“The volume centers around village, plantation, and native labor inspections; tax collection; and census taking and updating. Officers held Court for Native Matters, recruited new A.C.s, and distributed prizes for village contests. Patrols were made by whaleboat or canoe and every report remarks on the harsh weather of the rainy season; flooding and erosion are mentioned often. Many references made to local flora and fauna, as well as illness and disease. A selection of native vocabulary is included in report number 8.”
The most difficult part of writing my aboutness statement was deciding what information in the reports would be truly vital for understanding this particular volume. In order to do that, I took notes while reading through the volume and then transferred that information into a spreadsheet. While creating the spreadsheet, I realized how often I took notes on interesting things that were not exactly main ideas (I got a kick out of one kiap describing native response to his gramophone). I was able to distill my notes into main ideas by using the spreadsheet, however, and from there I was able to pick up on clearly recurring themes and other main ideas.
Overall, I found the process to be rather straightforward. I hope that my description of the patrol reports is accurate as well as helpful, but I do think that my statement is overly focused on the kiap’s experience of PNG. I would like to offer a better sense of the native populations reported on, as well. I have come to learn that nuance is always difficult when it comes to PNG-related topics, but the sheer number of villages covered during these select patrols makes inclusion a difficult task.
Learning about the different ways that people are able to access the patrol reports has definitely changed how I am approaching writing my volume’s aboutness statement. Someone researching patrol reports preserved on microfilm, for example, will never be able to access the reports as quickly as someone who is accessing copies through the Melanesian Archive’s Digital Collections. Researchers may have different methods, but I believe that their time is always valuable and they should be able to find exactly the material they are looking for.