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Making Pacific Language Materials Discoverable: Introduction

Eleanor Kleiber - co-Principal Investigator

Andrea Berez-Kroeker - co-Principal Investigator

Ryan Shelby - Graduate Assistant

Dannii Yarbrough - Graduate Assistant

Michael Chopey - Consultant

Piet Lincoln - consultant

Robert Blust - Consultant

Roxane Gaedeke - Pacific Collection Assistant

Ellie Kim - Cataloging Assistant

NEH Grant

“Making Pacific Language Materials Discoverable: Identifying and Describing Indigenous Languages,” from the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Documenting Endangered Languages program. The two-year grant for $122,317 began in August 2014, with an extension of an additional $15,000, ending in August 2017.


The UHM Library Pacific Collection is the wold's premier collection of resources for research on Pacific Languages. The collection contains more than 10,000 items in or about the nearly 1,400 languages of Micronesia, Polynesia, and Melanesia.

Much of the language holdings are ephemeral and rare and may not be found in other libraries in the world. In total, the UHM Library Pacific Collection represents almost all the Pacific Islands languages for which materials have been formally or informally published, making it an invaluable resource for the study of Pacific linguistics.

Before this project began in 2014, we did not know exactly how many and which languages were represented in the collection, for two reasons. The first reason is that not all of the bibliographic records met library descriptive standards (i.e., many are missing Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH), or the MARC language code is misapplied).

The second reason is that for the vast majority of Pacific languages, LCSH and MARC codes simply do not exist or provide the adequate description that is found in the ISO 639-3 language codes.

Because of this, the potential utility of the UHM Library Pacific Collection to a wide range of scholars and language communities remained untapped. Users seeking materials in Pacific languages could not be confident that they were able to discover relevant materials using the UH library Voyager catalog, WorldCat, the Open Language Archives Community (OLAC) search engine, or any other international search engine. This project has increased the discoverability and accessibility of the Pacific language materials by improving and making consistent the descriptive metadata in the catalog, using standards accepted by library science and linguistic science.

Pacific Language in the Pacific Collection

The Pacific Collection at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) Hamilton Library is the premier collection of its kind in the world, including for resources for research on Oceanic languages and linguistics. In total, the Pacific Collection probably represents almost all the Pacific Islands languages for which materials have been formally or informally published, making it an invaluable resource for the study of Pacific linguistics.

Pacific material was originally acquired as part of the UHM Library Hawaiian Collection, which was established in 1907. In the late 1960s, the Pacific Islands holdings had grown to such an extent that the collection was separated, and two unique collections were created. Annual acquisitions trips to the Pacific were conducted, and an ambitious comprehensive acquisitions program was instituted, meaning that the Library would actively collect materials in any language or format that related to the countries and territories of the Pacific. While there are several other libraries with significant Pacific collections in the world, the UHM Library Pacific Collection is unique in maintaining such an active and comprehensive acquisition effort in all three Pacific Island regions. This makes the UHM Library Pacific Collection the best resource for comparative regional research in all disciplines, including but not limited to linguistics and language.

UHM Department of Linguistics

Department of Linguistics that is renowned for a half century of field-based research in Pacific languages, as well as for being a center for training and research in endangered language documentation and archiving. 

The commitment of the UHM Department of Linguistics to the issue of language documentation, sustainability and diversity across the Asia-Pacific region is evident on many levels. It is currently the only institution in the United States that offers a graduate program in language documentation and conservation. The M.A. program is specifically designed to prepare students for leadership roles in conservation and documentation efforts, and the Ph.D program offers similar opportunities at a more advanced level. The department is also home to the top-ranked journal Language Documentation & Conservation and it hosts the flagship conference in this field, the International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation. It also hosts the student-organized Language Documentation Training Center, which gives linguistics graduate students the opportunity to mentor speakers of under-represented languages on campus in methods of language documentation. In addition, the Department of Linguistics hosts Kaipuleohone, the UHM digital archive language documentation materials related to small and endangered languages. Kaipuleohone is a member of DELAMAN. All digital files are curated by ScholarSpace, the DSpace repository of UHM, and metadata conforms to the standards of OLAC, Open Archives Initiative, and the Dublin Core Metadata Initiative.