Island Memories of World War II
© 1987, East-West Center
I am honored to introduce Pacific Encounters:
Island Memories of World War IIan ethnographic approach to a
photography exhibition. This marks the first time the Institute of
Culture and Communication has used an institute research project as the
basis for an exhibition.
Dr. Geoffrey White, research associate, and Dr.
Lamont Lindstrom, research fellow, have been the protagonists in a
multi-year institute project focused on the value of oral traditions as
expressions of culture, identity and history. Working with dozens of
people in the region, they have recorded stories and songs from Pacific
Islanders who experienced World War II. As the accompanying text
indicates, the war had very deep-reaching effects on all aspects of
islanders' livespersonal, social, economic, and political.
The photographic component of the research project
was a natural outgrowth of studying oral traditions which are so vivid
in descriptive detail. Western archives on the war have extensive and
easily referenced photography collections. Japanese sources focus on
newspaper accounts, and it has been more difficult to find an
appropriate selection of photographs taken by the Japanese. It must be
noted, too, that the 1942-1945 photographs were taken principally by
military photographers who had to meet specific objectives in their
choice of subject matter. Working within these limitations, we feel the
photographs in the exhibition do provide a good visual basis for
understanding the impact of the Pacific war.
We have been pleased by the enthusiastic response to
the exhibition even before it was ready for display. The Solomon Islands
and Papua New Guinea already have scheduled the exhibition for viewing
this summer, so it has been designed as a series of storyboards to
provide for easy circulation throughout the region. We welcome further
requests to have the exhibition travel to other countries.
The final result of this research project will be a
book authored by White and Lindstrom, tentatively scheduled for
publication in 1989. (Web Edition Note: Island Encounters: Black and
White Memories of the Pacific War, Smithsonian Institutions Press,
1990, is now out-of-print.) It is our hope that this exhibition might
help us identify additional photographs and accounts which should be
part of the research.
Mary G.F. Bitterman
Institute of Culture and Communication