Note: This is a guest post by SAA-SC member Koa Luke.
On February 18-19th I was part of a group of budding archive students who attended the annual meeting of AHA on Kaua‘i and what a great opportunity it was to bond with fellow archivist students, those in the field and see first-hand the challenges and successes of archivists and others who hosted us from the garden island.
The first stop my group visited was the trains at Grove garden run by the conductor Steve Johnson. The locomotive “Paulo” is the last running steam locomotive in Hawai‘i and it was a sight to see “Paulo” in full operation. Before we embarked on our train ride Steve talked to us about the challenges of keeping the locomotive going which range from upkeep of the train to financing the project. The locomotive, like all trains in Hawai‘i, was built and used to transport sugar cane from the planation to the ports. The best part of talking story with Steve is on the knowledge he holds about the train, the different camps in the old planation, and plantation life and experiences. In his profession of preserving this rich history of the island he gets the chance to go out in the community and talk to old planation workers. In this act of “remembering” and “projecting” their memories Steve serves as a living archives so that these experiences never get lost in the move to pave the past over with concrete slabs and metal (re: urban development). The track at Grove farms railway is only a short ride they are trying to get more track laid but Steve noted how it’s a challenge to get the funding for the expansion of the tracks (when you are on Kaua‘i visit them and learn more at http://www.kauaitrains.com/).
My other favorite part of the tour was visiting the archives at The Kaua‘i Historical Society and learning about all the treasures they house in there collection. When we first entered the building we got a description of the online system and website of the archives where you can access some of their treasures and finding aids digitally. What impressed me the most was hearing about a project that one of our fellow LIS students, Malina Pereza is working on. Malina is processing the papers of Frances Frazier who was a long time student of Mary Kawena Pukui and has translated many works from Hawaiian including The True Story of Kaluaikoolau: As told by his wife, Piilani (one of my favorite books). The papers include translated mo‘olelo and Kaua‘i Land Commission Awards from the kingdom. This an example of archives being a part of justice and aiding the community; many Kānaka ‘Ōiwi (Native Hawaiians) access and research these records in to learn more about their ancestors, do genealogy research, and show connection to a particular piece of land(visit the archives virtually at http://kauaihistoricalsociety.org/, and then go there!). Other sites visited brought up sensitive issues that archivists contend with daily.
As a future archivist I think about these issues often which include: how to archive the memories and collections of knowledge developed and held by indigenous communities and make sure they are accessed in a way that gives justice to those deep knowledge systems. Overall it was an amazing trip and meeting. It was a chance to bond with fellow archivist students, meet and network with those in the field, and see how issues in archives and record keeping, such as preservation and politics, play out on the ground.