Royal Gifford Papers

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Royal Gifford was an Otsego County native who had a long career in the Sidney School district as a teacher and an administrator, and in Micronesia as a teacher, teacher trainer and administrator. He left his collection of four hundred objects including baskets, household items, fiber bags and items for personal adornment to the Yager Museum at Hartwick College. Some of these were made for the tourist trade, while others were used in day to day life. Most of the objects in the collection were gifts to Gifford from local people. The collection documents traditional Micronesian arts, which, according to a report by a consultant for the Yager Museum written in 2002, are increasingly rare as a result of acculturation on the islands, the influx of inexpensive materials from foreign markets and impending environmental threats, such as rising oceans. The Royal Gifford papers came to the museum with the collection of artifacts in 2000. The papers were transferred to the archives in 2006. The papers in turn document the challenges faced by those working in the educational system on the Islands, in the absence of published texts on their history, or much documentation of it, at a time when book supplies were delivered by backpackers or in outrigger canoes. Gifford’s papers reflect his commitment to vocational education on the Islands, which he believed was essential to an improved quality of life and higher income for young Micronesians.

Biographical and Historical Sketch

Royal Gifford was born in Treadwell, New York on April 20, 1913. Gifford graduated from the Oneonta Normal School in 1935. He began his teaching career in a one room rural school in the Sidney school district, teaching all eight grades to thirty six students. He earned his bachelor’s degree at the State University at Albany in 1941, and was certified in both English and Social Studies by the board of regents. He earned a master’s degree in elementary education from SUCO in 1950. Gifford also studied at Hartwick College and Syracuse University.

Gifford’s career in the Sidney School district also included three years as the principal of the elementary junior high school and eight years service developing the core curriculum of the Sidney Junior High School. He served in the army infantry in Europe during World War II, from 1942 to 1946. Gifford was selected in 1950 by the United States Department of State as an exchange teacher to London. As a result of his appointment, Gifford was a guest of Harry Truman at the White House, was presented to the Queen and met Prime Minister Atlee, Winston Churchill, and General Eisenhower. He also had an audience with the Pope while traveling in Rome. He later taught in the Otsego County School District before moving to Guam, when he accepted a position in 1955 teaching agriculture. He taught sixth grade for two years in MongMong and eighth grade at Inarajan for two years. At the same time he taught agriculture classes to ninth graders. He stayed in Guam for four years.

Later Gifford moved to Micronesia, where he served as school supervisor for the Department of the Interior on the Islands of Kosrae for ten years, and Palau for eight years. Gifford spent much of his career in teacher training. Beginning in 1946, he was involved with teacher training programs at Hartwick College, SUCO and later in Micronesia, particularly at the Micronesia Occupational College. He organized the Intermediate School and the Vocational High School on Kosrae and directed the teacher training center at Palau and coordinated vocational teacher training and special training at the Micronesia Occupational College. Gifford returned to the Oneonta area in 1977, and visited Micronesia frequently during the 1980’s. Royal Gifford died in 2000.

Scope and Content Note

The collection documents Gifford’s career in the educational system on Micronesia from 1955 to 1977, including documents related to Gifford’s retirement and his return to the United States in 1977. The collection includes personal papers and correspondence, as well as documents related to the school system and Gifford’s career in Micronesia. The collection is also supplemented by an assortment of travel brochures, publications, postcards maps and other materials related to Micronesian life and culture.

There is also a large collection of slides, including many taken by Gifford on a trip returning to Micronesia in1985.

Series Description

1. Reference materials and publications, 1934-1985.

This series includes an assortment of travel brochures, maps, booklets and informational pamphlets published by government agencies, and periodical literature, arranged geographically. It includes six “Bush Books” and three supplements from Australia, published by the Commonwealth Office of Education in Australia. The Bush Books were a “series of primer prepared especially to meet the needs of aboriginal children in Northern Territory Native Schools,” illustrated by Katherine Morris. The series also includes a social studies curriculum for first grade written by teacher trainees at the Palau Teacher Training Center in 1968-1969; “Micronesia’s Yesterday” prepared by the coordinator of social studies for the Department of Education on the Mariana Islands to promote understanding of Micronesian history in the schools published in 1973 and including many photographs by Carlos Viti; booklets written for the American community in Ponape, and other materials published by the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands. Also includes copies of the Micronesian Occupational Center catalog from 1974 to 1976. Periodical literature includes articles on Micronesian culture, the economy and the environment.

2. Educational Materials, 1956-1971.

This series includes publications and other materials documenting the educational system in Micronesia, particularly in Guam, Kusaie, and Pulau. Includes newsletters, student publications and yearbooks, teacher training materials, curricula, vocational school course outlines, photographs and other materials documenting the programs, policies and course offerings at the Micronesia Occupational Center ca. 1972-1973.

3. Personal Documents, Letters, Employment, Travel, 1959-1985.

This series includes correspondence and documents related to Gifford’s career and his life in Micronesia. Included are Gifford’s reports on schools in Kusaie in the early sixties, memos related to his activities at Kusaie School and the Micronesian Occupational Center, a group of Christmas letters, and papers related to Gifford’s retirement and his return to the United States. Also included are an assortment of Mormon pamphlets, postcards of Micronesia and what appear to be notes for a talk on “A Trip Through Amish Country” before the Kiwanis Club of Oneonta, New York.

4. Kusaie Intermediate School and Ponape Junior High School Records, 1960-1963.

Includes Grade Books, Class Lists, Class Records, School Inventory Lists of Supplies, Menus, and notes about Administration of Schools at Kusaie and Ponape.

5. Maps, 1947-1981.

Includes tourist maps, a tourist atlas of Micronesia published by the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands, a road map of Guam, maps of Hawaii, Asia, Micronesia, the United States and the world.

6. Newspaper articles, newspapers, and periodical literature, 1966-1976.

This series includes issues of the Micronesian Reporter from 1966 to 1974, with gaps, and issues of National Geographic including articles on Micronesia; one from the year 1969, and six others published in 1976. Also includes Guam Daily News from 1956-1958; Territorial Progress – A Supplement to the Pacific Daily News, May and December, 1974 and December 1975 and 1076; The Sunday News – Vol. 7 No. 110, May 23, 1976; Life Magazine for October 23, 1970, featuring an article on coral reefs off Palau. The collection also includes an assortment of newspaper articles arranged geographically.

7. Ephemera and Posters

This series includes a 1972 calendar of Micronesia, a scarf printed with a map of Guam, a poster of the Douglas-Nike Zeus published by the Missile and Space Systems Division, and Political Advertisements for Roy P. Duenas and Delfina Aguigui for 1974 and 1976.

8. Slides

This series includes slides of Micronesia, including the ruins of Nan Modal, and other locations and Gifford with students, on field trips and working, class photographs, Gifford’s residence, Palau Museum, students and teachers at Kosrae and Ponape and trips to Hawaii and Guam in 1985.