MicSem Photo Album Listing

The MicSem Online Photo Album Collection includes 30 albums on historical themes. Many of these are also available for online viewing as videos. Other albums center on a variety of themes, some related to nature. The albums are changed periodically and feature photos from the Micronesian Seminar library collection and the resources of other institutions in the area.

Each of the MicSem historical mini albums on the islands offers a look backward at Micronesia as it was yesterday. It is a walk through the past, as seen in images rather than written text. The other albums offer a fascinating glimpse of undersea life and other distinctively island features.

MicSem also maintains a collection of 58,000 photos, many of them of historical value, in its own resource center.


The Healing Arts

As long as there has been illness, the healing arts have been practiced. And there have always been sick people in the islands. Once these healers may have used chants and herbs. Today they make use of pills and lab equipment and scalpels in the operating room. The healing profession has come a long way in the islands. Follow the course of its development in this series of photos.

01 Jan 2009

View Album

Island Hospitality

Caring for visitors is as Micronesian as taro and breadfruit and fish. People who had sailed in from another island could always expect a warm welcome from their hosts and a generous share of their food. Today, with the rise of the tourist industry, the care for visitors has developed into a business. These pictures offer a sweeping view of island hospitality, especially as it has developed in the years since the war.

01 Jul 2008

View Album

People at Play

Modern sports serve many purposes: they provide an outlet for competition, they afford good bodily exercise, and they are a relaxing change of pace from our usual work. Besides all that, they're fun. Games and sports, like just about everything else, has evolved over the years in the islands. In this album we present a visual mini-history of sports in Micronesia.

01 Feb 2008

View Album

The Catholic Church in Micronesia

Catholic missionaries were early visitors to Micronesia. In the late 17th century, they brought the faith to the Marianas, where the church became a strong feature of local culture for the next three centuries. Meanwhile, a few unsuccessful attempts were made to evangelize islands in the Carolines. It was not until the late 1800s, after Protestant missionaries had brought Christianity to eastern Micronesia, that the Catholics returned. Since then, however, the church has found a permanent place and changed the face of the islands forever.

01 Jul 2007

View Album

Agana on the Rise

From the late 1600s, when Guam first became a Spanish colony, Agana (as it was then known) was the principal town and the administrative center. For 200 years, town life reflected the mix of cultural influences, Chamorro and Spanish, on the local population. With the establishment of US naval rule in 1900, the town itself, like the rest of the island, underwent changes. At first the changes were minor, but in time they escalated. A half century later, after the destruction of World War II, the town was redesigned even as it was rebuilt. Agana, like the rest of the island, would never be the same again.

01 Mar 2007

View Album

Police on Parade

They direct traffic, patrol the roads of our towns, issue licenses and summonses. Every day we see the police at work. They are out in force on special occasions–-to greet dignitaries at the airports, to stand watch at state funerals, and to march in parades. The history of island police is a long one, beginning a century ago with the introduction of German rule. Uniforms alone have been through many transformations–-from muslin blouses to full white dress, to military khaki, to today’s blue This album offers a look at how the police force has evolved in Micronesia over the years.

01 Oct 2006

View Album

Rebuilding the Island Economy

World War II had left the islands in ruins. Trees had been destroyed and bomb craters were everywhere. The boom years of business under the Japanese were nothing but a dim memory. At the end of the war, the US Navy worked on what could be done to rebuild a shattered economy. The US Commercial Company (USCC) was engaged to survey the islands and design a plan for development during the post-war years. USCC would give rise to the big island trading companies that dominated some of the islands for years afterwards. Its other attempts to jump start small-scale production in the islands, however, prefigured persistent problems for the islands.

01 May 2006

View Album

Nuclear Nomads

The testing of atomic weapons began in the Nevada desert during the final months of World War II. As it intensified during the Cold War, the testing was shifted from a barren stretch of the US to sparsely populated atolls in the Pacific. Bikini and Enewetak were the sites chosen for the 80 tests that occurred between 1946 and 1958. Other nearby islands also suffered from the testing. Rongelapese were evacuated for a time, and many persons affected by the fallout required medical treatment years later. The populations of these atolls, shunted as they were from island to island, could justifiably be called “nuclear nomads.

01 Feb 2006

View Album

The 70s: Revival of Towns

If development began in the 60s, it accelerated in the 70s. US subsidies continued to increase, with most of the money going into public building projects and new federal programs. Mom-and pop stores evolved into supermarkets, and new hotels went up to accommodate the growing number of visitors. As business flourished, the towns took on a new look. To some older people it looked like a revival of the boom towns in the 1930s. Meanwhile, hundreds of young people were going off to college in the US. Their lives were being reshaped there, just as were their islands back home. Island social life was being transformed in big ways and small throughout the decade.

01 Nov 2005

View Album

Campaign in the Marshalls

The tide of the war had turned by late 1943. The Allies had begun their thrust back across the Pacific in November when they took Tarawa in the Gilberts after a bloody battle. Japan, which had once pushed east all the way to Hawaii, was now put on the defensive. Japanese Army units were stationed in each of the island groups with orders to dig in for the anticipated Allied attack. The Allies, on their final drive toward Japan, planned to take only the islands they needed for military purposes, leapfrogging and isolating the others. By early 1944, the campaign through Micronesia was ready to begin. The first target was Kwajalein.

01 Aug 2005

View Album

Coming of Age

Micronesia's march toward political self-government was a long and unsteady one. It began as a Trust Territory made up of six districts under US administration. A step forward was taken with the creation of the Congress of Micronesia in 1965. More ground was covered as the congress carried on negotiations with the US through the 1970s over its future political status. Along the way, the Trust Territory dissolved into four groups, each pursuing its own political goals and each with its own flag. Self-government, a distant dream back in the 1960s, is now a reality in Palau, Marshalls, FSM, and CNMI.

01 Feb 2005

View Album

The 1960s: Goodbye to the Jeep

With the passing of the 1950s, the era of the jeep was all but over. The road would belong to pickups and later sedans, while motorcycles became the vehicle of choice among the young. There was new money in Micronesia, as the US racheted up its annual subsidy during this decade. New schools were built and American teachers hired. The Trust Territory government was expanding for the first time since the war. Thousands of Micronesians were added to the payroll, new businesses sprang up everywhere, and development was in the air. For the first time ever Micronesia had its own congress. By the end of the decade, Peace Corps had arrived in the islands. So had Air Micronesia.

01 Dec 2004

View Album

When Spirits Roamed

Long before Christianity religion played a large part in island life. Spirits of many kinds roamed the land and sea in those days. Some were friendly and could be invoked for assistance. Others were hostile and had to be guarded against. Besides the higher gods, there were nature spirits, the spirits of ancestors, and dozens of spirits who were called on to help in daily activities. The last group included the spirits who granted the breadfruit harvest or who guided the hand of master carvers or boatbuilders. This album offers a look at pre-Christian religion in the islands.

01 Oct 2004

View Album

The Battle for Palau

After the Marianas, Palau was the most modernized and prosperous island group in Micronesia during Japanese rule. But life had changed for everyone during the early years of the war. As Allied bombing raids intensified, Koror was evacuated and most of its people sent to Babeldaob. Japanese defense forces dug in, as US troops swept westward during 1944, taking the Gilberts and then the Marshalls. By the end of the summer, Saipan and Tinian and Guam had also fallen to the Allies. Palau, with its airbases on Angaur and Peleliu, would be the next target for invasion. War was inevitable.

01 Aug 2004

View Album

Life 100 Years Ago

What was life like around 1900? It certainly was not the same in each island group, as this album shows. The pace of change during the 1800s varied island by island, and sometimes within the same community. In general, the eastern Carolines and the Marshalls showed more of the effects of change than Palau and Yap. While this album may offer a keyhole peek into pre-contact culture, it is simply intended as a glimpse of what Micronesia looked like at the beginning of the 20th century.

01 Jun 2004

View Album

The Tranquil 50s

The war was a fading memory as the US Navy turned over administration of the islands to Interior Department in 1951. Still, military uniforms and jeeps were everywhere to be seen. The people had returned to their land, rebuilt their homes, and resumed ordinary life in the years immediately following the war. The 1950s was a time for quiet rebuilding on a broader level–schools, hospitals, constabularies, businesses, and political systems. Routine was interrupted by an occasional visit by a US official. Nothing flashy was achieved, but a solid foundation was built for the rapid development of the 60s and 70s.

01 Apr 2004

View Album

The Rise of Towns

Micronesians have always lived in villages, communities of a few hundred people or less. It was only in the Japanese era, from the 1920s on, that the first real towns developed. By 1935 there were several towns; one or two of them could have even been called small cities. Garapan and Chalan Kanoa on Saipan; Tinian Town; Songsong on Rota; Koror and Angaur in Palau; Enin,Toloas in Chuuk; Kolonia and Sapwalapw in Pohnpei; and Jabor, Jaluit. Each of these towns had a population of at least a thousand, most of whom were Japanese. But towns meant more than just numbers. They meant water, sewerage, power, places to shop, new forms of recreation–conveniences that would have been unimaginable in smaller communities. This album illustrates the rise of towns in Micronesia.

01 Feb 2004

View Album

The Era of Big Business

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when the islands had a favorable trade balance and turned a sizeable profit. In the 1930s, under Japanese administration, Micronesia was doing a booming business. There was the giant sugar industry and phosphate mines, but its exports also included katusobushi, starch, pineapples, and marine products like shell and pearls. This was a period when island exports paid the cost of running the colonial government. Thousands of Japanese immigrants provided the bulk of the labor, while islanders watched the marvels worked on their islands.

01 Dec 2003

View Album

The Japanese Flag Unfurled

For Micronesians during the last century, a major war meant a change in colonial administration. Germany had acquired the islands from Spain after the US defeat of Spain in 1899. Now, just fifteen years later, at the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Japan swept through the islands seizing Germany's former possessions. As the Rising Sun was unfurled, Japan's thirty-year rule over island Micronesia began. This album offers a glimpse of the first few years of Japanese naval occupation in the islands–what Japanese found and how they touched the lives of the people there.

01 Oct 2003

View Album

Transition to Peace

World War II was over sooner in some places than in others. US troops took some of the islands in the Marshalls, in Palau, and in the Marianas. Ulithi Atoll, occupied early, was used as a fleet anchorage in the last year of the war. Other islands had to wait until August 1945, after peace was made, to begin their return to normal life. But for all, the end of hostilities marked the start of a transition to a way of life that islanders could not have imagined. American military men were at hand to guide them during these early post-war days.

01 Aug 2003

View Album

What the First Europeans Saw

By the early 1800s, when French and Russian naval ships came to explore the Pacific, East and West had not yet come to know one another. Islanders and Europeans were both surprised at what they saw. While Micronesians told amusing stories of their encounters, officers on the naval ships took up pens to sketch what they found. Their drawings often depicted what they expected to find as much as what they actually saw. Later versions usually departed even further from reality. These are representations of some of the first encounters between islanders and Westerners.

01 Jun 2003

View Album

The Sokehs Rebellion

It wasn't the first time people on Pohnpei took up arms against foreign rulers. Three times under Spanish rule violence had broken out on the island. But the Sokehs Rebellion against the Germans in 1910 was the last and best known of the outbursts against foreign rule. This uprising was not island-wide, but limited to the Sokehs people. Other sections of Pohnpei may have had their issues, but their quarrels with Sokehs overrode any resentment toward the Germans. Even today Sokehs people sing the elegy of the doomed band of warriors that faced down the Germans.

01 Apr 2003

View Album

War Comes to the Marianas

The Marianas, with its booming sugar industry, reached the height of its prosperity in the late 1930s under Japanese administration. Just a few years later the islands were engulfed in war. Two years after Pearl Harbor, Allied forces were sweeping westward across the Pacific in their assault on the Japanese island empire. By June 1944 they were poised to attack Saipan. This was to be the start of the final phase of the war. For the two opposing armies, and for the civilians caught between them, the battle for the Marianas was the most painful of times.

01 Feb 2003

View Album

When Copra Was King

Copra: the fruit of the coconut palm, found everywhere in the Pacific. For over a century, copra was the backbone of the island economy–the main source of cash and trade goods in Micronesia. As coconut oil became a hot commodity for Europeans and Americans in the late 1800s, trading companies began to cultivate this resource in the islands. In this album we present the origins and early growth of this important industry in Micronesia.

01 Dec 2002

View Album

The German Era

Even before the start of German rule, Germans and Micronesians became acquainted with one another. From 1870 on, German companies set up trading stations on the islands and German vessels visited periodically to pick up the copra. Although German rule was only 15 years–twice that long in the Marshalls–its impact was lasting. Not just in the names like Olaf and Fritz that islanders inherited, or the families that German officials and traders left behind, but in other ways as well. Here we offer a visual tour of the German years in Micronesia.

01 Oct 2002

View Album

Where Were the Women?

While the men were taking charge of the new island governments, where were the women? Men were filling the top posts in the government. They were the district administrators and legislators, later the governors and the new heads of state. Meanwhile, off to the side of the stage, women started taking new roles. In this photo-essay we present some of the real, if undramatic, changes in what women did.

01 Aug 2002

View Album

Leaders at the Brink of Nationhood

For nearly a century, and much longer in the Marianas, Micronesians lived by the laws of other nations. It was only at the end of the war that they slowly began to assume political authority. Over the next thirty years, as they gradually started choosing their own leaders, there emerged a generation or two of prominent Micronesian leaders. This album offers a brief glimpse of the rise of these early leaders.

01 Jun 2002

View Album

A Brief History of Education in Micronesia

Schools go back a long way in island history. All the way back to some of the earliest foreigners to settle on the islands. Perhaps even further, if you count local educational structures. First missionaries, and then foreign governments, and finally Micronesian societies themselves started using schools to pass on what they valued. Today schools continue to shape the minds and hearts of the young. In this album we offer a visual tour of education through the years.

01 Apr 2002

View Album

Founding the Protestant Church

The church may be a foreign import, like so many other things in the islands today. But it is just about the oldest of the imports--older than the store, the government office, the pool table, the baseball diamond, or the bar. The church today has become one of the foremost institutions in the life of Micronesians. It all began in 1852, when a small sailing vessel dropped off five missionary couples on Pohnpei and Kosrae. It was these men and women, sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions--the same group that christianized Hawaii 30 years earlier--who would first plant the church in the islands. They soon passed on, but they left a church that would became a permanent part of Micronesian society

01 Jan 1980

View Album


Patterns in Undersea Nature

Treasures that are ours.

Treasures beneath the sea.

Take time to appreciate them.

01 May 2010

View Album

Media & Messages

Once upon a time, it was just through word of mouth from person to person. Then messages could be transmitted at a distance, slowly at first and then with increasing speed and stronger effect. At first only letters in the form of dots and dashes were carried to distant places, and then sounds, and finally images. At one time distant messages only reached the district centers, but in time they were carried into our homes. Now the voices of our friends can find us wherever we are–in boats as we fish, in class, on the track. They, like so much else, are only a click of a button away. This album celebrates the stunning changes of media through the ages.

01 May 2009

View Album