All hands' things: the endangered archives of Tristan da Cunha

In 1961 the volcanic eruption on Tristan da Cunha forced the whole population to evacuate to the UK for two years. There has been no study of the island’s documents and records. Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, the island suffers from frequent natural disasters, and its history risks disappearing.

The island of Tristan da Cunha counts 267 inhabitants. The island has no airport, and it takes many days to sail there from the nearest small island. The way the islanders live and survive as a community, how they handle disputes, share equally and manage against the elements is a lifestyle that must be documented. The island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as such the archives relating to the environment are particularly important to researchers. The project will identify material from the first settlement in 1810 to the end of the evacuation to the UK in 1963.

The island suffers from a damp climate which is not good for paper documentation. If a controlled environment is not provided these documents will become unreadable. The volcanic island suffers frequent severe weather and a natural disaster can occur at any time.

This pilot survey project located a wealth of documents from private and institutional archives on the island, which were relocated to the Tourism Office. The project digitised 505 documents, which will allow scholars across the world to study he history of the island. The project was instrumental in highlighting the importance of the island’s archival records.

Project Details

Location: Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Organiser(s): Endangered Archives Programme (EAP) Project partner(s): Tristan Da Cunha Government a Funder(s): Arcadia Funding received: £14,223 Commencement Date: 12/2016 Project Status: Completed
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