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Showing posts from 2019

James Cook and Joseph Banks: reading over the shoulders of giants

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When the Endeavour left Plymouth harbour in August of 1768, it carried in its cabins the collected navigational knowledge of its predecessors in South Sea exploration. The vessel, under the command of Captain James Cook, was to be the site for a pioneering venture: a circumnavigational voyage in pursuit of knowledge terrestrial, oceanic, and celestial. As a voyage of European “discovery”, it would prove revolutionary in several important ways, the success of which rested upon the knowledge acquired by other, earlier expeditions.


Cook’s first voyage (1768-71) represented a joint information-gathering venture between the British Admiralty and the Royal Society. Officially, its purpose was to observe the 1769 transit of Venus from the South Pacific – part of an international effort to establish Earth’s distance from the Sun. The decision to carry this out from Tahiti specifically was relatively last-minute, depending as it did on the island’s first European visit by the Dolphin under Cap…

Auckland Library Heritage Trust Scholarship 2019/2020

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Applications for the Auckland Library Heritage Trust research scholarship are now open!


Now in its seventh year, the scholarship is offered by the Auckland Library Heritage Trust to assist with research and the promotion of material held in Sir George Grey Special Collections at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library and the distributed Heritage Collections across the region.


The breadth of Auckland Libraries' Heritage Collections is reflected in the wide-ranging research topics of previous scholars: from Vanessa York's study of botanical perfumery to Dr Majid Daneshagar's work to create a catalogue of the Middle Eastern manuscripts held in Sir George Grey Special Collections to Aleisha Ward's research into the 1920s jazz scene in Auckland.
As well as rare and historic books Auckland Libraries’ Heritage Collections include maps, archives, manuscripts, photographs, drawings, oral histories, musical recordings and ephemera. The formats are both analogue and born di…

Kīnaki: Ngā reta Māori, an exhibition of nineteenth century letters in te reo Māori

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Kīnaki: Ngā reta Māori at the Central City Library from 15 March – 15 May 2019 demonstrates the power of the pen.


Sir George Grey, 1812 - 1898 was many things to many people. The exhibition Kīnaki: Ngā reta Māori contains a sampling of letters from the Sir George Grey Special Collections, that were written to Grey and his contemporaries in te reo Māori. Through the letters, the exhibition explores the complex relationships that existed between Māori and Grey, as well as demonstrating the impact of letter writing during the mid to late nineteenth century.

Kīnaki can be translated as tasty morsel. In the context of this exhibition, it is used to indicate the specially selected taonga, which give a flavour of nineteenth-century correspondence and concerns. Hearing the letters spoken aloud in the library gallery gives an added level of intimacy to these written conversations and reanimates the taonga. Recordings of each of these letters feature not only in the exhibition but on SoundClou…

George Bernard Shaw: a visitor from some other planet or land of perpetual youth

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George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) was in his time the celebrity bar none. While some of us may only consider him the Irish bloke who wrote Pygmalion, he was so much more than that, with a story that fascinates decades later in this age of global celebrity. One suspects if he were alive today, GBS would have been an early adopter of Facebook, Instagram, talk shows, and have written the handbook on self-promotion and personal branding. Or he may well have disdained the lot. We shall never know, but writer Fintan OToole suggests Shaw had more in common with Bob Dylan and David Bowie than he did with writers such as Anthony Trollop.
Shaw's global fame and GBS brand was immense. So much so that when it was announced he and Charlotte, his wife, would visit New Zealand in 1934, New Zealand was agog. In a February council meeting that year when Auckland’s mayor was asked if there would be a civic reception for Mr Shaw, a councillor noted, “It is possible that Mr Shaw, in a moment of aberrati…

Addresses to Sir George Grey

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The Addresses to Sir George Grey is a large bound volume of over 300 pages, held in the manuscripts collection at Auckland Libraries. Conceived as a birthday tribute to Grey, the Addresses went from proposal to bound volume, with over 13,000 signatures, in less than a month. A first public meeting was held on Monday, the 15th of March, 1886: “ ... to take into consideration the propriety of Presenting a Congratulatory Address to Sir George Grey on his next Birthday, April 14”.


Detailed reports in the newspapers over the course of that month included telling details: it is to be “purely non-political, and has its sole raison d’être in admiration and respect for Sir George” (Auckland Star, 15 March 1886)  – a pertinent point, given that Sir George Grey was a still a divisive force in the politics of the day and would have undoubtedly been reading the reports with interest. The article ends with the note “It was also agreed that ladies should be allowed to sign the address.” (New Zealand…

"Is this work, or slavery?"

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In the late 1880s, a situation was exposed to New Zealanders that caused shock waves throughout the country. It was the labour practice of “sweating.” Referring to workers having to ‘sweat’ for their wages, it was also used to encompass appalling conditions from low wages, long hours, and substandard working environments. To the shock of New Zealanders, it was happening right here.

Sweating had been common for years in overseas cities such as Glasgow and London, despite condemnation of it by the social reformers of the time.In 1888 it finally became the subject of a House of Lords inquiry, and during that year, New Zealand newspapers covered the inquiry of this “evil” happening in the old country.

But on October 20 1888, the Otago Daily Times published a letter from an anonymous 'Citizen' who made the startling claim that New Zealanders were being treated like slaves.
He wrote: “Now, Sir, you may be surprised to know that this curse of civilisation exists not only in the old coun…