BY JARED KOLI
British High Commissioner to Solomon Islands His Excellency Brian Jones on Tuesday paid a visit to the National Archives of Solomon Islands (NASI) to see firsthand the work that is currently underway at NASI.
NASI is currently digitising the country’s analogue records in its repository.
Mr Jones was received by the Permanent Secretary (PS) of the Ministry of Culture and Tourism Andrew Nihopara and Government Archivist Julian Chonigolo.
They briefed the British High Commissioner and gave him a tour to the digitising room, sorting room and later to the repository where all analogue records are kept. The visit was made after the British diplomat learned from a recent article published by this paper of the new digital preservation technology that NASI is currently using.
Jones told PS Mr Nihopara and Government Archivist that the work that NASI is doing is vital.
“Especially to students to learn from the history and understand how all of that process took place. That is really vital if you look at everything, from individual learning all the way to the progression of state, and what is the future of the constitution, you have to know what has started from the beginning,” he said.
“My initial inspiration was the piece in the newspaper recently about digitising the records. And how you independently acquired the equipment to do this, and the hard work that was going on to protect these records,” Jones said.
Government Archivist Julian Chonigolo said the archives currently holds the British Solomon Islands Protectorate (BSIP) administrative records, which it is currently digitising as well as pre and post-independence and other private records.
Ms Chonigolo said the largest private holding belongs to the Church of Melanesia.
“We also have some challenges, big challenges. We have problems with storage and need a bit of expansion.
“I won’t deny the Solomon Islands Government is very helpful under the digitisation project, but I think we need to continue from there,” she informed the British High Commissioner.
She said there was a small expansion in 2018 of the repository area, but they still need to equip it.
“That is also one of the challenges because we can’t find a lot of supplies here on the equipment we need.”
She told Jones that the most recent documents stored in the archives are the Townsville Peace Agreement and the controversial Report of the Solomon Islands Truth & Reconciliation Commission.
PS Nihopara informed the British High Commissioner that the Government is currently working on reviewing ‘The Archives Act 1994’.
Nihopara said at the moment, government ministries do not comply with the Act to surrender government records to NASI, which calls for a review and amendment on the said Act.
“No ministry, even the Ministry of Finance, perhaps due to ignorance, know that there is an Archive Act that requires them to surrender public records to The National Archives.
“There has been an awareness going on, we have partnered with the public service ministry to reach to other ministries to create awareness about the public records management.
“But that’s about the record management policy, then when it comes to some sensitive public service records which is what mention in the Act, no body seem to be aware of.
“So we probably make the necessary amendments in the act, and perhaps that would also give weight to us to reach out to them and say, you’re obligated under this act to surrender certain types of public records to the NASI,” Nihopara said.
In response, HE Jones said to place a requirement for Government to archive certain documents is a valuable task that should be done.
“If it is digitised the right way, it makes it a global asset, researchers everywhere can look at it and make use of the service,” he said.
Nihopara said the plan is to make adjustment on the Act to enable research, and at the same time, make money out of it to contribute to the government coffers. Researchers wanting certain types of documents can pay to access it.
“But those have to be captured in the amendments to the Act,” he said.
The British High Commissioner took a tour around the building and noted the challenges and issues touched on.