Canvassing election ephemera in the Pacific

Recently the Library embarked on two ambitious Pacific collecting projects without even leaving the Library building. Pacific collecting has always been a challenge for the Library, with short print runs and often no ground staff to undertake collection development activities.  This year Vera Dunn and Anya Dettman from the Library’s Overseas Collection Development Unit sought to collect an array of election ephemera for the Library’s collections, working hard to establish mechanisms for collecting ephemera from the East Timor and Papua New Guinea (PNG) elections held in March and July 2012 respectively. Vera and Anya report on the collecting approaches undertaken for each of these elections. PNG parliamentary elections are held every four years. The last PNG election held in 2008 resulted in a small amount of material being acquired. Keen to build on this effort, the Library was very fortunate to receive assistance from members of AusAID’s Australian Civilian Corp (ACC), 25 of whom were deployed to PNG to monitor the parliamentary elections.  The project was coordinated by a member of the ACC deployment team who liaised with me. By the time the last vote had been cast, the Library had amassed a comprehensive collection of election ephemera totalling 166 items and weighing in at 34kg, the most ever received for a PNG election. Some interesting items acquired include a plastic ballot box with lid and seals; a cardboard polling booth; voter education brochures in English and Tok Pisin; candidate campaign posters; a dummy ballot used for training purposes; t-shirts, caps and a lanyard worn by polling officials; police incident reports describing acts of violence and other crimes committed during the election and several complete sets of air planning maps and aviation schedules for various PNG provinces undertaken by the Australian Defence Force.

Some PNG election ephemera acquired

Some PNG election ephemera acquired

Another relatively new initiative undertaken by the Library to gather election material, has been to archive selected election websites and host them on the Internet Archive. The Internet Archive consists of collections of websites archived around a theme which are publically accessible.  So while ACC ground staff were physically collecting election material, I simultaneously had undertaken a web crawl of PNG related election sites. The Library now hosts one collection of selected PNG websites related to the Papua New Guinea elections 2007 and Papua New Guinea elections 2012 parliamentary elections on the Internet Archive. This two pronged collecting approach has resulted in an even wider coverage of the PNG elections, one which we hope to maintain and build on in the future. We would love to hear about other possible donations of Pacific election ephemera in the future.