Archival Science

, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp 187-207

First online:

From explorers to evangelists: Archivists, recordkeeping, and remembering in the pacific islands

  • Evelyn WarehamAffiliated withInternational Council on Archives

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With a central focus on the cultural contexts of Pacific island societies, this essay examines the entanglement of colonial power relations in local recordkeeping practices. These cultural contexts include the on-going exchange between oral and literate cultures, the aftermath of colonial disempowerment and reassertion of indigenous rights and identities, the difficulty of maintaining full archival systems in isolated, resource-poor “micro-states,” and the driving influence of development theory. The essay opens with a discussion of concepts of exploration and evangelism in cross-cultural analysis as metaphors for archival endeavor. It then explores the cultural exchanges between oral memory and written records, orality, and literacy, as means of keeping evidence and remembering. After discussing the relation of records to processes of political and economic disempowerment, and the reclaiming of rights and identities, it returns to the patterns of archival development in the Pacific region to consider how archives can better integrate into their cultural and political contexts, with the aim of becoming more valued parts of their communities.


archival theory archives and colonialism indigenous identities and record keeping oral and literate cultures Pacific Island archives