Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Unearthly landscapes: New Zealand’s early cemeteries, churchyards and urupā

In November 2004 Stephen Deed presented a Master of Arts Thesis to the University of Otago entitled Unearthly landscapes: the development of the cemetery in nineteenth century New Zealand, and until recently that limited access thesis was the only major historical study of cemeteries in New Zealand. Deed has now updated and expanded on his thesis, which has now been published by Otago University Press as Unearthly landscapes; New Zealand’s early cemeteries, churchyards and urupā.

Deed’s book covers traditional Māori urupā, Pākehā influenced Māori burial places, early Pākehā and Church Mission Station burial grounds, and urban and rural cemeteries of the nineteenth century. He also makes a distinction between what he terms ‘first generation’ cemeteries such as Bolton Street (Wellington) and Symonds Street (Auckland) and ‘second generation’ better planned cemeteries such as Southern Cemetery (Dunedin) and Waikumete Cemetery (Auckland). The book is very well illustrated.


Much of Deed’s research has been in the Otago area, and he relies in part on the late Margaret Alington’s Unquiet earth, (written in 1978) for backgrounding the Wellington area. However, as someone who has undertaken a lot of work documenting Auckland's Symonds Street Cemetery I found some difficulty incorporating Symonds Street Cemetery into the discussion. This is likely because of varying regional approaches to the development of cemeteries before the 1882 Cemeteries Act.


One issue remains unresolved. Was Symonds Street Cemetery an example of the 'picturesque' or the 'formal' or did it just grow? Some commentators opt for the 'picturesque', while Deed points to a lack of cohesion in its development. I am more inclined to agree with Deed.

For those interested in particular cemeteries, there are now some conservation plans available along with registration reports for the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. Symonds Street Cemetery has one of each.

Author: David Verran, Central Auckland Research Centre

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

The Homosexual Law Reform Bill: scrapbook of newspaper clippings 1985-86

Auckland celebrates its LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer) communities during the Pride Festival in February. Pride Festival has become an important part of the Auckland Libraries’ calendar, with a number of events such as pop-up libraries and storytimes programmed over the course of the month (including at the same same but different festival).

However, as recently as the early 1980s not only was it legal to discriminate against a person on the basis of their (declared or suspected) sexual orientation, certain ‘homosexual behaviour’ was criminalised. At the time that Wellington Central MP Fran Wilde introduced the Homosexual Law Reform Bill in 1985, there was fierce debate both among politicians and throughout society about what the passing of such a bill might mean for New Zealand.

In the Sir George Grey Special Collections reading room, Central City Library, the Homosexual Law Reform clippings scrapbook will be on display during February. This scrapbook, compiled by librarians at Auckland Public Library in 1985-1986, describes a timeline of the bill’s progress as reported in major New Zealand newspapers and magazines such as the New Zealand Herald, the Auckland Star and the Listener.


A variety of perspectives are evident in these clippings. There were those vehemently opposed, including the MPs who saw the bill as a threat to family values and gathered signatories for a petition against it. A wide variety of opinions are expressed by Christian commentators, some of whom supported the bill but did not condone homosexuality. There are also the forthright opinions of those backing the bill. Many supporters saw it as a human rights issue, aligned with international trends in eradicating discrimination. Some supporters were also concerned that HIV/AIDS was increasingly affecting many individuals in the gay community, but that fewer people were likely to seek diagnosis and treatment if doing so meant revealing themselves as ‘criminals’.

This original scrapbook will be on display in the reading room during February. Access copies have been created and are available for viewing in the reading room as well as in the Central Research Centre.

Our heritage collections aim to provide a diverse and inclusive range of materials on LGBTIQ people and communities and we welcome donations that help this goal.

Author: Angeline Chirnside, Sir George Grey Special Collections

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Culture, entertainment and leisure in Wellsford and nearby locations, Pt 2

This is the second part of this post about leisure in the northern parts of the Auckland region.

Missed Part 1 of this post? Find it here.

Culture, leisure and entertainment have changed with changing technologies. In the early part of the 20th century the travelling People’s Picture company was very popular. It regularly visited Matakana, Puhoi, Wellsford and other places during the summer months.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

From Guangdong to Aotearoa : an exhibition of Chinese voices



“There is a belief that runs strong in the NZ Cantonese community. It’s the idea that through hard work, education and the willingness to take some risk, our children can have a life better than the one left behind in the Cantonese village. In the year 2013, Aotearoa/NZ is peopled with bright young Chinese women who take on jobs of tremendous importance for which they receive great recognition. Much of what they achieve is thanks to the hard work and sacrifices made by their mothers and the women before them.”

Ref: Photograph by King Tong Ho.

Most of NZ’s early Chinese settlers came from Canton Province, now known as Guangdong. The project From Guangdong to Aotearoa came about through Sue Gee’s interest in her ancestral origins. From Guangdong to Aotearoa aimed to record the life histories of six remarkable NZ Chinese women. They were chosen because their contribution in the community is noteworthy or because they had interest or knowledge of our Chinese settler history. The women in the project are born in Eketahuna, Rotorua and Auckland between 1931 and 1951. They trace their ancestral roots to Guangdong, South China.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Scrapbooks of newspaper clippings about Māori 1970-1975

A collection of 1970s newspaper articles regarding Māori is available to view in the Sir George Grey Special Collections reading room or to search online at Index Auckland. The scrapbooks contain many useful items for whakapapa or historical research, from obituaries to articles promoting the introduction of Māori language teaching in schools. Copies are also available in the Central Research Centre.

Even though the clippings are not precisely dated, nor source newspapers always identified, reading through the Scrapbooks reveals areas of concern and celebration for Māori at that time.