Harvard University scholar researches the history of Polynesia, at the turn of the twentieth century, in American Samoa.

The American Samoa Historic Preservation Office hosted Holger Drössler, an American Studies graduate student from Harvard University. Dr. Joel Klenck, the Territorial Archaeologist of American Samoa and a former graduate from Harvard, states, “It is wonderful that Holger could access the many historical materials we have in American Samoa. Many of the reports, pictures, letters and other materials are unique works and available only in Tutuila. Numerous scholars have sent us studies and never published their manuscripts.”

The focus of Drössler’s manuscript concerns the history of Samoa at the turn of the twentieth century. During this period, Germany, Great Britain, and the United States competed for influence over Polynesian islands. Drössler conducted research in the American Samoa Historic Preservation Office, the Office of Archives and Record Management in Tafuna, the Feliti Barstow Library in Pago Pago and at the American Samoa Community College. From these studies, Drössler obtained correspondence from U.S. Navy officials, missionary reports, letters from Samoan chiefs to U.S. governors as well as numerous photographs at the Polynesian Photo Archives at the Barstow Library.

The researcher notes, “The material I have found in American Samoa is an important part of my dissertation research, especially the local sources which are available only on the island. For instance, some of the letters written by Samoan chiefs complaining about problems with the copra trade at the beginning of the 20th century have not been taken into account by historians until now, so I am very excited to use them in my dissertation.”

Director of the Historic Preservation Office, David Herdrich, remarks, “It was opportune for our Historic Preservation Office to be able to provide access, for a scholar like Holger Drössler, to our historical documents and reports. We look forward to helping other researchers in the future.”
By Florence Aetonu-Teo, American Samoa Historic Preservation Office.