The Sinajana mayor’s office embarked on a mission to preserve part of Guam’s history, after discovering a box of photographs dating back to the 1940s.
The box had been passed on several times before curiosity prompted the Sinajana mayor’s office to open it. Inside the box, a treasure of Guam history has been discovered.
âThat’s what it was – seeing us these boxes lying around, old photos of Sinajana. It was not in our possession, the photos. The church had many of the boxes that we scanned from several people in the community and people’s homes. There is a lot more to do, but I want to say that we were able to digitize around 1000 images, âsaid Sinajana Mayor Robert Hoffman.
His office contacted Bishop Baumgarterner Memorial School, the Guam Housing and Urban Renewal Authority to access their photographic archives, as well as military and community residents to develop the village photographic inventory and create the archive online.
âMost people have these treasures at home. If they want … to be scanned, I’m more than happy about that. Because I’ve heard that there are several notable people in the community with Sinajana photo collections. We could scan it and keep it in our files here and people can access it later once we get information on those photos, âHoffman said.
Photographs submitted to the archives are scanned to the highest possible quality and the originals are returned to the owners. It’s part of the effort to preserve these memories for generations to come.
Hoffman said some of the photographs are so old that they show the wear and tear of the environment. A number of photos received were either chewed on by insects or damaged by water.
The mayor’s office now has access to photographs from the 1940s, 50s, 60s, 70s and even today, all of which depict what village life was like.
âA lot of the activities in the photos are centered around religious-type activities, that’s where it all happened. Everyone was in a club or a troop or whatever in the neighborhood. Just finding out was an eye opener, âHoffman said. âWe’ve also come across microfilms and negatives which are wonderful, so it’s about finding a way to develop those as well. These are very specific negatives and they all come with short written stories. We don’t even know how it ended up in the whole stack.
Photos show naval food banks in communities around the island and residents lined up waiting to get a tray of food. Hoffman said these photos resonated with him.
Have not scratched the surface
âSeeing the one from the food bank was interesting for me. I didn’t know it happened in Guam. I think the photos are from after the disaster and that the military built these huge kitchens and makeshift tents. The lines in the photos show people in the Yona area, the Sinajana area or the Dededo area. You don’t see a lot of houses around you, just tons of smiles. There are pictures of young boys so interested in big stew pots or something. There are 19 photos in total on this topic, âHoffman said.
The Sinajana Mayor’s Office is looking for pre-war, war, and post-war Guam photos depicting Sinajana.
âSpeaking to residents, there are rooms full, cupboards full of photos, information brochures, old newspaper clippings from Sinajana. We haven’t even started to scratch the surface. We can’t wait to have him on this project, âHoffman said.
He said looking at the photos was a big trip back in time.
âIt’s an experience that particularly humbles me, because you really feel like you are in charge of a really beautiful place. There are people who care about him. They are so proud of their community. Seeing it through the different transitions and the different periods makes you wonder what life was like back then and gives you an idea of ââwhat you want; the unity, the neighbor spirit that we are building for ourselves, that has been a great learning lesson for us, âsaid Hoffman.
There are even photos that show how Sinajana has evolved and developed over time.
âDuring the process of urban renewal, which really made the renovations of Sinajana. Sinajana was destroyed by a major typhoon in the 1960s, so much of the transition period has been documented. It was a wonderful journey and experience that I am happy to share with the community, âsaid Hoffman.
Time travel becomes truly exciting when a photo contains a structure that is still standing today.
âSome of the things in the photos still exist, there are roads or houses, a specific tree that is still there, our mountain range. Looking at these photos, you see the present. You hold the photo in the area and say wow, that’s what that place looked like, âHoffman said.
Names, details sought
Some of the photos are already uploaded to the archive and can be viewed on Sinajana’s Facebook page.
In fact, this is also where the community can get involved in the project.
âIt’s super successfulâ¦ a lot of people thank us for the photos. They say it brings back memories or that these photos are of their grandparents or great-grandparents, so it’s generational for some, âHoffman said.
The Sinajana mayor’s office requested the community’s help in identifying the subjects in the photos. The hope is to put a story behind each photograph to share a date and the names of the people photographed.
âI was surprised by the photos. I think the interesting part is whoever took the pictures or took the time to take those pictures at the time, they must have done it right – the lighting …, the lighting is great and the subject is so clear, âHoffman said.
It was a wonderful time spent for Hoffman and his office. But, what started as a passionate project has turned into a full-time job.
âLike I said it was an exciting project for us and now that we get better responses from the community it’s like, I think we need someone to do it consistently and properly and store it in the archives, âHoffman said.
He hopes he can contact the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency, or CAHA, to get a grant so he can hire someone to manage the project.