The War in the Pacific











Island Memories of World War II
© 1987, East-West Center


I am honored to introduce Pacific Encounters: Island Memories of World War II—an 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' lives—personal, 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
East-West Center
Honolulu, Hawaii

March 1987