The Friends of the Turnbull Library (FoTL) offers a monthly programme of public talks that are free to all, and held – unless otherwise indicated below – in Taiwhanga Kawhau, the Auditorium on the Lower Ground floor, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, (corner of Aitken and Molesworth streets, Thorndon, Wellington).
For our FoTL programme of public talks in Auckland in 2023, details here.
Our programme of public talks is free and open to all.
An on-line Zoom Webinar option is also now offered for most of our Wellington talks. If available, you will find the link at the end of each session. Some talks are recorded and will be available following current updates to our website.
Wellington events in 2023:
Taking Flight: The role and impact of women in Forest and Bird’s early history
Forest & Bird was the first of New Zealand’s modern-day conservation groups and women were involved from its creation becoming vice-presidents, honorary secretaries, and executive board members. Despite women being involved in all aspects of the first 50 years of the Society’s work, there has been limited scholarship looking into their lives and contributions to conservation. In this talk Tess Tuxford discusses the impact of six early women members; Amy Hodgson, Pérrine Moncrieff, Elizabeth Gilmer, Violet Rucroft (Briffault), Lily Daff, and Audrey Eagle, and describes how archival research has helped expose the significance of women in New Zealand’s conservation heritage.
Tess Tuxford is a Research Performance Advisor at Te Herenga Waka – Victoria University of Wellington. She holds a Master of Science in Society and Bachelor of Arts in History. Her research interests lie in the history of science, particularly around the role and relevance of women. She was awarded Forest & Bird’s inaugural Force of Nature scholarship in 2020.
This event will be available in person and online: LINK TO COME SOON REGISTER FOR ZOOM LINK HERE
Our public programme will continue every month until November.
Past Events 2022/23:
Tuesday 12 September
In this talk, Professor Barbara Brookes discussed the campaign for women’s suffrage and how activists imagined suffrage as a beginning, rather than an end. She said that although the women who signed the Women’s Suffrage Petition and voted in the 1893 election hoped that they could have an influence on the shape of their society, men subsequently failed to represent their interests. After the passage of the Parliamentary Rights Act in 1919, when three women put themselves forward for election, their electorates did not select them as candidates. Barbara then drew attention to the fine example set by two early female MPs, Hilda Ross (elected 1945) and Iriaka Ratana (elected 1949), whose energy and achievements deserve widespread recognition.
Barbara Brookes is Professor Emerita, University of Otago. She is the author of the prize-winning, A History of Women in New Zealand (Bridget Williams Books, 2016). Her most recent book, co-authored with James Dunk, is Knowledge Making: Historians, Archives and Bureaucracy (Routledge, 2020)
Wednesday 30 August
Down the Conspiracy Rabbit Hole: Arthur Nelson Field and the Great Depression
In the 1930s New Zealand experienced a severe social, economic and political crisis. As the Great Depression took hold, a widely respected and experienced journalist sought to understand the causes of the devasting collapse in purchasing power and the misery this unleashed across the country. Through a series of chance events, A.N. Field became convinced that the economic crisis had been deliberately manufactured by a super-conspiracy of malevolent Jewish bankers. Pouring his newfound conspiratorial antisemitism into his writings, Field influenced the political debate in New Zealand and became an important conspiratorialist ‘expert’ to the English-speaking far-right. Field’s influence was the subject of a chapter in the recently published book: Histories of Hate: The Radical Right in Aotearoa New Zealand (Otago University Press, 2023).
Raised in Dunedin amidst a large Dutch immigrant family, Marinus La Rooij is an independent researcher with degrees from Otago and Victoria Universities. He has been researching and publishing on radicalisation, antisemitism and extremism over the last thirty years and was a co-editor of Histories of Hate. Professionally, Marinus has been a state servant and consultant working on transport and infrastructure matters, and also as an official in the Treaty of Waitangi settlement process.
At the FRIENDS OF THE TURNBULL LIBRARY AGM, held on 26 July 2023:
We are delighted to advise that President Katherine Baxter was reelected for a further term of office, and a new committee member was elected: Barbara Brookes, Professor Emerita at the University of Otago.
Following the meeting Dr Ashwinee Pendharkar, ATL Curator Contemporary Voices and Archives, gave a presentation about her role and the current work for which she is responsible. Her talk, Collecting for Contemporary Voices and Archives: Purpose and practice, drew on one collection as a case study: Abhi Chinniah is a New Zealand-born portrait photographer, podcaster and writer of Sri Lankan-Malaysian descent now living in New Zealand. The collection ATL-Group-00785 includes photographic portraits of NZ women from her exhibitions ‘Light Skin Dark Skin’ and ‘A Migrant’s Path’ along with interviews of and essays by these women, addressing the important issue of the negative impacts of colourism.
Dr Ashwinee Pendharkar is an academic and heritage professional with deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. As the inaugural curator of CVA, she has been instrumental in giving form to the Alexander Turnbull Library’s vision for a diverse, inclusive, equitable, and sustainable documentary heritage representing all New Zealanders. She leads these efforts by proactively ensuring focus on hitherto marginalised and under-represented cultural identities, communities, events, concerns, and formats.
Wednesday 12 July at 5.30pm
Dr John E Martin – Empire City: The Making of Wellington
Dr John E Martin has researched and written about NZ history since the 1980s, teaching in universities and employed as an historian in the public sector. A former parliamentary historian in the 2000s and 2010s, he has published texts on rural and labour history, the history of science and engineering, and social and political history. Dr Martin talked about his book ‘Empire City’: Wellington Becomes the Capital of New Zealand (2022) which covers the period from first encounters between Māori and the New Zealand Company in Te Whanganui-a-Tara in 1839 through to becoming the ‘Empire City; by the 1870s.
The ‘Empire City’ story begins with a small and fragile NZ Company pākehā settlement relying only on whaling and racked by earthquakes and shows how a durable economic base was created and how Wellington became a thriving political and commercial centre and the country’s capital. This rich and turbulent story is the key to understanding how Wellington came from such unpromising beginnings to be the capital city.
Wednesday 19 July, at 6.00pm – TAKAPUNA CENTRAL LIBRARY
The Turnbull Library virtually everywhere – expanding the reach of the Turnbull Library through digital services
Alexander Turnbull’s vision for his original library was that it should be open to anyone who was a seeker after truth. Being open has taken on new meaning recently as the Turnbull has worked hard to make the Library’s collections accessible during COVID-19, a three week closure due to parliamentary protest and now a construction project that will create a bridge between the Library and the new Archives New Zealand building. Through this disruption we’ve focused on expanding access to the Library’s collections through digital services that reach researchers anywhere or everywhere. Associate Chief Librarians Jessica Moran and Alison McIntyre will introduce some of the current work underway (and collections available), from ensuring the preservation of endangered sound and video recordings through digitisation to creating a virtual reading room for researchers outside of Wellington.
Wednesday 21 June at 6.00pm: FoTL FOUNDER LECTURE 2023
Witi Ihimaera: INDIGENOUS ENVOY: The Māori writer as New Zealand practitioner and indigenous artisan
Witi Ihimaera DCNZM DCM is an acclaimed writer, anthologist and librettist.
Witi Ihimaera is an influential figure in New Zealand literature. Over his long career he has won numerous awards for both fiction and non-fiction. Witi was the first Māori writer to publish a collection of short stories, Pounamu, Pounamu, in 1972, and the first to publish a novel, Tangi in 1973. His immensely popular 1987 novel The Whale Rider has been read widely by children and adults both in New Zealand and overseas, and adapted into the critically acclaimed 2002 film.
Witi Ihimaera was Professor of English and Distinguished Creative Fellow in Māori Literature until 2010. His memoir, Māori Boy: A Memory of Childhood (2014) won the Ockham Book Award for non-fiction in 2015 and was followed by Native Son: The Writers Memoir. In 2017 Witi received a Prime Minister’s Award for fiction.
Witi Ihimaera’s work has been recognised by a Premio Ostana and a Chevalier Des Arts et Lettres. His work has been a set text in Africa and The Whale Rider is currently the subject of a Big Read at Gutenberg University, Germany and honoured text at the IRSCL Ecologies of Childhood Congress, USA, later this year.
In his korero, “The Māori writer as New Zealand practitioner” Witi talked about the propulsive energy of whakapapa, the inward spiral, which continues to motivate him and others to write the Māori story, the story of iwi, whanau and tangata within the complexities of an ever-changing Aotearoa New Zealand.
The second part of the korero, “The writer as Indigenous artisan” was more personal as Witi traced the outward-moving spiral which, following a 16-year career in Foreign Affairs, motivated him not just “to write the talk but also talk it and walk it” as an international artist. This is the lesser known story or kaupapa, of the Māori writer as an active supporter of indigenous peoples.
50th anniversary edition of Tangi
First released 50 years ago, Tangi was Witi Ihimaera’s debut novel and the first to be published by a Māori author. A landmark literary event, it went on to win the James Wattie Book of the Year Award. He was just 29 years old at the time.
Revisiting the text for this special anniversary edition, Witi has added richer details and developed the themes that have preoccupied him over a lifetime of writing.
Wednesday 7 June 2023 at 5.30pm
Helen Beaglehole, historian, editor and writer:
“Sources, Silences, Perspectives and Prejudices: the challenges of writing the first history of settlement in the Marlborough Sounds”
Helen Beaglehole is a Wellington historian who has spent over 40 years sailing and exploring in the Marlborough Sounds. She has written many award winning books for children from the very young to young adults. In recent years she has written and published well received New Zealand histories – on coastal lighthouses, their siting, building, technology, manning and demanning; the lighthouse keepers and their families; and rural firefighting. She has also contributed to the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography and Te Ara, New Zealand’s online encyclopedia.
In this presentation Helen will reflect on the challenges of researching and writing her recently published account of the complex history of settlement of the Sounds: One Hundred Havens: The settlement of the Marlborough Sounds published in 2022 by Massey University Press.
Thursday 11 May 2023 at 5.30pm
Paul Diamond, Turnbull Library Curator Māori:
Researching Downfall: The Destruction of Charles Mackay
In May 1920 the news that the brilliant, well-connected mayor of Whanganui Charles Mackay had shot returned soldier Walter D’Arcy Cresswell reverberated around New Zealand and across the Tasman. New Zealanders were then riveted by the trial that followed. It emerged that D’Arcy Cresswell was a young gay poet who had been blackmailing Mackay, threatening to reveal Mackay’s homosexuality unless he resigned as mayor. Charles Mackay was sentenced to hard labour and later left the country, only to be shot by a police sniper during street unrest in Berlin during the rise of the Nazis.
Mackay had married into Whanganui high society, and the story has long been the town’s dark secret. More than an extraordinary story of scandal, the Mackay affair reveals the perilous existence of homosexual men at that time and how society conspired to control and punish them. Paul Diamond discussed his research journey – in Whanganui, Berlin, and London – to uncover the story of the ‘Whanganui Affair’. The outcome of his years of digging, Downfall: The destruction of Charles Mackay shines a clear light on the vengeful impulses behind the blackmail and Mackay’s ruination.
Wednesday 12 April 2023 at 5.30pm
Dr Michael Brown, Turnbull Library Curator Music:
The Disasteradio Project
Many forms of contemporary music are produced using digital audio workstation (DAW) software. Such computer applications streamline the recording process and offer music artists sophisticated new tools. However, they also present major challenges if we wish to document the digital creative process in ways equivalent to physical music archives. This talk is about the Disasteradio Project, a Turnbull Library pilot study undertaken with New Zealand computer musician Luke Rowell (a.k.a. Disasteradio) that aims to develop strategies for preserving DAW music productions.
Dr Michael Brown has been Curator Music at the Turnbull Library since 2015. Michael has published widely on New Zealand music, and this year he was appointed JD Stout Fellow at Victoria University to research contemporary digital music. Photo: Mark Beatty
Venue: Auditorium, National Library, Molesworth Street, access from Aitken Street
Tuesday 7 March 2023 at 5.45pm
Joint event with Randell Cottage Writers Trust, Friends of Turnbull Library and Friends of Randell Cottage, on French writers at Randell Cottage:
Sedef Ecer – Gallipoli from a woman’s perspective
Caroline Laurent – inspiration at Oriental Bay
An introduction to the latest French writers in residence at Randell Cottage, and how they draw on their experiences here, in combination with their multicultural heritages, to inform their creative work. Franco-Turkish novelist, actor and playwright Sedef Ecer shared her evolving concept for a First World War Gallipoli encounter between women from Turkey and New Zealand. The newest short video in our web-based series (in French with English subtitles) showed Caroline Laurent, of French and Mauritian extraction, on her recent stay, with plans to return. Produced by Godwit Films and funded by the French Embassy.
Thursday 16 March at 5.30pm
David Grant: Necessity or Folly? Jim Anderton’s dramatic exit from the Labour Government in 1989 and its consequences
David Grant spoke on his biography of Jim Anderton, Anderton: His Life and Times. He is the author of 14 books and this is his third major political biography.
Jim Anderton was a dynamic President of the Labour Party (1979-1984) before becoming a popular MP for Sydenham. David Grant looked at the events leading up to Anderon’s dramatic exit from Labour in 1989, and the consequences of his decision. He discussed Anderton’s increasing despair about Rogernomics as factories closed or moved offshore, unemployment burgeoned and the State seemed to deny a duty of care to its poorer citizens. Anderton was particularly incensed with the ‘asset sale’ of state institutions leading to capital fleeing the country, the rich getting richer and the poor poorer.
Anderton fought to preserve the doctrinal bastions on which the Labour Party was founded, and would not vote for the sale of the Bank of New Zealand – defying his party’s 242 constitutional clause. Isolated and suspended, he won an appeal but soon afterwards resigned, stating he could no longer defend this ‘right-wing’ government. He then went on to form two new parties, first NewLabour and later the Alliance Party.
Thursday 16 February at 5.30 pm: Dr Pamela Wood REGRETFULLY CANCELLED
Dr Pamela Wood, a retired academic, registered nurse and independent historian specialising in the history of health, has recently published New Zealand Nurses: Caring for our people, 1880-1950 (2022). She was to speak to us in February, but now we hope to reschedule this talk at a future date.
Thursday 10 November 2022 at 5.30 pm:
Dr Oliver Stead, The Paper Knife – Patrick White and Katherine Mansfield:
Oliver Stead discussed the influence of Katherine Mansfield on Patrick White, a renowned novelist and playwright. White is still the only Australian to have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature (in 1973). On a visit by Patrick White to the Turnbull in 1961, the unusual link connecting the writers was first revealed. White donated to the library a silver and greenstone paper knife (pictured right) that had belonged to Katherine Mansfield.
Dr Oliver Stead, Curator, Drawings, Paintings and Prints at the Turnbull, holds degrees in Art History and Information Studies. Prior to joining the Turnbull team, he held curatorial and collection management roles at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, Auckland Museum, National Library of Australia and the Wallace Arts Trust.
Thursday 6 October 2022, at 5.30pm:
“A Scandalous Mistake”: Aotearoa’s “Wicked Bible”
Anthony Tedeschi, Curator Rare Books & Fine Printing at the Alexander Turnbull Library, spoke about seventeenth-century printing processes and their vulnerability to errors for all sorts of reasons. He said that many different printings of the Bible at this time included significant errors, such as “Judas” instead of “Jesus”; “vinegar” instead of “vineyard; and “place makers” instead of “peace makers”.
Dr Chris Jones, University of Canterbury historian, discussed his research into the Wicked Bible – famous for its commandment: ‘Thou shalt commit adultery’. Previous owners of the copy purchased in 2016 by the Phil and Louise Donnithorne Family Trust are largely unknown, up until a Christchurch bookbinder, Don Hampshire, bought it in 2009. Its authenticity was confirmed in 2018, and it has since been conserved and now digitised to encourage continuing research. Chris also discussed some of the colourful myths that have grown up around this Wicked Bible, but he refuted many claims, including the legend that the printer was taken to court and bankrupted.
Thursday 1 September 2022 at 5.30 pm:
Sarah Gaitanos: “Don’t Mention the War”
Sarah Gaitanos discussed her current project, the intriguing story of Brigadier Reginald Miles (who served in two world wars). Her talk gave specific attention to his 1940s incarceration with WWII British generals in Castello di Vincigliata, Mussolini’s Colditz for British generals outside Florence, and his daring escape to Switzerland. Reginald Miles was a significant international figure at an important time in our history, yet this distinguished New Zealand commander has been largely overlooked in military history.
Sarah Gaitanos is a writer, researcher and social historian. Her biographies have received critical and popular acclaim. She is the author of The Violinist: Clare Galambos Winter, Holocaust Survivor; and Nola Millar: A Theatrical Life; and her third biography, Shirley Smith: An Examined Life, presented a detailed account of the distinguished lawyer and tireless human rights campaigner. Sarah is a recipient of a 2022 Friends of Turnbull Library research grant.
Wednesday 17 August 2022
Dr Claire Macindoe on Dr H B Turbott, “the Radio Doctor”
Dunedin researcher Dr Claire Macindoe has researched the story of Dr H B Turbott who became our first health communicator and disease-prevention expert in 1943. For 40 years he was a well-known, respected and loved broadcaster on health matters of concern to New Zealanders. Claire talked about the health messages promoted across his forty-year radio career, and explained the fascinating role of radio within New Zealand households in that era. Claire is the recipient of one of our Research Grants, to work on her proposed book.
Thursday 28 July 2022
Carol Markwell: Enough Horizon: the life and work of Blanche Baughan
Foxton writer Carol Markwell (pictured left) discussed the background to her new book, the first ever biography of Blanche Baughan (1870-1958), one of New Zealand’s first poets and travel writers. Carol first read about Blanche Baughan as a prison visitor who helped the young waitress, Alice May Parkinson, imprisoned for shooting her lover in 1915. She was intrigued to follow up, finding that Blanche settled in Sumner and Banks Peninsula, becoming a botanist and conservationist, as well as a prison reformer. Carol’s thorough biography illuminates the life of this extraordinary New Zealand poet and humanitarian.
Carol Markwell reads and writes poetry, plays and short stories but now finds biography the most compelling of all. Carol was born in Wellington but grew up in the Manawatū. She now lives beside the estuary of the Manawatū River at Foxton Beach and enjoys reading, writing, walking on the beach and watching the sea birds, especially the godwits as they come and go on their long trips to Alaska.
Tuesday 28 June
2022 FOUNDER LECTURE
Kia Whakatōmuri te haere whakamua:
Approaching our past with curiosity and courage
Dame Cindy Kiro spoke about the importance of research and her confidence in the Alexander Turnbull Library, not just as a secure repository, but a place where researchers can rely on the knowledge and support of professional staff. She discussed the role of memory, saying that it involves “how the past makes us feel”, and that “memories are the stories we tell ourselves about our past”. She also spoke with enthusiasm about the new directions in history being taught in schools, seeing it as a powerful tool in applying wisdom to our past. “Life can only be understood backwards”, and the pursuit of knowledge must also involve applying this knowledge in a way that does the greatest good. She herself felt immense optimism about the future of research, pointing out that approaching our past with curiosity, courage and passion will ensure that we are better equipped on our journey.
Dame Cindy Kiro is the 22nd Governor-General of New Zealand, and the first Māori woman to be appointed to this role. She is of Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu and British descent. Much of Dame Cindy’s career has been in the tertiary education sector, where she became a distinguished researcher and held leadership roles at Massey University, Victoria University Wellington/Te Herenga Waka and the University of Auckland. While at the University of Auckland she was Director of the Starpath Project, which investigated the impacts of socio-economic status on educational achievement in New Zealand. Prior to taking up her current role, Dame Cindy was Chief Executive of the Royal Society Te Apārangi. She was appointed as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DNZM) for services to child wellbeing and education on the New Year 2021 Honours List.
Wednesday 8 June
Adrian Humphris, “The architecture of Thomas Turnbull & Son”
Wellington city archivist Adrian Humphris spoke about both Thomas and William Turnbull as well as Turnbull & Son the firm; the history and background, and significant buildings designed and built. Thomas Turnbull and Son was a prominent, recognised architectural practice of the early 20th century. The firm, led by Thomas Turnbull and later his son William, had a prolific outfit, designing at least 120 buildings from the early 1890s until the 1940s.
While Thomas was one of the leading local architects of the Victorian era, and is recognised as one of the architects to transform Wellington from a town of two-storey timber buildings to a fine Victorian city, William was also a talented architect who kept up to date with the changing architectural styles of the early 20th century.
The firm can also be linked to many Wellington (and NZ) architects, who were either articled or had their initial training or experience there; for example William Meek Page, Richard Atkinson Abbott, John Thomas Mair and some others all spent time working there.
Thursday 19 May 2022: Hirini Kaa, “Te Hāhi Mihinare: Mātauranga meets The Word”
Conversion, literacy and the dissemination of knowledge was always going to be a contested space. Mātauranga was the worldview shaped and formed here in Aotearoa, and when it met centuries of European thinking and knowledge about another people’s ancestral stories, the outcome was nothing short of spectacular.
Dr Hirini Kaa, of Ngāti Porou, Ngāti Kahungunu and Rongowhakaata, is an historian and Anglican minister (like family members before him). Dr Kaa has worked in the social services sector, as an academic at the University of Auckland, and for his iwi, and now with Te Pīhopatanga o Aotearoa (the Māori Anglican Church) focusing on mātauranga (knowledge and ways of knowing). Since researching and presenting the historical documentary series The Prophets for Māori TV, he has gone on to become a significant media commentator on a range of critical topics.
Thursday 24 March 2022: Te Kupenga, casting a wide net
Chris Szekely & Michael Keith discussed the book that celebrates the Alexander Turnbull Library’s centenary – Te Kupenga 101 stories of Aotearoa from the Turnbull, sharing behind-the-scenes commentary on how the stories were selected from Turnbull’s net, including what happened to “the stories that got away” and what to expect as the net is adapted for use in New Zealand schools.
Chris Szekely has been Chief Librarian at the Turnbull since 2007, as well as being a children’s writer.
Thursday 21 April 2022: Ross Calman with Paul Diamond: Te Rauparaha: Restoring the mana of a manuscript
In addition to being the key source for Te Rauparaha’s life, Tamihana’s account offers fascinating insights into traditional Māori society during the ‘musket war’ era and the nature of contact between Europeans and Māori in the pre-Treaty era.
Ross Calman (Ngāti Toa, Ngāti Raukawa-ki-te-tonga, Ngāi Tahu) is a Wellington-based writer, editor and translator, and a descendant of Te Rauparaha. In this event, the Turnbull Library’s Curator Māori Paul Diamond was in conversation with Ross. They discussed the personal nature of the project, what is known about the circumstances of the manuscript’s creation and some of the challenges Ross faced in interpreting the manuscript, as well as the ongoing significance of Tamihana’s account for us today.
Tuesday 17 May 2022: Kaumātua Kōrero, the Diaries of Iraia te Ama o te Rangi Te Whāiti (1890-1918)
Recipient of the 2021 FoTL Research Grant, Pania Te Whāiti (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitaane, Ngāti Toa, Kāi Tahu), discussed her research project involving these diaries – the working notebooks of the South Wairarapa farmer and kaumātua who recorded (in te reo) 27 years of his life, his thoughts and his activities.
Unfolding against the backdrop of the activities of influential prophet Pāora Te Potangaroa, Iraia’s story tells of the alienation of Wairarapa land by the Crown, the alienation of the Wairarapa Lakes, the printing of the Te Puke Ki Hikurangi newspaper, the Kotahitanga political movement, the Great War, and the illnesses that devastated the Māori population, ending with the 1918 influenza pandemic that claimed Iraia’s life.
Tuesday, 9 Feb 2021, 5.30pm
Singing the Trail: The Story of Mapping Aotearoa New Zealand
John McCrystal of Wellington has worked as a freelance writer since 1996, contributing to most of New Zealand’s leading newspapers and magazines. Singing the Trail is the story of New Zealand through its maps – and the story of the explorers who made those maps.
John discussed oral maps made by early Polynesian and Maori settlers: waypoints, lists of places in songs, chants, karakia and stories that showed direction. Centuries later came the great navigators, Abel Tasman and then James Cook. And finally it was the turn of the surveyors, explorers, rockhounds, gold diggers and politicians to negotiate the internal detail. His lively talk showed why maps and charts have always fascinated him.
Tuesday, 23 Feb 2021, 6.00pm
Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond ONZ DBE:
“Knowledge is a Blessing on your Mind: Whakapapa, Science and History“
Anthropologist and historian Dame Anne is a staunch supporter of the Alexander Turnbull Library, and has drawn on material in the collections for many years. She is also an environmentalist, committed to the river restoration project, ‘Let the River Speak’, which looks at the ways people, water, land and animals can thrive together.
The FoTL 2020 FOUNDER LECTURE was rescheduled from 14 September 2020. It was recorded and we hope to have a link to it available soon.
Thursday, 18 March 2021, 5.30pm
Tooth and Veil: The life and times of the New Zealand dental nurse
Freelance journalist Noel O’Hare spoke about the School Dental Service (established 100 years ago in 1921) and the young women who worked as dental nurses in schools, enduring inferior conditions of low pay, a military style of management, and inadequate and antiquated equipment for more than 50 years.
Born in Northern Ireland, Noel O’Hare has lived and worked in New Zealand since the early 1970s, becoming a staff writer for the NZ Listener in the 1980s. He is the author of Think before you Swallow: The art of staying healthy in a health-obsessed world (2007) and How to Save the World by Recycling Your Sex Toys (2009). Until recently, he worked as a researcher and writer for the Public Service Association.
Thursday, 22 April 2021, 5.30pm
Crossing the Lines: A new history of New Zealand soldiers in WWII
Brent Coutts discussed the previously untold history of homosexual soldiers in World War II, drawing on the experience of Harold Robinson, Ralph Dyer and Douglas Morison, who were female impersonators in the Tui and Pacific Kiwi Concert Parties. From the men’s formative pre-war lives, through the difficult war years to their experiences in a post-war London, Coutts presented a story of strong friendships, a shared queer identity and love of performance, along with the search for love and belonging as homosexuals within both the civilian and military worlds.
A University of Otago graduate living in Auckland, Brent is the author of Protest in New Zealand (2013), Re-Reading the Rainbow (2017) and Pacific History (2018).
Friday 30 April 2021
Saving Randell Cottage
Members of the Randell Cottage Writers Trust, the Friends of Randell Cottage and the Friends of the Turnbull combined for a special screening of Saving Randell Cottage at the National Library of New Zealand, Ground floor Programme Rooms. Thorndon’s Randell Cottage has been established as a writers’ residence, and this story of generosity, diligent research and multiple visits to multiple garage sales, demolition yards and second-hand stores, has been retold in a new seven-minute video. Trustee Christine Hurley spoke about the making of the video and its place on the new Randell Cottage website, along with other new written and video content, including a video tour of the cottage. Cottage donor Beverley Randell spoke about the family’s history and connection with the Cottage. And current CNZ RCWT Writing Fellow Lynn Davidson outlined her goals for the residency.
Tuesday 18 May 2021
From Suffrage to a Seat in the House
Until now, the protracted struggle for women to achieve the right to a seat in Parliament has been a neglected footnote in Zealand’s proud history of being the first country to grant women the vote. Women’s path to Parliament was actively resisted by male politicians who had only grudgingly accepted the extension of the franchise to women as well as by women who accepted the argument that women’s presence in Parliament would somehow undermine their status. But there were some who, despite constant political machinations and filibustering from inside Parliament and charges of impropriety and splitting the women’s movement on the issue, persisted in what was to be a forty-year journey from suffrage to a seat in the House.
Jenny Coleman is an associate professor in feminist history at Massey University. She has previously published Mad or Bad? The Life and Exploits of Amy Bock 1859-1943 and Polly Plum, A firm and earnest woman’s advocate – Mary Ann Colclough 1836-1885 and has also edited and introduced a reprint of the earliest sensation novel written by a woman published in New Zealand, Mary Ann Colclough’s (1866) Alone in the World, A Tale of New Zealand.
Wednesday 21 July 2021
Kua mua, ka muri: Using our digital experiences to look back and move forward at the Alexander Turnbull Library
Mark Crookston (recently appointed Programme Director, Documentary Heritage; formerly Associate Chief Librarian) looked back on the ATL’s digital experiences to date and looked forward to the aspirations of a research library. He spoke about the key challenges and opportunities provided by digital – building representative research collections, addressing challenges of sustainability, and the scale and ephemeral nature of born digital. He discussed efforts to meet researcher expectations, work to build research communities, and the development of the staff skills and culture to meet the present and future digital shifts and requirements of being a digital research library.
28 July 2021
FOUNDER LECTURE 2021
IMAGE to IMAGINATION
Dame Gaylene Preston told of a lifetime of integrating archival footage into her feature films.
Leading New Zealand filmmaker and storyteller Dame Gaylene Preston is a national treasure, having produced and directed some of the most enduring popular classics of New Zealand cinema. Her compassion and understanding of real life and of real people, through film for over four decades, has contributed to her peerless reputation as a distinct local voice.
She explains: “In 1986 I began collecting women’s life stories on cassette tape. Around the same time, I discovered the pristine preserved black and white Weekly Revues shot by the precursor of the National Film Unit. That investigation became a lifelong pleasure.”
In her lecture Dame Gaylene used film clips to demonstrate how she has integrated archival footage into her feature films and TV series including HOME BY CHRISTMAS, War Stories Our Mothers Never Told Us, Bread & Roses, HOPE and WIRE and her Museum Suffrage Installation, HOT WORDS and BOLD RETORTS.
27 OCTOBER 2021
Behind the scenes at the Alexander Turnbull Library
Last year, journalist, oral historian and documentary producer/director Anna Cottrell was asked to make a five minute film on the history of the ATL. Five minutes? Not possible!
Anna discussed her recent film project taking her behind the scenes at the Alexander Turnbull Library, and showed the 15-minute documentary that focuses on the fascinating behind-the-scenes work of this amazing research library and its many treasures. See above (events recorded) for a link to Anna’s terrific short film.
Anna is a story teller who records personal stories often to illustrate a bigger picture. Her latest overseas trips were to Iran twice for The Kiwi, the Knight & the Qashqai, a documentary featuring the nomad weavers, the Qashqai, NZ’s oriental rug repairer, Anna Williams, and Sir David Attenborough. Also, during the World War I anniversary, Anna made 35 short ‘haiku’ documentaries for TV3 MediaWorks based on personal stories of women and men, Māori, Pākeha and a Chinese tunneller. She spent hours researching in the Katherine Mansfield Reading Room.
20 October 2021
What became of the Samuel Joseph family?
The large and boisterous Samuel Joseph family feature in two of Katherine Mansfield’s best known short stories, “Prelude” and “At the Bay”. KM made little attempt at disguise – they are the children of Amelia and Walter Nathan, who lived next door to the Beauchamps in Tinakori Road when KM was a small girl. Simon’s talk included short readings by Alison Lloyd Davies from Katherine Mansfield stories.
Well-known Wellington writer & science historian Simon Nathan is a grandson of Walter Nathan, who was the business partner of KM’s father, Sir Harold Beauchamp. Simon has uncovered a fascinating story, tracing the relationship between the two families and revealing the rather different lives of the children.
18 November 2021
Alexander Turnbull and the Book-Collecting Game
Anthony Tedeschi (ATL Curator Rare Books and Fine Printing) spoke on his time in the UK on a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship, delving into archival collections on the hunt for further evidence of Alexander Turnbull’s book-collecting practices. His talk highlighted some of the letters he unearthed between Turnbull and a few of his dealers as well as purchases made and not made.
Highlights from 2020:
In 2020, our first post-Covid-19 event was:
Wed 10 June 2020, 12.00-1.00pm, at Vic Books (Pipitea Campus), Rutherford House
‘Minnie Dean: Villain or Victim?’
Public talk – Friends of Turnbull Library / Ngā Hoa o te Whare Pukapuka Turnbull in association with Randell Cottage Writers Trust and Mākaro Press
Watch this session at home: now a video on YouTube. Link is Minnie Dean: Villain or Victim? – YouTube
Amaury da Cunha, the French writer in residence at Randell Cottage in Thorndon, spent much of his time working on a book about Minnie Dean the infamous ‘baby farmer’ in Southland, his research connecting him with Karen Zelas, the Christchurch author of The Trials of Minnie Dean: A Verse Biography, which is being developed into a one-woman play. Both authors were in conversation with publisher Mary McCallum, talking about their shared fascination and their research, which included use of the Alexander Turnbull Library and National Library archives. Minnie Dean’s story continues to fascinate people. She was the first – and only – woman to be hanged in New Zealand. But was she a baby farmer and child murderer, or hardworking wife and mother, supporting her family by caring for unwanted children in a society that shunned her?
On Thursday 30 July at 6.00pm: We welcomed Hon Grant Robertson, Associate Minister for Arts, Culture & Heritage, who came to help us celebrate the centenary of the opening of the Alexander Turnbull Library in 1920.
Celebrating 100 years since the 1920 public opening of the Alexander Turnbull Library: Turnbull’s Legacy: Tomorrow’s Heritage
Photo credit: Marcel Duque Cesar, National Library of New Zealand
ALSO LAST YEAR:
On Wednesday 18 March at 5.30pm
Derek Lightbourne presented ‘Islands of despair’
Fragile yet fearsome, New Zealand’s subAntarctic islands are home to otherworldly plants and wildlife. They have also seen two centuries’ worth of human triumphs and tragedies. Three-time subAntarctic voyager Derek Lightbourne took his audience on a fascinating journey to these wild islands via a slideshow recalling the struggles of would-be settlers and shipwrecked castaways.
Wellington author Shona Riddell was unable to attend to give her personal perspective, but Derek talked about Shona’s latest book ‘Trial of Strength, adventures and misadventures of the wild and remote subAntarctic islands‘ (which she researched in the Turnbull Library). She was able to obtain unpublished manuscripts and papers, including her great great grandmother Harriett Cripp’s 1851 birth certificate from Auckland Island, as well as written accounts of life during the same era.
On Wed 8 July at 5.30pm: Elspeth Sandys presented
A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley
Wellington novelist Elspeth Sandys (pictured right) has published nine novels, two collections of short stories and two memoirs. She has written extensively for the BBC and for RNZ as well as for TV and film.
A Communist in the Family: Searching for Rewi Alley is a beautifully written multi-layered narrative, part-biography, part-travel journal, part-literary commentary. She talked about Rewi’s family connections and the way that his many diary entries illuminate his experiences in China. By placing the man, Rewi, and his work in the context of his time, Elspeth gave us personal insights into the life of this extraordinary New Zealander.
On Thursday 27 August at 5.30pm: Elizabeth Kay presented
“Five years and 359 days with the 2nd NZ Division”
Elizabeth Kay talked about researching the story of her father, Sir Edward Norman, and 25 Battalion after reading Eddie’s war-time letters to her mother, Margaret. Her book, Eddie Norman and 25 Battalion, covers the journey of 2 NZ Division as it fought its way across North Africa and through Italy. Using Eddie’s letters and extensive further research, it tells a personal story in the wider context of WWII. Elizabeth is a well-known Wellington resident, with a Post Graduate Diploma in Art and Architecture from Victoria University of Wellington, where she taught History of Architecture for over a decade.
On Wed 2 September at 5.30pm, historian Rhys Richards spoke on
Wellington’s First Pākehā Arrivals: 1803-1839
Explorers and sailors, sealers and whalers, flax traders and land speculators: just who were the early European visitors and residents who made the region around Whanganui-a-Tara their home well before the arrival of the ‘official’ permanent settlers of Wellington in 1840? The nobs and snobs of the New Zealand Company sought to ignore all pākehā residents and visitors who were present before they began to replicate an ideal ‘English society’ in the new colony. Rhys Richards has devoted many years to researching the commercial explorers engaging in extensive trade with local Māori long before 1840. His new book, The First Pakehas Around Wellington and Cook Strait 1803 to 1839, seeks to bring these figures “out of the shadows of our nation’s history and to accord them the role they deserve in our local history.”
On Wednesday 28 October at 5.30pm – Sarah Shieff spoke on
Denis Glover & Allen Curnow: A Friendship in Letters
Sarah Shieff is Associate Professor of English in the School of Arts, University of Waikato. She was the recipient of the 2020 FoTL research grant, to assist her latest project to publish a collection of the letters of Allen Curnow ONZ CBE (1911-2001). She believes that publishing Curnow’s letters will go some way to make up for the fact that he never wrote his own autobiography.
Her Letters of Denis Glover (Otago University Press) is to be published in late November, and she has previously published Letters of Frank Sargeson (Random House 2012). As well as preparing a scholarly edition of Curnow’s letters for publication, she plans to develop a fully searchable database that will assist future scholars. Allen Curnow’s oldest and closest friend was Denis Glover, hence the subtitle of her talk: A Friendship in Letters.
Wednesday 11 Nov at 5.30pm: Paul Bensemann spoke on
‘FIGHT FOR THE FORESTS’
Paul Bensemann presented the remarkable story of how a group of young activists became aware of government plans to mill vast areas of West Coast beech forest and began campaigning to halt this.
From small beginnings, a larger movement grew, initially centred on the work of the Native Forests Action Council, and eventually Forest and Bird and Native Forest Action. Paul explained that he had spent time at the Turnbull Library, using the Sir Charles Fleming and Action for Environment collections. He also interviewed many campaigners and collected old photographs to supplement photographer Craig Potton’s beautiful forest scenes. The book was a finalist in the 2019 Ockham NZ Book Awards.
Tuesday 24 November at 5.30pm:
Cristina Sanders spoke on JERNINGHAM
Edward Jerningham Wakefield was the wayward, headstrong ‘wild-child’ of the Wakefield family that set up the New Zealand Company to bring the first settlers to this country. His story is told through the eyes of bookkeeper Arthur Lugg, who is tasked by Colonel William Wakefield to keep tabs on his brilliant but unstable nephew. But trouble brews between settlers, government, missionaries and Māori over land and souls and rights, and Jerningham is at the heart of it. Alive with historical detail, Jerningham tells a vivid and important story of Wellington’s colonial beginnings and of a charismatic young man’s rise and inevitable fall.
Cristina Sanders’ book “Jerningham” was published by The Cuba Press in June 2020.
Some of our events have been recorded. To view a recorded event, follow these links:
Into native seas: Europeans encounter an Indigenous ocean
(Speaker: Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa, on the occasion of the annual Founder Lecture, hosted by the Friends of Turnbull Library) Recorded on 28 June 2019 – coming soon!
(Speakers: Mary McCallum, Karen Zelas and Amaury da Cunha; co-hosted by the Friends of Turnbull Library, Randell Cottage Writers Trust, and Mākaro Press) Recorded on 20 June 2020
(Speaker: Distinguished Professor Dame Anne Salmond ONZ DBE, on the occasion of the 2020 Founder Lecture, hosted by the Friends of Turnbull Library) Recorded on 23 Feb 2021
(Speaker: Dame Gaylene Preston, on the occasion of the 2021 Founder Lecture, hosted by the Friends of Turnbull Library) Transcript presented on 28 July 2021 – with some (but not all) short movie clips inserted
(Speaker: Simon Nathan; excerpts from Katherine Mansfield stories read by Alison Lloyd Davies; hosted by the Friends of Turnbull Library) Recorded on 20 October 2021
(The event hosted by the Friends of Turnbull Library on 27 October 2021 showed this short documentary, A Century of Wonder, produced by the Turnbull Endowment Trust in 2020.)
See here for Previous FoTL public talks
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