Regional News: Straight Outa Canterbury


Canterbury NZHA council member and special correspondent, Lyndon Fraser, reported in April that History in Canterbury continues to be pursued in a wide variety of contexts, from family history to local preservation groups, and from heritage practices to oral tradition. Lyndon’s report to members is reproduced here for the website.



The region’s earthquake memorial (Oi Manawa) has been completed and officially opened on 22 February 2017, and new museums will soon replace those lost when the earth moved. This report features four institutions that have been at the forefront of our form of knowledge here over many years: the Canterbury Museum; the University of Canterbury Department of History; the Canterbury Historical Society; and the Canterbury History Foundation.

Oi ManawaOi Manawa, the official memorial for the 185 people who died in the February 2011 earthquake. This image by Press photographer Stacy Squires shows some of the bouquets and wreaths – usually with messages attached – left in remembrance of victims (Stacy Squires, Fairfax, 2017).

Canterbury Museum
Canterbury Museum’s human history team continues a varied programme of collections based work, public programmes and research. Recent staff changes have seen Sarah Murray move to the full-time role of Curatorial Manager and, sadly for Cantabrians, Marguerite Hill depart to join the team at Auckland War Memorial Museum. To fill the vacancies created by these changes, the Museum welcomed Jill Haley and Julia Bradshaw to the roles of Curator Human History. Senior Curator Roger Fyfe will be using the last year before his retirement to focus on research and, as a result, the Museum appointed Lisa McDonald to a three year role as Associate Curator Human History (Maori and Pacifica focus). To address the high demand across all areas of human history work, the Museum is currently advertising for an additional Curator Human History.

The team continue a varied research programme. Recent work will see forthcoming publications on the Memorial to Robert Falcon Scott and the Polar Party, Blaschka models of invertebrates, music in World War One, material culture of the voyages of James Cook, dogs in the Antarctic and many more besides. Our committed Research Fellows, Lyndon Fraser and Richard Bullen (both from the University of Canterbury) continue to explore the Museum’s collections relating to mourning and Rewi Alley respectively. The Museum’s collections are also used for in-depth research by PhD student Geraldine Lummis, who is researching Joseph Kinsey’s collection, and MA student Helen Brown, working on the collection of photographs by William Anderson Taylor.

Over the coming year the Human History team will be focusing on a number of key exhibitions, including our major exhibition on World War War scheduled for October 2017. The team continue to operate in an earthquake recovery environment where access to collections presents many challenges. We still welcome researchers on a pre-booked basis and hope to increase our access sessions in the coming months.

Department of History, University of Canterbury
The Department of History continues to enjoy strong student enrolments at all levels. While other programmes around the country have experienced a decline in numbers, our first-year courses attract over 300 students. History has two of the largest first-year courses in Humanities at Canterbury. The Honours programme, under the coordination of Dr Chris Jones, continues its strong tradition with over 30 students in 2016. Thesis enrolments remain strong.

The History Department hosted the NZ Historical Association Executive during 2014 and 2015. This culminated in the successful December 2015 NZHA conference, on the theme of ‘History Making a Difference’. An edited volume from that conference is about to go to press (see below). Our NZHA Executive service reminded members that Canterbury was the cradle of the NZHA in 1979, with Jim Gardner as its first president and Geoff Rice as secretary.

We have hosted several visitors, in particular, Dr Jenny Macleod (University of Hull) as a 2015 Canterbury Fellow. Her visit was organised by David Monger. Adjunct Fellow Dr Chris Pugsley was shortlisted for the Ernest Scott Prize.

Jane Buckingham completed her two-year term as Head of Department in December 2015 and was promoted to Associate Professor. Katie Pickles took over as Professor and Head, and from mid-2016 is also serving at the university level in the office of the Vice Chancellor as Associate Dean Postgraduate Research.

The department has continued its excellent tradition of schools’ outreach. In June 2016, we co-organised with the Canterbury History Teacher’s Association a popular History Day for high school students from Canterbury and the West Coast. Over 200 pupils and their teachers attended a suite of lectures showcasing current topics in American, New Zealand and European history. History colleagues were also to be seen at the New Zealand History Teachers’ Association annual conference held in Christchurch the following week.

History colleagues continue to research and publish across a range of areas: We have celebrated the recent publication of four edited collections (one on New Zealand, one on India and two on Medieval Europe), one new book (on Christchurch) and one paperback version of a successful Transnational/First World War history monograph.

Canterbury Historical Association
The Canterbury Historical Association began 2017 with the 6th Annual Geoff Rice Lecture, delivered this year by Distinguished Professor Jack Copeland (University of Canterbury Philosophy), who talked about Digital Archaeology. This fascinating presentation looked at how letters stick to computer screens, how the first memory was developed, and how a 1928 invention continues to power satellites, among other ideas at the core of computer technology. A year of monthly meetings promises a wide-ranging programme of topics, from Stephen Hicks’ discussion of the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition 1955-58, to (UC) Professor Paul Millar’s intriguingly-titled ‘Fake News, Alternative Facts, and the End of History’ and Glynn Harper’s examination of army food supplies in the Gallipoli campaign, to Angela Wanhalla’s examination of American forces in the Pacific in WWII. The speakers are the usual CHA mix of local and national speakers and come from both academic and community backgrounds. The CHA continues to encourage the development of local history writers, as well as hearing from new, cutting-edge thinkers such as this year’s panel presentation on 30 years of New Zealand’s nuclear free legislation. The association invited students of University of Canterbury Humanities to attend meetings (while they are still students, no membership fees are required) and seeks to widen the membership base. We have been very pleased with the number attending so far and are working to see this grow further in 2017.

Canterbury History Foundation
The Canterbury History Foundation has had another busy year, and continues into 2017 with the same officers and executive committee.

The annual Jim Gardner Memorial Lecture for 2016 was delivered on 24 July by Dr Chris Pugsley on the subject of New Zealand’s role in the First World War, with particular focus on 1916.

The 2016 Rhodes Medal was awarded to Mrs Phyllis Johnson of the Cheviot and Districts Historical Records Society in recognition of her many years of voluntary work interviewing old identities and collecting historic photographs.

Dan Smith, senior curator at the Akaroa Museum, was appointed Canterbury Community Historian for 2016, and worked on the life of John Menzies (1839-1919) of Menzies Bay, a farmer and notable wood-carver who used Maori themes in his homestead and the church at Little Akaloa. Dan has traced many items still in private ownership, and has prepared an academic paper on Menzies’ work.

The Foundation has made several grants to assist the publication of books related to Canterbury history: Marie Catanach for her history of Helen Connon Hall; Jane Robertson for her history of Lyttelton Harbour communities from Teddington to Governors Bay, Head of the Harbour; Colin Amodeo for his biography of Captain Joseph Thomas, surveyor of the Canterbury Association settlement; and Gordon Ogilvie for his book on Banks Peninsula place-names.

The annual awards ceremony for the History Department of the University of Canterbury is hosted in December each year by the History Foundation, thanks to a generous bequest from the late Gerald Hunt. In 2016 this event was held in a new venue, the John Britten Building, and took the form of a lunch following the Arts graduation on 13 December. The university’s Chancellor, Dr John Wood, who is also President of the Canterbury History Foundation, delivered the address.

The Canterbury Historical Association continues to administer the J. M. Sherrard Award in New Zealand Local and Regional History. The 21st judging in 2016 for books published in 2014-5 made a major award to Catherine Knight for her book, Ravaged Beauty: an Environmental History of the Manawatu.