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Sir George Grey’s contribution to women’s suffrage in New Zealand

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Sir George Grey is famous as a governor, premier and benefactor, particularly for his donation to Auckland Libraries – but not famous enough for his contribution to women’s suffrage in New Zealand.

Grey appears in a cameo role in a new book, You Daughters of Freedom, on how women got the vote in Australia, in 1902. At a conference considering federation (the joining of the Australian states into one country) a decade earlier, he had advised Dora Montefiore to make sure women got the vote when this happened; she became committed to that aim.

Grey gets little credit on this side of the Tasman for playing a role in our campaign for about two decades, including becoming a founding (honorary) member of the Auckland Women’s Franchise League in 1892, about the same time as he inspired Montefiore in Australia.

The New Zealand campaign started in 1869 when Mary Müller, using the penname Fémmina, wrote a pamphlet titled An Appeal to the Men of New Zealand. She sent a copy to ‘Sir Geo. Grey – fr…

Sir Edmund Hillary’s connections with West Auckland

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In July 2019, New Zealand commemorated 100 years since the birth of Sir Edmund Hillary. Sir Edmund and Tenzing Norgay are recognized internationally as the first people to summit Mount Everest in 1953. Lesser known are the stories about Sir Edmund's long term family connections to west Auckland and his determination to protect the Waitākere ranges and its coastline.


The Hillary family has had a long association with the west coast of Auckland since 1925, when Sir Edmund’s father-in-law, Jim Rose, built a bach at Anawhata. Since then five generations have come to the west coast to walk and explore, to dream and refresh their spirits.


In the early 1970s Sir Edmund built a bach on the cliffs above White’s Beach, a beach north of Piha. In 2008 Waitākere Mayor Bob Harvey called it Hillary's place of solace, where he could escape media attention.


Peter Hillary said that Sir Edmund would go to Piha and Anawhata to dream up expeditions and prepare for them. When Sir Edmund scaled …

A musical trinity: Mr Chipp, Mr Bennett and Mr Mendelssohn

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To fossick in the basement of the Central City Library amongst the music collection is like being a child in a sweet shop – there is so much to explore it can be overwhelming and it is difficult to know where to start. One of the delights though, is discovering the stories behind some of our lesser known treasures. The music score of “Twenty four sketches for the organ” by Edmund Thomas Chipp and donated to Auckland Libraries by John F. Bennett, presented such an opportunity to do a little research into this little known composer and uncover his unique story. What was revealed was a deeper connection between Mr Chipp and Mr Bennett than one might have first imagined.

Mr Chipp was not a prolific composer, in fact he only composed eight works plus his Twenty four sketches for the Organ op. 11. Auckland Libraries is fortunate enough to have two of these in its collection: The Harmonious Blacksmith for the organ and God preserve the Emperor: variations on Haydn’s Austrian hymn composed fo…

Curtain Up! Acting women talk about their lives

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Curtain Up! is a visual snapshot of the Auckland theatre scene from the 1950s to the 1980s. The exhibition explores the rise of professional drama in Auckland from its grassroots in community and youth theatre.


The exhibition is on at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library from 28 August until 24 November. This playlist compliments the exhibition, drawing on the recollections of those active in Auckland theatre development during these decades. Recordings are from an oral history collection featuring women in Auckland who worked in the acting profession, with interviews by Jean Hyland.



In this track we feature Georgia Prince from Auckland Libraries, life time actor Elizabeth McRae, esteemed playwright Roger Hall and the woman who has played every role in theatre... the irrepressible Jocelyn McQuaid! Georgia Prince provides us with an overview and background to the exhibition while Elizabeth, Roger and Jocelyn all offer their response to seeing the exhibition and discuss the import…

The price of progress

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The way some individuals and companies exploit our environment seems to be a very twenty-first century concern. However, photographs published in the New Zealand Graphic one hundred years ago show people were starting to realise New Zealand’s natural landscape and resources had been seriously degraded by extractive nineteenth-century industries and farming techniques.

On 6 May 1893 the New Zealand Graphic published a photo with the stark caption, ‘Our timber trade: the work of destruction in a kauri forest.’ It showed a jumbled mass of logs already felled by bushmen. Bullock teams were being harnessed to drag the logs from the forest; probably to a bush tramway and then to a sawmill.


Sixteen years later in 1909 the Graphic published a page of photos entitled simply ‘How the Dominion bush is vanishing.’ The series showed a doomed kauri tree’s final journey from the forest via bullock team, bush tramway and log dam towards the city sawmill.


Then in 1910 the paper published a photo of tw…

Threlkeld, Biraban, and the Awabakal manuscripts at Auckland Libraries

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Held in the heritage collections at Auckland Libraries are two unique manuscripts written in the indigenous Australian language known today as Awabakal. Prior to colonisation, this language was spoken by the Aboriginal peoples of the Hunter Valley and Lake Macquarie area of New South Wales. During the twentieth century, its survival was at risk, however, it is now part of an indigenous language rediscovery movement in Australia.

Original texts are important sources for language rediscovery as they record the language when it was spoken widely. To aid this project, and as a contribution to the International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2019, Auckland Libraries has digitised these two manuscripts – Evangelion unni ta Jesu-um-ba Christ-ko-ba Upatoara Louka-umba and An Aboriginal and English lexicon to the Gospel according to Saint Luke - and made them available on Kura Heritage Collections Online. During August they are also on display in the Real Gold case in the special collections …