All bets are off…

In 1998-1999 I was a summer undergrad research scholar at ANU’s RSPAS. My project was to make some sense of Josef Meier’s Titan materials. Titan’s an Admiralty Islands (Oceanic) language which, to my knowledge, hasn’t had anything done on it since the Meier materials from 1905-1911, with one exception.

The exception was Reo Fortune and Margaret Mead, and Fortune’s fieldnotes were at the time inaccessible to me. They are in the National Library of New Zealand, and at the time the collection wasn’t catalogued, and so I just worked from the materials I could get hold of.

I thought to check on the status of the collection again recently (as part of writing a proposal for research leave for next year) and it turned out that the collection was now catalogued, and that photocopies could be ordered over the web! So a nice thick wad of typescript and semilegible* fieldnotes arrived in my mailbox this morning. 471 pages to be precise.

I had an awful shock when I opened it, because the first few pages are English translations in typescript of mythology, but two pages further on there’s Manus/Titan data. Lots of it, too.

So, it looks like I might finally finish the project that I started in 1998…

*The archive cognoscenti know, of course, that the correlation between legibility and usefulness of the data is parabolic; highly legible data is usually useless, and completely illegible data is not usually worth the effort of decoding it. Semi-legible stuff is usually a pain and worth the effort.

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