The Presbyterian Historical Network met again at Knox College last week on Thursday the 18th.  One of our photographic people, Antje Lübcke, spoke about her research into our photograph collections of Vanuatu New Hebrides, talking about the social biographies of the physical albums.

Vanuatu is made up 80 islands in the Pacific.  It was the New Zealand Presbyterian Church’s first mission field.  While New Zealanders continued to provide missionaries to Vanuatu, the mission was handed over to the Presbyterian Church of the New Hebrides in 1948, later the Presbyterian Church of Vanuatu when Vanuatu became an independent nation.

The archives holds thousands of photos awaiting analysis.  About three thousand are in the New Hebrides collection.

Antje focused for this talk on two albums, the Foreign Missions Album, and the ‘Nellie’ Album.

The Foreign Missions Album was put together about the late 1920s, by either Rev. Barton, or Rev. Mawson, two successive mission secretaries of the time.  There is written evidence that Barton was asking for photographs from the missionaries at this time.  It is an album for the promotion of the mission work, showing the islands, the people, and the missionary institutions that they built.  It was kept together in a large scrapbook to be displayed.  Photographs have been removed from it during its history.

The Nellie Album was put together by the missionary Helen Smail.  It was a personal album, focused on people, especially Thomas and Helen Smail’s daughter, Nellie, who appears in a third of the photos.  The photos are more biographical than the Foreign Missions Album.  It was a personal album until it came into the archives for preservation toward the end of Helen’s life.  It presents a different purpose for the album.