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Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands

Scattered across a vast expanse of water as wide as the continental United States are over twenty-one hundred islands that make up the cultural region known as Micronesia. The area includes three major archipelagoes: the Marshalls, Carolines, and Marianas. (Culturally, Micronesia includes Kiribati and Nauru, but the separate political history of these countries excludes them from the archives discussed here.) Having passed through colonial rule by the Spanish, Germans, and Japanese, the islands of Micronesia became a United States administered United Nations strategic trusteeship following World War II. This new arrangement was named the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI).

Initially under Navy control, the islands were transferred to the U.S. Dept. of the Interior in 1951. Administrative headquarters, originally in Honolulu, moved to Guam, and finally to Saipan. For administrative purpose, the TTPI divided the islands of Micronesia into six districts based on earlier colonial precedent: the Marshalls, Ponape, Truk, Marianas, Yap, and Palau, with the later addition of Kosrae.

Beginning in the 1970s the districts began voting to end the trustee relationship with the U.S. In 1986 the US notified the UN that its obligations were fulfilled. The UN officially dissolved the Trust Territory in 1990. Palau, the last of the Trust Territory districts, voted to end its trustee status in 1994.

Today the Former Trust Territory is comprised of four separate, self-governing districts:

  • The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas
  • The Federated States of Micronesia, comprised of Kosrae, Pohnpei (Ponape), Chuuk (Truk), and Yap
  • The Republic of the Marshall Islands
  • The Republic of Palau (Belau)

The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas is a US commonwealth and its residents are US citizens. The other three countries have approved compacts of free association with the US, which provide for full self-government except for defense, which they delegate to the U.S.Further information is also available in the CIA World Factbook).

Creation of the Trust Territory Archives

With the emergence of the new entities, the US began to close down operations in the region in the early 1980s. Sam McPhetres, a member of the High Commissioner's staff, devised a program to preserve the records of the Trust Territory Government. In collaboration with the University of Hawaii Library, all government files on Saipan were surveyed. The materials were microfilmed and concurrently, Mr. McPhetres and his staff created a computer index to the records. Over 2,000 reels of microfilm were sent the University of Hawaii Library, where the Pacific Collection produced another negative set (a user positive set) and coordinated duplication of all the microfilm for the Micronesian governments through funds provided by the Department of the Interior.

At the end of the project, the University of Hawaii Library sent complete sets of all microfilm to archives in Saipan, Palau, Pohnpei, and Major. The Trust Territory Government donated the University of Hawaii Library the photograph collection, a small collection of films, videotapes and audiocassettes, and a large map collection. This project, huge in scope, had achieved a unique goal by putting on film nearly all Trust Territory Government files. The photograph, audiovisual, and map collections added a special dimension to the holdings at the University of Hawaii Library. In 1988, the Trust Territory of the Pacific Index database was made accessible online via the Library's first automated system.

The history of the American period in Micronesia, recorded in the Trust Territory Archives, is of vital interest to those studying American diplomatic history, political development, applied anthropology, education in developing area, Third World health problems, and a host of other topics. It is a particular significance for the US, and the history of Micronesia involves a major portion of US involvement in the Pacific since World War II. The triumphs and the tragedies of American Policy in Micronesia are contained in the Trust Territory Archives. Never before has a colonial power passed on to newly independent nations and to posterity such a compact, accessible record of activities, policies, and programs. The Photograph Collection adds the invaluable usual record of the people, places, and events of the American period, thus fleshing out the paper files with the tangible evidence that gives personality and affords further study opportunities for the researcher.

Trust Territory Archives Photograph Collection

The Trust Territory Archives Photograph Collection is a unique resource of 50,000 photographs and 2,000 slides that documents the history of the American period in Micronesia (1947-1988), and includes invaluable visual representations of island cultures. Much of this material was salvaged from the former Trust Territory Headquarters on Saipan, and owes its very existence to the persistence of former Trust Territory Archivist Sam McPhetres and his team, who were engaged in microfilming the files of the American administration.

The Trust Territory Archives Photograph Collection is made up of two separate collections. The largest set (originally housed in 126 binders) contains photographs by the various government photographers and others, including extensive work by the former Public Affairs Department,. public relations photographs, work for Trust Territory publications such as the newsletter, Highlights, the quarterly magazine, Micronesian Reporter, the annual report to the United Nations, and for textbook production are included in this huge file of photographs. The photographs cover a wide range of activities, such as the visits of US Congressional teams, school graduations, cultural events such as the building of a traditional Palauan bai, gatherings of chiefs, meetings of the Congress of Micronesia, speeches by the High Commissioner, agricultural projects, the Micronesian Olympics, United Nations Day celebrations and similar festivals.

The second and small collection (originally 18 binders) within the group is that referred to as the "Peacock Collection." These materials were organized by former Trust Territory Supervisor of the Library Services, Daniel J. Peacock, as a project for the Trust Territory Department of Education. Peacock had photographs made of illustrations in early ethnographic and historic published works on Micronesia. These were arranged by subject and by district, so that one could easily access, for example, canoe building in Yap. In addition, Peacock contracted a skilled professional photographer to do a series of works showing places and people throughout Micronesia. These were interfiled with the photographs of historical illustrations. The Peacock Collection was created as a resource for curriculum development for education staff and teachers. Because most of this material may involve copyright questions, the Pacific Collection decided not to scan these photographs for the new database. They are, however, listed in the Trust Territory Archives online index, and available for viewing at the Pacific Collection.

The resources of the Trust Territory Archives Photograph Collection will prove invaluable to the historian, but they will also be used for research in biographical studies, architecture, ethnography, art, education, geography, fisheries and a variety of other fields. Those who have already utilized the collection include historians, ethnographic researchers, textbook authors, teachers, specialist in disaster relief, and economic development workers. The photograph collection can provide unique illustrations for academic monographs, textbooks, dissertations, theses, research papers and journal articles. Photographs from the collection have appeared in Don Farrell's 1991 work, History of the Northern Mariana Island, and Trust Territory Photograph Collection material will be part of the illustration for the twentieth century portion of Francis X. Hezel's forthcoming history of Micronesia. This collection will also be a prime source for use by those in Micronesian nations who are attempting to trace photographs of family members, as well as broader historical events.

When the University of Hawaii Library received the Trust Territory Archives Photograph Collection, there were photographs with and without negatives, and many negatives existed with no positive print copies or contact sheets. During the two year project to produce a digitized database using photographs from the Trust Territory collection, Library staff have worked to create negative and positive copies for the files.

The Photograph Collection is included in the online index to the overall Trust Territory Archives (as a separate database on UHCARL). When the University of Hawaii Library received the Trust Territory Archives original index tapes, the data was reorganized in MARC format to conform to the University of Hawaii Library cataloging (and to national standards), and entered as a subsystem in the Library's online catalog. The indexing done on Saipan organized photographs by group according to subject. Thus, for example, a collection of twenty-seven photographs indexed as High Commissioner Elbert D. Thomas in Honolulu, 1951-1952, also contains photographs of other individuals from the Trust Territory administration and the old Trust Territory headquarters at Fort Ruger. A folder of photographs was assembled and given a general heading, rather than having cataloging done for each separate photograph, negative or slide. Part of the digitizing project (discussed below) involved providing descriptions of individual selected photographs to allow greater access to material in the collection.


TTPI Archives Digitized Database

In 1991 the University of Hawaii Library received a federal grant for a pilot project to create a digitized database using the Trust Territory Archives Photo Collection. This page provides background information on the University of Hawaii Pacific Collection, the history of the Trust Territory Archives, and the digitizing project. Illustrations provide samples of photographs from the Trust Territory Archives (select thumbnail to view enlarged image). It is hoped that this publication will disseminate information on a valuable scholarly resource.

In Fall 1998, three areas of the Special Collections were recently awarded an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) grant to fund a two-year project to begin developing a digital library of Hawaiian and Pacific Islands materials. The project involves expanding access to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands Photo Collection. Details are available in the grant application.

In 1991 the University of Hawaii Library received a Higher Education Act Title II-C federal grant under the category "Strengthening Library Resources." The project was designed to inventory and select significant items from the Trust Territory Archives Photograph Collection, add descriptive information to the existing bibliographic records, scan photographs and slides to produce a digital image file, and link the digitized image to the online catalog record. The Library employed digitizing technology as a means of preserving archival photographs; the online viewing of images eliminated much of the need for handling of archival photographs. The University of Hawaii Library staff involved in the project included Mr. Tom Brown, UH Library Photographer; Ms. Martha Chantiny, Systems Librarian; Dr. Karen M. Peacock, Pacific Collection Curator; Ms. Ann Toyota Rabinko, Project manager, and a number of student assistants.

After initial research and procurement processing, a microcomputer, scanner and software for scanning production were set up in January 1992. Although the University of Hawaii Library used procedures developed by the Boulder Public Library digitizing project and CARL Systems Inc., the "starter" documentation provided to the Library required updating via experimentation with scanning and cataloging. Ms. Chantiny and Ms. Rabinko crated processing procedures and learned to use the scanning software and equipment and CARL software used to update the bibliographic records. As the work proceeded, inventory and rehousing was also done.

Pacific Curator Karen Peacock surveyed each set of photographs and selected those which would become part of the digitized database. When an image to be scanned had only a negative, the Library Photographer made a positive print and vice versa. Curator Peacock composed descriptions for each photograph, and student workers under Ms. Rabinko's supervision added this information to the bibliographic record. The photographs were then scanned and linked to the record.) For technical details, see Chantiny's 1993 article, "Incorporating Digitized Images in the UHCARL PAC Online Catalog," Library Software Review, 12(1):22-26.)

By December 1993, six thousand images were digitized, and these form the new database, which is accessible through workstations in the Pacific Collection and elsewhere in Hamilton Library. Approximately, 50,000 photographs were surveyed, and twelve percent of the total collection was selected for inclusion in the digitized database. It should be noted that many of the files include a variety of photographs of the same individual or event, as is the common practice of photographers. In such cases, usually only one photograph was selected to represent a series of shots of the same person/event. In addition, because this collection had its origins in the daily work of the former Trust Territory Government, there were many files with construction and engineering photographs that had no great historical or cultural interest, and these were excluded from the database. These photographs are, however, included in the Trust Territory Archives Index on the UHCARL online catalog.

The University of Hawaii Library hopes that users of the new database will provide Pacific Collection staff with any information that might further enhance the records of the Trust Territory Archives Index. While doing historical, political, or were not known to the project staff. Such information can be added to the records, to increase the usefulness of the system for all researchers.

The Trust Territory Archives Photograph collection's digitized database offers a wide range of image to the researcher in an efficient and convenient fashion. The user is able to keyword search the Trust Territory Archives Index, identify bibliographic records of interest, call up images of the photographs listed as part of a particular record and view these images on the workstation screen. One can also print copies of images found in the database. This resource offers grater access and helps to preserve the valuable images that record significant moments in the history of Micronesia.

Trust Territory Today

The former Trust Territory is now comprised of four separate, self-governing districts. To learn more about each country group, click on the links below to open a new browser window.

Northern Marianas

Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas government page
Saipan page

Federated States of Micronesia: Kosrae, Pohnpei (Ponape), Chuuk (Truk), Yap

Federated States of Micronesia government page
Federated States of Micronesia Visitors Board

Republic of the Marshall Islands

Republic of the Marshall Islands official RMI page
Marshall Islands "portal"

Republic of Palau (Belau)

Palau National Communications Corporation
Republic of Palau (Belau) Visitors Bureau


Chantiny, Martha
1993 Incorporating Digitized Images in the UHCARL PAC Online Catalog. Library Software Review 12(1):22-26.

McPhetres, Sam
1992 The Practical User's Guide to The Trust Territory Archives. Mangilao, Guam: Micronesian Area Research Center, University of Guam. MARC Educational Series No. 14. (Note: This guide deals primarily with the printed index that was prepared by the Trust Territory Archives on Saipan, But has much information that related to the content of the records in the UH Library's online index.)

Peacock, Karen M.
1989 Across All Micronesia: Records of the US Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs 1(1):168-172.

Call, write, fax, e-mail your comments and inquiries:
Curator, Pacific Collection
University of Hawaii at Manoa Library
2550 The Mall
Honolulu, HI 96822
Phone: (808) 956-8264; Fax: (808) 956-5968


Updated 08/21/00