Picturing the Pacific Islands: Images from UCSD’s Melanesian Archive Now Online

Nearly 6500 photographs, depicting Pacific Islands people and places, have been added to the digital library collections of the University of California, San Diego. The newly-digitized photographs are drawn from the Melanesian Archive, housed in the Mandeville Special Collections Library. Digitization and cataloging of the photographs was funded by the UCSD Libraries, with additional support from the Pacific Rim Digital Library Alliance. Although the photographs will eventually be added to several other repositories, including the Oceania Digital Library and the Online Archive of California, at present they are accessible only through the UCSD Libraries website at
libraries.ucsd.edu/digital .
Many of these photographs were taken in the Solomon Islands by anthropologists Roger Keesing (1935-1993) and Harold Scheffler (1932-). Scheffler’s ethnographic work in the Solomons took place in 1958-1961 and 1967-1968. The 1370 images digitized from the Scheffler collection depict the people, cultures and landscapes of
Choiseul, Rendova and nearby islands.
Another 3700 of the images were scanned from materials created by Roger Keesing in the context of his long-term research work with the Kwaio people of Malaita between 1963 and 1990. About 700 of the Keesing images are available only on a restricted basis, in response advice on cultural sensitivities provided by anthropologists Christine Jourdan and David Akin, in consultation with members of the Kwaio community. Akin also wrote detailed descriptions of the photographs and identified many of the individuals pictured.
The oldest photographs in this online collection are those taken by public health physician, Sylvester Maxwell Lambert (1882-1947). Lambert worked in the Pacific Islands from 1919 until 1939, with funding from the Rockefeller Foundation’s International Health Board. His papers, including the photographs, were given to UCSD by his daughter, Sarah Davis, of Oakland, California.
The Lambert images depict aspects of indigenous and colonial cultures of the Pacific Islands in the early twentieth century. Lambert travelled widely in the Pacific while conducting health surveys and he took photographs in many locales, including Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and
Vanuatu. Among the Solomon Islands images are those taken in the context of Lambert’s two visits (1930 and 1933) to Rennell and Bellona. Other images of special note include many from 1919-1920 taken in the Gulf Province and in the Owen Stanley Range of Papua New Guinea, and images of the Tongan royal family taken in the 1920s and 30s. Lambert’s involvement with medical research and health education in the Pacific is also well-documented in the collection and
photographs.
In addition to the images drawn from the Melanesian Archive, there are other Pacific photos accessible through the UCSD website, including many from the archives of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography Library.

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