THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Endangered archives blog

19 October 2017

Rescuing Records on the Remotest Island in the World

We are thrilled to be sharing an update from Dawn Repetto, who is leading on the project to preserve the records relating to life on the island of Tristan da Cunha (EAP951). We would like to wish the team every success.

 
Tristan_da_Cunha_on_the_Globe_(in_the_United_Kingdom).svg


The Government and Community of Tristan were very pleased to be awarded this Endangered Archives Project. With the island progressing in modern times it is very important that we capture our history and conserve, to the best of our ability, documents in a harsh climate which is often against us.

1280px-Tristan_da_Cunha _British_overseas_territory-20March2012 - resize View from the ocean of Tristan da Cunha CC-BY-SA-2.0 Photograph by Brian Gratwicke

Living on the Remotest Inhabited Island comes with many challenges. Elsewhere one can just pop down to the local ironmongers (hardware store) if they wanted to do some DIY or order online equipment and such, which takes a matter of a day or two.  However, here on Tristan everything has to be ordered via a supplier in Cape Town or the UK and then the items sit in the warehouses until a ship departs for Tristan (only 9 times a year).  There is another 7 days before the items reaches the island and a wait for calm weather so everything can be unloaded.  I do not even want to tell you the process if the wrong item is received as the procedure starts all over again!

800px-Edinburgh_of_the_Seven_Seas_01 - resizeView of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, Tristan da Cunha CC-BY-SA-2.0  Photograph by Michael Clarke 

Having said this, on Tristan we have a ‘can do’ attitude which takes lots of patience.  A project which may take 6 months for some places can take up to 2 years on Tristan, but we are not deterred and know we will get there in the end.

Insulation to keep the room warmThe shipment of insulation materials for keeping the archival room warm has arrived.

The island has 265 permanent inhabitants and we are all excited about starting this project and get a lot of reward knowing we will help preserve documents for generations to come.

One of my colleagues doing trial photographs The EAP951 practising with the newly arrived equipment.

Zooming out from the island really gives a sense of just how remote it is.