06.06.2014 - UNESCO Office in Apia

“Archives of the German-Samoa administration 1900 to 1914” inscribed in the Asia-Pacific Register of the Memory of the World

MOWCAP General Meeting in Guangzhou 2014, UNESCO

“Memory is the cornerstone to a well balanced personality: that holds true for individuals and for peoples.”

(Memory of the World - Preserving our Documentary Heritage, Abdelaziz Abid, UNESCO 1996)

The "6th General Meeting of the Memory of the World Committee for Asia-Pacific (MOWCAP)" held between 13-15 May 2014 in Guangzhou (China) recognised the value and significance of the records, correspondence, notes, narrations of events, and reports arising from the activities of the German colonizers in Samoa between 1900 and 1914.

The Culture Division of the Ministry of Education, Sports and Culture (MESC) in Samoa explains its application in regard to "one of the most significant eras in the history of Samoa" (Nomination form Asia/Pacific Memory of the World Register, MESC 2013) to which the archives bear witness. The documentary evidence relates to the number of political and cultural changes that resulted from the German colonial rule in Samoa in addition to providing an insight into Germany's colonial expansion in the Pacific region at the beginning of the 20th century. 

While approximately 10-15% of the total German Administration Records Collection are thought to be in the custody of Archives New Zealand, archives in Germany and private collections, its greatest part is housed in the National Archives of Samoa. The collection in Samoa is made up of 200 boxes, each containing five files per box, with an estimated number of 100 to 800 pages per file. The majority of the barely researched handwritten or typed files are written in German.

These paper records are particularly vulnerable to a humid tropical climate. The first steps towards there conservation were undertaken in the 1980s when research was conducted to identify suitable preservation methods. Microfilming was considered but not favoured due to unsuitable weather conditions and other environmental issues. In 2008 a cooperation between Samoa and Germany was launched and, with technical assistance from Archives New Zealand, approximately 40-45 % of the documents have since been digitized.

The National Archives and Records Authority (NARA) was established in 2013 under Samoa’s Public Records Act 2011. This promotes the conservation, preservation, sorting, classification, indexing, and making available of the archival heritage.

The inscription in the Asia-Pacific section of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register publicly highlights the significance of the “Archives of the German-Samoa administration 1900 to 1914” and gives them international recognition subject to selection criteria such as authenticity, world significance, and rarity. It is likely that this will enhance research interest in them and facilitate further measures to be taken.

The more than forty delegates and observers from sixteen countries, including a representative from Samoa, who participated in the MOWCAP General Meeting in China had the opportunity to share experiences, exchange views, and attend the capacity building symposium.

MESC and NARA are planning to organise a formal event in Apia to celebrate the inscription.


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