Digital archives and content

There is nothing as wonderful, or frustrating, as chasing archival information across the Pacific. This region includes Micronesia, Melanesia, Polynesia and New Zealand.

Below are links to digital archives and content I have encountered during research projects.

Please get in touch should you have a suggestion for new content.

Four sound cassettes listing pacific content black and white image
Digital archives contain a variety of content. Image courtesy of ABC News.

Pacific Digital Archives

Australian Joint Copying Project : The Australian Joint Copying Project (AJCP) is a collection of unique historical material relating to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific dating from 1560 to 1984. Records filmed by the AJCP include a diverse range of material from UK Government Departments such as the Admiralty, Home Office, Colonial Office, the Dominions Office held by The National Archives of the UK and County Record Offices as well as personal archives and manuscripts of leading politicians, explorers, scientists, religious and missionary societies, convicts and businesses held by private organisations or individuals.

Anglicanism in Oceania: A compilation of materials concerning the Anglican church in societies of Polynesia, Melanesia and Papua New Guinea. 

Australian Trade Union Archives : Australian Trade Union Archives (ATUA) is a gateway for researchers and scholars of labour history, linking together historical detail, archival resources, published material and information about Australian industrial organisations, mainly including trade unions and also employer bodies.

Biodiversity Heritage Library:  The Biodiversity Heritage Library (BHL) is the world’s largest open access digital library for biodiversity literature and archives. BHL is revolutionizing global research by providing free, worldwide access to knowledge about life on Earth.

Europeana: At Europeana staff work with thousands of European archives, libraries, museums to share cultural heritage for enjoyment, education, and research. Europeana provides access to millions of books, music, artworks and more – with sophisticated search and filter tools to help you find what you’re looking for.

Hathitrust: Founded in 2008, HathiTrust is a not-for-profit collaborative of academic and research libraries preserving 17+ million digitized items. HathiTrust offers reading access to the fullest extent allowable by U.S. copyright law, computational access to the entire corpus for scholarly research, and other emerging services based on the combined collection. HathiTrust members steward the collection — the largest set of digitized books managed by academic and research libraries — under the aims of scholarly, not corporate, interests. With the release of digital copies of copyright materials from Hamilton Library’s collections, 40% of the titles contained in our physical collections are accessible via this source.

Historical Records of Australia. Avalible via TROVE and the La Trobe Library the HRA contains transcriptions of the official documentation between the Colonial Office and the local governments in the different states. Well worth considering if you are concerned with colonial Australia.

Internet Archive: The Internet Archive, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is building a digital library of Internet sites and other cultural artifacts in digital form. Like a paper library, staff provide free access to researchers, historians, scholars, the print disabled, and the general public. Their mission is to provide Universal Access to All Knowledge.

Digital Archives and Pacific Cultures :  voyage narratives of eighteenth-century European expeditions to the Pacific, together with the English poetry and print media that responded to newly available accounts of first contact with Polynesian cultures.

Digital Pasifik: Explore, discover and view thousands of items held in museums, libraries, galleries, and collections around the world. Celebrate the rich and diverse cultures of the Pacific.

Dunedin Cemeteries Search: This database is for those who want to find information on anyone buried at any Dunedin City Cemetery. Photos of headstones in all cemeteries except Northern have been photographed and included up to 2015, and have been added to the website, as a project carried out by the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust of NZ.

Library of Congress: The Library of Congress is the largest library in the world, with millions of books, recordings, photographs, newspapers, maps and manuscripts in its collections. The Library is the main research arm of the U.S. Congress and the home of the U.S. Copyright Office.

Mission Voices: An archived site, Mission Voices is a collaborative project between the Koorie Heritage Trust Inc and the State Library of Victoria that shares oral histories from Indigenous people. 

National Library of Australia: This gateway therefore aims to provide researchers with easy access to a variety of online primary resources existing within and beyond the National Library of Australia’s collections. Such resources help to build a picture of the significant events and catalysts for change which have occurred in the Pacific region in recent centuries, as well as the Pacific’s myriad of traditional and enduring cultures.

Pacific Digital Library : The Pacific Digital Library is a collaborative digital library development project created by a team of Pacific islander librarians.

Pacific Encounters: Between 2002 and 2008, published and unpublished texts have been gathered, scanned (original Laperouse’s letters…), translated in English (when original was in French: thanks to Deborah Pope), photocopied (original and translation) and bound in a thick A4 volume. 4 Copies have been produced and given to the Head of State of Samoa, the National Archives, the National University of Samoa, and the Institute of Samoan Studies in American Samoa. The entire content of the A4 volume of the original documents and their translation in English (the large blue colour book held by H.H the Head of State in one of the photographs), of which only 4 printed copies are in existence for the moment, is now (December 2017) available here for download, with several addenda. The introductory chapter (written in both English and French) gives a summary view of the purpose and the content: give access to all available documentation relevant to first and early European visits in Samoa (all French until 1838, all non French until 1824). Each subgroup of files is introduced by its own table of contents with explanations. The next step will be to gather and make available documentation from 1824 to the mid-19th century.

Pacific Manuscripts Bureau The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau copies archives, manuscripts and rare printed material relating to the Pacific Islands. The aim of the Bureau is to help with long-term preservation of the documentary heritage of the Pacific Islands and to make it accessible. The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau microfilm collection is the most extensive collection of non-government primary documentation on the Pacific Islands available to researchers. The Pacific Manuscripts Bureau welcomes suggestions for copying projects, particularly when the material is in danger of loss or destruction

Pacific Research Archives (ANU)The Pacific Research Archives (PRA) at The Australian National University is the premier Australian centre for research and teaching resources on the Pacific. The Pacific Research Archives collects, preserves and provides access to unpublished and published research material from and about the Pacific Islands including records of companies and trade unions which operated in the Pacific and records of anthropologists, linguists, geographers and historians who lived and worked in the Pacific. Collecting by the Pacific Research Archives is guided by its Collecting PolicyInformation about the series of records held by the Pacific Research Archives is accessible through the database and a number of finding aids about the collection have been produced. The PRA, part of the ANU Archives, collaborates with the ANU Library, the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, the National Library of Australia and the National Archives of Australia to develop the Pacific resources at ANU.

Papakilo: almost all the Hawaiian-language newspapers from approximately 1836-1948

Papers Past: New Zealand: Contains newspapers, magazines, and journals, letters and diaries, Parliamentary Papers.

ParadisecPARADISEC (Pacific And Regional Archive for DIgital Sources in Endangered Cultures) curates digital material about small or endangered languages. The catalog entry for an item is usually written by the depositor, and some are more detailed than others.

Papua New Guinea Patrol Reports: Reports from government patrols are a major source of primary information on Papua New Guinea’s colonial-era history. Patrol officers and other officials wrote detailed documents reporting on all aspects of the work carried out by the patrols. The reports give first-hand accounts on many topics, from first contact with remote Highland villages, to census counts, tax collection, health care, justice, labor recruiting, plantations, missionaries, anthropological descriptions, tribal warfare, languages, and more. The reports in this collection date primarily from the post-World War II era of Papua New Guinea, up through 1975, when PNG gained independence from Australia; a few pre-War reports are also included. The documents in this collection were digitized from microforms held at the University of California, with the permission of the National Archives of Papua New Guinea.

Project Canterbury: is an online collection concerning Anglicanism in Australia, Norfolk Island, Papua New Guinea and Pitcairn Island. 

UC San Diego Library Digital Collections: Drawn primarily from the Tuzin Archive for Melanesian Anthropology, this collection illuminates aspects of the vibrant cultures and diverse peoples of the Pacific Islands through 20th-century photographs, dissertations, and films. The Solomon Islands are exceptionally well-documented by the many images captured by anthropologists Roger Keesing and Harold Scheffler, along with early pictures taken by public health physician Sylvester Maxwell Lambert. Dissertations written in the context of anthropological fieldwork in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea are an important corpus for comparative research. Public health physician Sylvester Lambert’s images recount the stories of his extensive travels in Papua New Guinea, Rennel and Bellona, Vanuatu, Tonga and many other locations in Oceania. The films of J. Edward Hoffmeister present scenes of village life in early 20th-century Fiji and Tonga. Digitized from originals held by the UC San Diego library.

Ulukau: Hawaiian-language books

South Pacific Journal of Philosophy:  South Pacific Journal of Philosophy and Culture, a biannual periodical published by the University of Papua New Guinea.

Sylvester M. Lambert Photographs: Photographs taken by American public health physician Sylvester Maxwell Lambert (1882-1947) during extensive travels throughout Oceania between 1919 and 1939. Many of the photographs were taken in Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Tuvalu. The Solomon Island photographs include documentation of Lambert’s visits to Rennell, Bellona and other Polynesian outliers. The Vanuatu photographs include many taken on Malakula. The Tonga photographs include interesting sequences of the royal family. Other images were taken in the Cook Islands, Fiji, Queensland and Samoa. There are many images of dance, social gatherings, indigenous and colonial architecture, canoes, Christian missions, and scenes of village life, as well as images relating to Lambert’s medical work and the Fiji School of Medicine. The images were digitized from original photographs and lantern slides held by the UC San Diego Library. An online finding aid is available here.

 more than 1,200 hours of sound recordings are now available by request and registration through the UC San Diego Digital Collections website.


These 804 quarter-inch reels and audio cassette field recordings from eight collections in the Tuzin Archive for Melanesian Anthropology at the UC San Diego Library Special Collections & Archives were digitized thanks to a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the work of the Library’s project team, as well as community partners. More information is available below and in the news release.

For the past few years, the UC San Diego Library has been building a virtual reading room (VRR) environment to facilitate access to content that may be granted upon registration and agreement to the terms of use. To listen to the recordings, register in the request system and then you will receive an email with a link to access the recording for 30 days.

  • Roger M. Keesing Collection – interviews with men and women on Kwaio culture and history, as well as speeches, meetings, and group discussions recorded in the context of Keesing’s field research from 1962–1992. Of particular interest are interviews with some of the last living Kwaio participants and witnesses relating to the 1927 assassination of District Officer William Bell.
  • Harold Scheffler Collection – sound recordings from Scheffler’s field research among Varisi language speakers on Choiseul Island (1958-1961) and later work from 1967 to 1968 among Baniata language speakers on Rendova and other islands near New Georgia in the Solomon Islands. The recordings include recitations of texts, pan flute music and songs.
  • Anthony Forge Films & Recordings – Films and sound recordings taken by Forge during his research with the Abelam and neighboring peoples of the Sepik River region in Papua New Guinea.
  • Roy Rappaport Collection – interviews, linguistic exercises, chanting, drumming, and singing captured during his fieldwork with the Tsembaga Maring of the Simbai Valley in Papua New Guinea during two field trips (1962-1963 and 1981-1982).
  • Edwin Cook and Susan Pflanz Cook Collection – interviews, song learning, church functions, festivals, meetings, and  stories captured during field research in the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea in 1961-1963 and 1971-1972.
  • Jane Goodale Recordings – social life, customs, and song performances of the Kaulong recorded by Goodale in Umbi and Angelek during her three visits to New Britain Island in 1962-1964, 1967-1968, and 1974.
  • Andrew Strathern and Pamela J. Stewart Recordings – Namasu sing-sing, stories of tambaran cults, and woman and man stories recorded in 1967 in Pangia, Papua New Guinea.
  • Stephen Leavitt Recordings – interviews and events related to the ethnography of the Bumbita Arapesh people of East Sepik Province, Papua New Guinea in 1984-1986.

The University of Auckland, New Zealand: Locally created digital collections include text, image, audio and video formats, and are either born digital or digitised from the original.

The University of Hawaii: The Digital Collections at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Library include historical and cultural material that has been scanned and made available online. Some projects were funded in part or in full by grants. Grant applications, reports, and web statistics related to specific digital imaging projects are available. Many other projects were started and/or completed by the efforts of students working in Library and Information Studies Program Internships. These collections feature scanned material from the Archives and Manuscript Collections, the Asia Collection, art works from the Jean Charlot Collection, resources related to Hawai’i and Pacific culture and history, and material from the Rare Collection. Explore our Image Collections or Other Digital Collections

Trove: Trove helps you find and use resources relating to Australia. It’s more than a search engine. Trove brings together content from libraries, museums, archives, repositories and other research and collecting organisations big and small. A list of contributors and partners whose collections are included in Trove can be viewed online.

In addition there are some institutions that have partially online/digitised content:

Connected Histories:  brings together a range of digital resources related to British History Sources, 1500-1900, with a single federated search that allows sophisticated searching of names, places and dates.

British Library: provides selected online access to books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound. 

Bishop Museum: There are English and Hawaiian-language documents, see the HEN collection.

British Museum online collectionsThe Museum’s collection online offers everyone unparalleled access to objects in the collection. This innovative database is one of the earliest and most extensive online museum search platforms in the world. There are currently 2,335,338 records available, which represent more than 4,000,000 objects. 1,018,471 records have one or more images.

Project Gutenberg: is an online library of free ebooks. 

National Archives UK: Over 5% of The National Archives’ records have so far been digitised and staff are continuing to put records online. Browse this section to find out how to search some of their most popular online collections.

Victorian era digitised archives

Courtesy of Lucie Matthews-Jones  Digital Resources for Nineteenth-Century British History   

The Victorian Commons has some fantastic resources here.

Archives, general

Archive grid allows you to search for collections, people, organisations, places, events and more in your area.

Digital Public Library of America: provides access to 41,525,716 images, texts, videos, and sounds from across the United States.

Library of Congress: offers access to America’s historic newspaper pages from 1789-1963 and the U.S. Newspaper Directory for American newspapers published between 1690-present.