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Robinson Crusoe: legacies that must be displaced

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2019 marks 300 years since the publication of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, or, to use the full title: The life and strange surprizing adventures of Robinson Crusoe, of York, mariner: who lived eight and twenty years all alone in an un-inhabited island on the coast of America, near the mouth of the great river of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With an Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates. Written by himself.


Robinson Crusoe was a great commercial success for its publisher William Taylor, who published three subsequent editions of the book by hitherto political journalist and pamphleteer Defoe, as well as The farther adventures, a sequel, in the same year of 1719. Michael Schmidt, in The Novel : a biography(2014), outlines Robinson Crusoe’s success: “released on April 25, it was reprinted seventeen days later, again after twenty-five more days, then again on August 8.” Claiming to be autobiograph…

John Barningham: Local stories on stage and screen 1960s - 1980s

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John Barningham was a successful producer-director in the formative years of New Zealand’s television and stage industries. Highly motivated, with enormous creative energy and a touch of irreverence, talented young New Zealanders, like Barningham, embraced the explosion of 1960s youth culture, giving it a local accent.


Born in Te Kuiti in 1943, Barningham grew up and went to school in Avondale where he was active in amateur stage productions. He sang in local boy scout Gang Shows and started the Avondale Theatre, which soon merged with the Mt Eden Community Players.

The first public television broadcast in New Zealand was limited to Auckland in 1960, with broadcasts to Christchurch and Wellington beginning in 1961. In 1962, Barningham began working as floor manager for Auckland’s AKTV2 channel. This was part of the New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation (NZBC). Known to many as “Barney” he rose quickly through the television ranks to produce and direct many successful light entertain…

Stepping back into the shed: Westfield Freezing Works, 1916-1989

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"Westfield workers turned a place which was often physically strenuous, monotonous, hot, cold, bloody and smelly work, into a workplace of whānau, camaraderie and whanaungatanga."
- Ross Webb, “Your Livelihood is on the Line” Freezing workers in Aotearoa New Zealand, 1973-1994. University of Auckland, 2015.

For many workers in the meatworks industry one of the main things they enjoyed is the sense of working as part of a large family. This was very much the case at the four large meatworks in the Westfield area of Auckland, R. & W. Hellaby, AFFCO (Southdown), Auckland City Abattoirs and Westfield Freezing Company. Eunice Te Rangiuaia refers to this in her interview about her time working in the cannery at Westfield Freezing Company.
Eunice Te Rangiuaia – Games and the cannery
Listen to the track here

The ‘Stepping back into the shed’ exhibition celebrates the people, place and community of Westfield. It acknowledges the closure of the Westfield Freezing Company 30 years a…

Toilets for all: a brief history

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November 19 is officially the United Nations World Toilet Day, a day about ‘inspiring action to tackle the global sanitation crisis’. 4.6 billion people worldwide live without access to a safe toilet which has been proven to ‘impact upon public health, living and working conditions, nutrition, education and economic productivity across the world.’

In Auckland today, it can sometimes be a bit of a nuisance to find a public loo, but for the most part we rest easy knowing that if nature made her call, we would be able to find suitable facilities. However, this hasn’t always been the case.

Auckland has been New Zealand’s largest city since 1891. Before this it had seen a steady increase in population since the 1840s and soon became a bustling hub of trade, debate and development. Reports detailing the unsanitary conditions rife in the city streets demonstrated a clear need for the implementation of drainage and sewage systems both by property owners and government to, quite literally, cle…

Albrecht to Zusters: Aotearoa artists’ books exhibition

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For those who draw with words
And write in images


- Inscription from The Visionary

The Albrecht to Zusters Aotearoa artists’ books exhibition displays stunning works of visual and written arts, and explores different materials, bindings and forms – from the traditional Codex form to fold-outs, to an array of items in a box. These factors combine to generate fresh ways to make books, and to experience reading them. The exhibition opens on Saturday 2 November 2019 in the Angela Morton Room art library, Level 1, Takapuna Library and runs till Thursday 30 January 2020.

The exhibition shares a selection of the Angela Morton Collection’s rare books normally only seen by request in order to preserve them. They range from exquisite examples of fine press publishing to more low-tech aesthetics such as a photocopied and stapled pamphlet.


The Wai-te-ata companion to poetry is a cardboard box containing poems translated into objects whose design has been inspired by the written content. There’s a m…

Resilience: The Auckland Māori Community Centre

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The Māori Community Centre, set up in 1947, was an important component in the reestablishment of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s community identity. During a period of significant upheaval and devastation for Ngāti Whātua, the Centre provided space for a temporary Marae and supported the process of rebuilding within the hapū. In understanding the role the Māori Community Centre played for Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, it is necessary to outline the trials faced by the hapū in the early-to-mid twentieth century. In particular, the encroachment of urban sprawl onto Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s land set in motion a series of devastating events, cumulating in the destruction of Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei’s marae.


At the beginning of the twentieth century, there were two key events that negatively impacted Ngāti Whātua. In the first instance, the increasing urban population of Auckland required extensive public works to be carried out in order to install and update urban utilities. While objected to by Ngāti Whātua in 190…

Louis Chevrolet, car designer and racing driver

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Louis Chevrolet was born on 25 December 1878 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland. He began his working life making bicycles but soon became fascinated by the fledgling automobile industry. In 1900 he emigrated to Montreal in Canada, where he worked as a chauffeur and mechanic. Then in 1901 he moved to New York and began working for the Brooklyn agency of the French car manufacturer, De Dion-Bouton.

Chevrolet was soon driving in auto races; and thus began his career as a racing driver. His enduring international racing car legacy is shown in a series of colour photographs taken at Pukekohe racetrack during the 1973, 1974 and 1975 New Zealand Grand Prix by motor-racing enthusiast, auto-journalist/photographer (and mobile librarian) Gerard Richards. Gerard remembers that ‘the main race at these meetings was for Chevrolet V8 powered single seaters for the coveted New Zealand Grand Prix title’, featuring F5000 cars like Chris Amon’s Talon Chevrolet single seater, although there were also support rac…