I've been asked a lot about how my research is going - which is a logical question since I'm here on a research trip - so I thought I would update you all on the archives situation. While the research I've been doing in Port Moresby is similar to what I've done in the past, the way I have been doing research here is very different. My previous archival experience has been in Canberra at the National Archives of Australia and the National Library of Australia and in New York at the United Nations archives. Now while neither of these sites were particularly fancy (the UN archive reading room was especially cramped) - they all had their finding aids online, allowed laptops into the reading room and gave permission to photograph the sources.
My previous archival trips went something like this: look up finding aid online, make a list of relevant sources, send through request to archivists, arrive and have sources waiting for me. Then I would skim the files to check they were relevant, make notes on the overall structure of the file and then photograph everything. This means I essentially got to take a digital version of the archive home with me so the only pressures were on making sure none of my photos were blurry and that I managed to prioritise my time correctly so I got everything I needed.
This trip has been completely different. Due to lack of funding, none of the collections I'm looking at have finding aids online. I'm also not allowed to bring my laptop into the National Archives reading room nor am I allowed to photograph sources. This means when I first arrived here I had no idea what I would find in the archives. On day one I sat down in the reading room, I had to go through the finding aids relevant to my period (pictured above) and then request the sources I wanted to view.
At this point I would usually start photographing sources but since I couldn't do that I had to be more selective about what I wanted. My only option for getting a copy of the file would be to pay the archivists to copy it and then stamp it with their seal. I was warned by Jon and Catherine that since the copier at the archives was not working this would involve a trip to the local shopping centre to use their machines (which would be time consuming and costly). With this in mind I decided to go old school - if I wanted anything I would copy it by hand. Although laborious this made me very picky about what I wanted - knowing it would take me a while to transcribe the passages into my notebook.
I found this slow process allowed me to enjoy being in the archives and take the time to read through the sources. In the past I didn't really get to read the files in detail until I got home and then I had lots of other things vying for my attention - the quiet and isolation of the archive was no more. Yet this time I could look over the files while cut off from my email, from other people and from distractions (although also from air conditioning). While this trip has been more time consuming I'm thankful for the way it has forced me to go back to basics. I guess I will just have to come back again to make it through the rest of the files, what a shame. So, in answer to the question of how my research is going I will say this: it's going slow but well.