Friday, 29 August 2014

On a personal note: First World War stories

Over at Signposts, Matthew Tonks writes about an international conference he attended in Wellington last weekend. The Experience of a Lifetime: People, Personalities and Leaders in the First World War was an excellent arena  for learning about a variety of personal war stories: "Twenty four presenters regaled their audience with a range of experiences – from European generals responding to unprecedented mechanical conflict, to Able Seaman John Reardon, a New Zealander who died when the Royal Australian Navy’s submarine disappeared off New Guinea in September 1914."

Ref: 'The experience of a lifetime...' conference poster, 22-24 August 2014. 
Professor Sir Hew Strachan of Oxford University spoke at the conference and will be speaking at Auckland War Memorial Museum tonight, Friday 29 August, at 7.30pm. The tickets for Sir Hew's talk in the museum auditorium have sold out. However, there are tickets now on sale for seating in the auditorium lobby.

Ref: Auckland War Memorial Museum image, Sir Hew Strachan.
In the current Sir George Grey Special Collections exhibition 'World War 1914 - 1918' you can read many personal accounts of the First World War. From diary entries, letters and postcards to writing in the form of a novel and poetry.

Ref: Wilfrid Wilson Gibson. Battle. London: Elkin Mathews, 1916.
Ref: Postcard. Unexplosed Turkish shell at Anzac 1915Photo ref: 657-4.
Author: Zoë Colling, Sir George Grey Special Collections.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Rua Kēnana - Māori prophet

Rua Kēnana (1868/1869 - 1937), who was also know as Ruatapunui, was a Tūhoe prophet. He called himself the Mihaia / Messiah and claimed to be Te Kooti Arikirangi's successor Hepetipa (Hephzibah) who would reclaim Tūhoe land that had been lost to pakeha / European ownership. Rua's beliefs split the Ringatū Church, which Te Kooti had founded in around 1866/1868.

Ref: George Bourne for Auckland Weekly News, Rua Kēnana, c. 1900-1909, no location, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A3324
In 1907 Rua formed a non-violent religious community at Maungapōhatu, the sacred mountain of Ngāi Tūhoe, in the Urewera. By 1900, Maungapōhatu was one of the few areas that had not been investigated by the Native Land Court. The community, also known as New Jerusalem, included a farming co-operative and a savings bank. Many pakeha believed the community was subversive and saw Rua as a disruptive influence.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, the settlement of Maungapohatu, April 1908, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-A3313

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Hand coloured photographs

There is an immediately accessible quality about hand coloured or tinted photographs, which brings the past alive in a way that is perhaps more intimate than black and white photographs.

Ref: Photographer and colourist unknown, hand coloured photograph of David Clark driving the Northcote Borough Council's dray, c. 1910, North Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries, N0101008
Converting images of varying shades of grey i.e. black and white photographs, into coloured images literally involved the application of colour onto the photographic image. There were two methods by which this could be done. Hand colouring or tinting involved painting very lightly onto the surface, so that the photograph underneath was still visible. The more clumsy method of the two was over painting, whereby a heavier pigment was applied, often completely obscuring the original photograph. Prior to the start of either process, a layer of varnish was usually applied to ensure that the absorption of colour was even across the photograph.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Love, kiss and home

Embroidered silk postcards from the First World War are known as WWI Silks. An estimated 10 million were made by French and Belgian girls and women and sold to Allied servicemen on duty in France. The cards were mailed home at no charge to the sender in Military Mail pouches, and became treasured mementos from "the boys over there”.

Ref: First World War silk embroidered card from the Ephemera Collections, c. 1914-1918, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries
Many of the Silks featured symbols and greetings important to Allied troops: fern fronds for New Zealanders, maple leaves for Canadians; flags; battalion and regimental crests; and patriotic messages such as 'United We Stand' or 'Victory and Liberty'. Especially favoured were cards with Sister, Mother, Father, and the words love, kiss and home.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Mt Roskill’s Victory Estate

It is always fascinating to discover why the street you live in is given a particular name, and for residents of a block in Mt Roskill, Auckland, there is a marvellous history behind theirs.

It is a group of streets that was known as the Victory Estate – located up at the Mt Roskill end of Dominion Road in Auckland.

The subdivision was purchased by a syndicate in 1920, as reported in the NZ Herald newspaper. The land had been held for the past 50 years by the Wesley Training College who had possessed huge amounts of land in the area. It was described as “beautiful high green slopes …. Commanding magnificent views over Mount Eden” (New Zealand Herald, Vol. LVII, Issue 17412, 6 March 1920, p.9).

Ref: DP Plan 16857, North Auckland Land District, Plan of Auckland Suburb, IV Titirangi S.D., Mt Roskill Road District, 1923

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

NZ Women who fought against WWI

The declaration of war was greeted so enthusiastically in NZ that many anti-militarist groups lowered their profile. This included the National Peace Council, whom in 1914 suspended all public work, saying “the war fever is too acute to allow of any meetings being held” (Hutching, M., 2007, see full reference below).

Most NZ women supported the war effort, but some were bold enough to agitate for international arbitration and an end to war. The Canterbury Women’s Institute, the Women’s International League and The Housewives Union formed part of the nucleus of the anti-war movement in NZ.

Ref: Front cover of Women for Peace & Freedom by Betty Holt (1985) 

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

It'll be over by Christmas exhibition

“So sad to realise the ‘boys’ in the photos gave their lives 100 years ago”.

“Engaging and informative without being overwhelming. A wonderful tribute”.

“A fine exhibition of stories that need to be told”.

 “Amazing diaries keeping record of daily life”.

“Great to see photographs and documentation of camaraderie in tough times”.

These are just a few of the comments inscribed in the visitor’s book of the current exhibition at the Sir George Grey Special Collections: 'It’ll be over by Christmas: World War 1914-1918'. Visitors have signed themselves as "grand-daughters of veterans" or relatives of "survivors" of this war. At the time of this centenary we still remember the First World War war, even if not all of us have personal memories of loved ones who served and survived.

Everything on display in the exhibition at the Central City Library (with the exception of a few of the published books) was produced between 1914-1919. It therefore covers what New Zealanders were reading and looking at during the war period.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, the storming of Le Quesnoy in France by NZ soldiers, 27 March 1919, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19190327-32-2