon Islands.
The National Archives Solomon Islands.