Over 30,000 photographs from Brunei Shell Petroleum Company Sdn Bhd’s (BSP) archives were handed over to the Museums Department, Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports (MCYS) during a ceremony at the Brunei Darussalam National Archives yesterday.
BSP Managing Director Dr Ceri Powell handed over the collection to Acting Director of Museums Nor Masitirena binti Haji Suhaini, with Deputy Permanent Secretary (Cultural) at the MCYS Dr Siti Norkhalbi binti Haji Wahsalfelah as witness.
Special Duties Officer Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Anak Haji Abdul Qudduus bin Pengiran Lela Cheteria Sahibun Najabah Pengiran Anak Haji Abdul Aziz and Acting Chief of Archives at the Museums Department Haji Jefri bin Haji Sabli were also present.
Dr Ceri Powell said the Communications and External Affairs team began to dig through the photos in its archives a year ago, to have them digitised for BSP’s own records and use.
“However, as we discovered thousands of unique photographs, we realised many of these had never been published, and provided a fascinating glimpse into past decades of VIP visits and life in Brunei as well as BSP operations,” she said.
“We set up a temporary gallery to showcase some of the photos to our staff at the BSP Headquarters and then launched the Padang Berawa travelling gallery exhibition at the KB Museum and Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Complex. The intense interest in the Padang Berawa Collection from Cabinet Ministers, senior government officials, foreign envoys, staff, tourists and the public surpassed our expectations and strengthened our resolve that this archive collection should have a permanent and valuable place in Brunei Darussalam.
“We are entrusting BSP’s unique photographic collection to the National Archives, as the heritage professionals, to be the custodian of this collection of nearly 30,000 photos. We believe this will provide the public and other institutions with greater accessibility to these photos and ensure their sustainability as a nationally important record,” she said.
Dr Ceri Powell believes BSP’s photo archive collection is one of the largest from a private company in Brunei with photos dating as far back as the 1920s, almost a century.
During those times, British Malayan Petroleum, BSP’s predecessor, flew in photographers from Shell to record royal ceremonies, national, corporate and community events, and our operational activities.
“It is natural that some of these photos do not have all the detailed information attached, so through research and engagement with retirees and the community, we discovered the story behind the photos. We are confident that with the professional research capabilities in the National Archives, more amazing stories will be generated from this archive collection to honour our past and recognise the contributions that have fuelled Brunei’s future for the last 90 years.”
The photographs handed over show the social, cultural and economic environment of Brunei Darussalam as early as the 1920s, with the discovery of oil in Seria – including the monument of the first well drilled in 1929. The photographs also include Brunei visits by heads of state.
The importance of archiving these photographs especially at the National Archives of Brunei Darussalam, as a point of reference and as primary resources depicting the history of Brunei Darussalam, in line with the mission of the National Archives as a centre of resources and research for Brunei; as well as identifying and preserving records of historical and national importance for the future.
The general public may view part of the photograph collection at the Belait District Museum every day except for Mondays and Fridays between 9am to 2pm.