Thursday, February 9, 2017

Cultural Diplomacy in the Marshall Islands


In late January 2017 digital and print copies of several genealogies from the Jack Tobin Papers were given to the Council of Iroij (Council of High Chiefs) of the Marshall Islands. The previously-made agreement relating to access was reconfirmed, this time by the entire Council. As part of the agreement the Pacific Collection created print copies for the Library at the College of the Marshall Islands, for the Historic Preservation Office, for the Alele (National Library, Archives and Museum), and for the Council. This is the conclusion of several years of work between the UHM Pacific Collection and Wilbert Alik, the head of the Department of Marshallese Studies at the College of the Marshall Islands.

The originals of these genealogies were donated to the University of Hawai'i-Manoa Library by Dr. Tobin in increments over several years, and will be permanently archived by the Pacific Collection. Dr. Tobin first went to the Marshall Islands in 1950 as a student of Dr. Len Mason, to work on the Pacific Science Board's Coral Atoll Project (CAP). Later in 1950, Tobin was hired as an anthropological field consultant by the Civil Administration Unit of Naval Operations. During the Trust Territory Administration era, he served as the sole district anthropologist for the Marshall Islands, a position he held through 1957. Between 1967 and 1975, he served as community development adviser to the Marshall Islands. (More on Dr. Tobin's life and work can be found here. To view an online collection of photographs from Dr. Tobin's time in the Marshalls, click here.)

Dr. Tobin worked on collecting and editing the genealogies throughout the decades he spent in the Marshall Islands, and remained closely connected to the islands even after he had retired and relocated to Honolulu. Many thanks to Seth Irwin, Ellie Seaton, Allyson Ota, and Kealiʻi MacKenzie who all worked at various times to ensure these sacred objects were preserved, digitized and copied. Thanks to Ruth Abbott and Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner for transporting the copies from Hawaiʻi to the Marshall Islands.

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