New initiative focuses on Auckland's history

18 August 2017
Auckland City viewed from the harbour

A new initiative focused on understanding Auckland's past in all its diversity and vibrancy is being launched at the University of Auckland.

The Auckland History Initiative aims to start what many claim is a much needed conversation about Auckland's past.

"We want to reach out and connect to Auckland's many history and heritage communities and start an energetic conversation,” says one of the initiative's directors, Professor of History, Linda Bryder.

"There's a little bit of a disconnect at the moment between academic history and heritage and yet history matters and feeds into our city's present day problems."

Linda says there are no definitive social histories on Auckland and the Auckland Province, which originally extended from Northland to Waikato.

"Big thematic areas such as the city's housing, education, health and environmental history, for example, have hardly been touched."

Likewise, she says a lot of "wonderful archives" in the community libraries, Auckland City Council, the Auckland Museum and the University's own Special Collections are not being used.

"We want to engage with local historians and archival resources and get academics — in particular our graduate and undergraduate students — helping to ask questions and get research projects underway. And we want to make sure scholarship is there."

The initiative includes planning a new undergraduate course in historical research, which will be focused on encouraging students to use archival sources from Auckland museums, galleries and libraries.

There will also be seminars, symposia and opportunities for local historians and the heritage sector to engage with the University.

The first major event of the initiative was the launch of Emeritus Professor Russell Stone's memoir As It Was: Growing up in Grey Lynn and Ponsonby Between the Wars.

"Russell's book is a good place for the Auckland History Initiative to start,” says Linda. "When you read this book you learn so much about Auckland's social, cultural, economic and political history without realising it."

"Russell, who can be considered the 'father of Auckland History' brings his historical training to bear as he moves seamlessly from the personal to the social and historical context. And that is where the conversation starts. For example, how many people writing their memories and remembering their dad's second-hand car would then research the New Zealand Herald to see just what kind of cars were for sale and at what price?"

Auckland History Initiative