Pacific Islands monthly digitised
An outstanding resource for Pacific studies
10 March 2017
The National Library has recently completed the digitisation of the entire run of the Pacific Islands monthly magazine and all of the issues can be browsed or the text fully searched on Trove.
The Pacific Islands monthly (PIM) was founded in Sydney by New Zealand born journalist Robert William (Robbie) Robson, who had moved to Australia during World War I. The first issue was published August 1930 and it ran until June 2000. PIM was originally published by Pacific Publications in Sydney, with the company being officially registered in 1931 with a nominal capital of £1,000 in £1 shares. It was later purchased by the Herald and Weekly Times and after News Ltd acquired the Herald and Weekly Times in 1987, PIM was published from Suva, Fiji. The first issue of PIM was in newspaper format and consisted of 12 pages.
The number of pages gradually increased and by the 17th issue (December 1931) PIM had changed to a magazine style format. In later life it evolved into a glossier coloured magazine.
The idea for a magazine covering the Pacific had been percolating in Robson’s mind for some time. He was one of the journalists attached to a New Zealand vice-regal party that made an official tour around the islands in 1914 and he was struck by the lack of a means for islanders to communicate with each other about what was happening in the region. Robson was also aware that many Australian expats were working in the Pacific, or had connections or business interests there, or were interested in Pacific affairs. Robson was keen to promote the region and assist its development.
In the first issue of PIM, Robson stated the purpose of the journal as:
PIM staff travelled throughout the Pacific seeking stories and building a network of contacts in business and politics. They were highly regarded by both expats and locals. The early volumes of PIM have a rather colonial perspective, with many of the articles about the administration and governance of the islands, the activities and people involved with this administration, and their views on the society, culture and economic future of the region. However, this in itself is very revealing and provides a unique glimpse into the attitudes of these Westerners, their governments, and the interactions with the local populations and indigenous political and tribal leaders. It is interesting to chart the change of focus of PIM during the later period of the magazine’s existence, particularly following the independence of various states, which shifted much more to general news, politics, business and investigative journalism.
PIM is an unrivalled source of information about current affairs, agriculture, transport, communications, local people and their life and customs, commodities, geography, climate, mining, sport and much more. PIM is also a wonderful means of tracking down elusive names, or seeing the emergence of particular people as they became important in island politics, business or society.
Some of the articles are illustrated with exclusive photographs, and the cover images are always captivating.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of PIM is that it brings together information from all of the Pacific islands into a single publication. This makes it a highly valuable tool for researchers wanting to track particular issues or topics over the whole region and to compare and contrast the situation in various locations.
Advertisements are always a fascinating source of information, and those featured in PIM are no exception. As many PIM subscribers were Australian residents, some of the ads are just reproductions of those that would have appeared in other Australian publications. But many were aimed specifically at expats living in the Pacific, and also for local residents. These provide a wealth of information about the Australian companies that were marketing and exporting their goods to the Pacific and the diverse range of products supplied, from industrial products, to clothing, food, household goods, cosmetics, and educational services to name just a few. They are evidence of the importance Australian companies placed on the Pacific trade, with many specifically providing versions of their merchandise suitable or attractive for that market, and of the extent and long-standing nature of these commercial contacts. This might surprise people who think that Australian interactions with the Pacific were more of an administrative and colonial nature prior to the later 20th century.
Initially the ads were for Australian companies, but later issues included advertising from local Pacific companies – demonstrating the growth of local manufacturing and commercial enterprises. It is also instructive to note the changing nature of the advertisements, with those from the earlier period geared more towards personal products and general merchandise, and later the balance shifting to goods such as vehicles, financial/banking services, tourism and import/export companies. This is a reflection of the changing relationship between Australia and the Pacific region as the islands became independent, economies changed, and local businesses became more established.
There is such an amazing wealth of information in PIM, I have selected just a few topics to whet your appetite and provide a hint of the riches you can uncover and how to find them. Firstly, to simply browse all of the issues of PIM, go to the Journal, articles, data sets zone in Trove and enter “pacific islands monthly” in the search box. The digitised version will be the first record on the list. Click on the View Online link, then on Browse this collection and all the issues will be displayed in batches of 20 per page.
To search for particular words or topics in the full text you will need to include the Trove identifier for the magazine nla.obj-310385031 as part of your search terms. The following examples show the search string to enter in the Trove search box for some topics to provide a guide to constructing your search, as well as a link directly to the results.
Interested in the transport history for the Pacific? PIM includes regular flight schedules for airlines servicing the islands as well as shipping services nla.obj-310385031 AND "shipping services"
Are you trying to find out something about an ancestor who lived, worked or travelled in the Pacific? PIM is a fantastic source of genealogical details included in obituaries and death notices, in biographical snippets, shipping/passenger lists, reports of the attendees at social activities and events, as well as articles. To find names in shipping/passenger lists use the surname and initials only, e.g. nla.obj-310385031 AND "j. garlick". For other references to people try using the full name, e.g. nla.obj-310385031 AND "judith ann bowden"
Researching the impact of pests and pest control in the Pacific, but want to exclude advertisements for household products such as fly spray? You can do it by filtering out the word advertising in the Trove article title nla.obj-310385031 AND "pests" -title:(advertising)
Looking for all the stories about or references to a particular place? It’s easy to find in PIM. For example, Bikini Atoll/Island nla.obj-310385031 AND ("bikini island" OR "bikini islanders" OR "bikini atoll") or for Panguna nla.obj-310385031 AND "panguna"
The long run of PIM provides an insight into how issues and topics emerge over time and change in importance. It is interesting to note that articles on domestic violence began appearing during the 1990s nla.obj-310385031 AND ("violence against women") or nla.obj-310385031 AND ("domestic violence")
Take the opportunity to explore this magnificent resource by either browsing through the issues looking for unexpected gems, or searching for particular people, places or topics. Endless hours of pleasure and edification await you!