This article was first published in the Greymouth Star, the newspaper covering the Westland region.
Westland explorer Charles Douglas was noted for his cynicism and wry sense of humour so it would be interesting to know what he would have said about his geological maps of Westland being exhibited as Wellington treasures.
The two huge maps have pride of place in the Archives New Zealand exhibition for the Wellington 150 celebrations even though they commemorate a corner of the world far removed from life in New Zealand’s capital city. This is the first time the maps have been exhibited publicly in over 100 years
Born to a wealthy Scottish family, Charles Douglas was too restless to settle down to life as a banker in Edinburgh. Sailing for Otago in 1862, where he worked briefly as a cadet on a farm, he was soon on the move again.
In Westland he found the place he had been looking for. Musing on his life in his ‘Soliloquy Letter’ of 1902, he wrote of the impulse that had driven him out into the world. An excerpt from the letter reads: “… but the desire to settle down must have been omitted. As here I am, after forty years, mostly crouched under a piece of calico or a sheet of bark a homeless almost friendless vagabond, with a past that has little to show – to the general public at least - of work done, and a dreary future. Still I have never regretted the life I have been leading and can see that even if I and hundreds of others fail in life and perhaps die miserably, the impulse which impells some people to search for knowledge in the unknown is for the benefit of the world and cheaply bought at any price … I have now been wandering about the uninhabited parts of New Zealand for over five & thirty years always finding something in nature new to me & the world. Whether I’ll ever give what I have found to the world, or leave it for someone to publish after I am dead, I neither know nor do I care.”
During a lifetime spent exploring the wilds of Westland, Charles Douglas became the stuff of local legend. He has left the region a wonderful legacy of diaries, reports and field books crammed with detailed information of local fauna and flora, exquisite paintings and acerbic commentary on life. His geological maps brought together all the data he had collected during his life as an explorer.
The story is best told by Charles Douglas in his own words, with his unique spelling preserved. In 1896, in a letter to his friend and fellow explorer Arthur Harper he wrote of the Hokitika to Okarito map: “I have been six months in Hokitika making up my geological map of Westland. It was a ponderous undertaking for one man to draw out a map eighteen feet long & five broad. It took me two months to arrange my old tracings and collect field books &c before commencing. It is now finished, but it is sealed up either till I die or finish overhauling the numberless reefs and lodes I know of & which are marked down in the map. There is a prospecting boom on at present, and I am not quite so green as to show the public my discoveries, till I find out whether they are any good. So I am now as it were washing up as the diggers say. Whether I will be able to finish I am doubtfull, as I am braking up fast, and whatever happens I’ll come out of it a cripple … Then no doubt some fraud will get hold of my map & notes & get any credit that is to be got out of them.”
The first map (Hokitika to Okarito) was completed in 1896. Two years later Douglas was busy exploring in the glaciers region and the Whataroa, Totara and Waitangi valleys. He spent the winters in Hokitika working on his second geological map (Okarito to Big Bay) which he finished in 1906.
In all Douglas spent almost 40 years exploring the valleys of Westland from the mountains to the sea, enduring incredibly tough conditions. While his employers wanted him to find exploitable minerals and passes through the mountains, his own interests were much wider ranging. His interest in wildlife and conservation is apparent in his writing as is his interest in the diverse people of Westland.
Mildred Mueller, the daughter of his friend, surveyor Gerhard Mueller, said this of his work on the Okarito to Big Bay map: “(it) must be Douglas’s Swan Song. It could only have been done by someone who had all the time in the world, and few duties; which was Douglas’ condition for some time as he gradually became less & less able to do anything. It is beautiful – beautiful in colour and workmanship – detailed to the last degree. One can imagine that poor lonely-hearted man putting his soul into it – each detail of each valley, each river curve, mountain mass and mineral contents being put in with the remembrance of the thrills and intense interest the discovery & exploration of things gave him. In doing it, he must have escaped from the office, in spirit, and re-travelled hundreds of miles, hearing and seeing again (as aging people do, who work upon their past) all the loveliness, all the surprises, as well as the hardships that were theirs.”
Both maps were displayed by the Mines Department in the New Zealand International Exhibition in Christchurch in 1906-07. After this they disappeared from view and given Douglas’s cynical views on bureaucracy, this seems particularly ironic. They somehow made their way to the Lands and Survey Department in Wellington from whence they were transferred to Archives New Zealand in 1976. Labelled just as “Two Maps” they resided in obscurity for the next 40 years. After a request by a researcher, a Wellington archivist spent several days digging through records of transfers from Lands and Survey and they were eventually found.
Obviously it was Douglas’s own intention that the maps should be kept from public view for a while, but he would surely have been amused that bureaucratic error and indifference kept them hidden for over a century.
The Douglas maps are easy to find now. They are listed on Archives New Zealand’s online finding aid www.archway.archives.govt.nz . And with the best technology the twenty first century has to offer, Archives New Zealand also has available high resolution digital facsimiles. There’s nothing like the originals though and these maps are truly treasures.
The display “Capturing Conflict” will be run in parallel with the WW1 in Watercolours at Splash Watercolour exhibition held at the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul opening April 18th and running until May 3rd.
Archives New Zealand will be supporting the WW1 in Watercolours at Splash Watercolour exhibition with the Capturing Conflict Display. The display will include scanned images from a number of our war art watercolours.
The display at Archives New Zealand will open on Monday 13th April and run until mid-July 2015.
The Author Jenny Haworth will be speaking in the Display area outside the Constitution Room on Thursday 16th and Friday 17th from 1pm to 2pm on the war art artists and their works that are held at Archives New Zealand.
The display at Archives New Zealand will include the following paintings,
Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 456
Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 494
Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 415
Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 532
Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA 539
Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA Q407
Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA Q408
Ref: AAAC 898 NCWA Q202
As part of the official New Zealand WW100 programme, Archives New Zealand is involved in a Twitter project called Life 100 Years Ago. The project brings to life quotes from diaries, letters, and newspapers which are shared in ‘real time’ exactly 100 years on from the actual events – reliving history from the perspective of New Zealanders who were experiencing it at the time.
From 9 April, Archives New Zealand will be adding its own unique voice to the project by sharing excerpts from the 1915 Gallipoli Campaign.
A divisional diary of the campaign was created from 9 April – 31 August 1915, with entries made from the official Unit diary of the NZ & AUS Division, as well as the reports of Major General Alexander Godley (Commander of the Division), Major General William Braithwaite (Mediterranean Expeditionary Force) and Lieutenant General William Birdwood (Commander of the ANZAC Corps).
Written from the perspective of these officers, the diary complements the personal accounts of soldiers and nurses at Gallipoli, and contains artillery reports, official orders, statistics of casualties, and other campaign information
The tweets allow us to experience some of what happened 100 years ago at Gallipoli. ‘At dawn… the roar of guns at the entrance to the Dardanelles was deafening’ recalled the first entry for 25 April. By the end of the day, the diary noted major casualties, including ‘Lt Col Plugge, commanding Auckland Battalion,’ who was ‘wounded by a bullet which lodged in his wrist… Fighting had been continuous… our troops, considerably outnumbered, had difficulty holding on.’
Follow the tweets at www.twitter.com/ANZACDiary, or check out the diary itself, which has been digitised and is available at http://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE24596025
Archives New Zealand have put together a montage of moving images from its collections of New Zealanders during World War One to honour those who served and died in the Great War.
The 90 second video on YouTube starts and ends with an excerpt of the Ode of Remembrance, the famous fourth stanza from For the Fallen, a poem by the English poet and writer Laurence Binyon.
As part of its support of next year’s World War One commemorations Archives New Zealand is also working to publish online the personnel file of every one of the 160,740 people who served in World War One, where New Zealand Defence Force records exist.
Archives New Zealand is heavily involved in social media projects that aim to bring history alive from the perspective of New Zealanders who lived through the experienced.
The Chief Archivist has decided to review recordkeeping practices of the Prime Minister in regard to text messages which may/may not be considered public records between the period November 2008 and November 2014 in relation to a request about a possible breach of the Public Records Act 2005 (the Act).
The Recordkeeping Review terms of reference are as follows:
Based on statements relating to the deletion of text messages made by the Prime Minister in the House of Representatives on 27 November 2014, James Shaw MP requested an investigation regarding what he considers to be a potential breach of the Public Records Act 2005. The request was to cover the period that the Prime Minister has been in office, and whether there has been any change in his practices over time. Mr Shaw has also asked for the Chief Archivist to provide direction and guidelines on the deletion or retention of text messages.
The review will examine:
- Any recordkeeping policies and procedures for managing text messages, supplied by relevant public offices during the period concerned;
- Whether the requirements of the Act have been met;
- The application of existing authorised disposal schedules;
- The adequacy of advice or guidance provided to the Prime Minister; and
- Any other matters the Chief Archivist considers appropriate to review.
The use of private mobile phones and devices and personal text messages on ministerial phones and devices are explicitly excluded from the scope of this review.
Under s31(a) of the Act, the Chief Archivist may give notice in writing directing the administrative head of a public office to report on any specified aspect of its recordkeeping practice.
4. Contact for enquiries
The Chief Archivist will not comment while the review is underway, but will publish a final report when the review is complete.
Readiness and Sacrifice an exhibition at Archives New Zealand’s Dunedin Regional Office highlights the personal and official memories of the Otago and Southland war experience.
The exhibition coincides with the 100 years anniversary of when volunteers left Dunedin to enlist in the Great War and is a small contribution to the many events and commemorations currently happening throughout New Zealand says exhibition curator Archivist Vivienne Cuff.
Featuring soldiers letters home and other archives the exhibition paints a vivid picture of the life and times of those who went to war, says Vivienne.
“Motivation to create the exhibition came from reflecting on the sacrifice made by members of my own family,” she says.
“My grandfather, John Clarence Cuff, was wounded at Gallipoli. His identification tags are included in the exhibition. As well, my great uncle Robert William Cuff was killed in action at Grevillers, France, in April 1918. I have their photographs, plus Robert’s war diary documenting his voyage overseas in 1917 on the troopship Waitemata.
“Putting the exhibition together has been both exhausting and emotional, but I am pleased the result gives a poignant insight into the lives of the many people who went to war,” she says.
Vivienne Cuff, Archivist, is holding the letter from the Minister of Defence to Oswald Stead's father informing him that his son had died after serving at Gallipoli.
Included in the exhibition are:
- Alexander Mee’s war diary describing life on the troopship and training in England in 1917
- the letters home from soldiers on the frontline
- official communications, such as a telegram or letter, families received informing them that their relative had died, or were missing or killed in action
- the contributions of Kempthorne Prosser (a local drug manufacturing company), Dunedin Medical School and Dunedin Hospital in fitting out the hospital ship Maheno
- the work of the Otago Military Service Board and the implementation of the Military Service Act 1916
- a National Film Unit film clip depicting the battlefields, equipment, and soldiers’ experiences.
The exhibition runs until 24 December 2014 and the Dunedin office is open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 5.00pm.
The story of Alexander Mee
Included in Alexander Mee’s file are poignant letters sent by him to his wife Jessie. Jessie and Alexander had married in February 1917 and were expecting a child. Alexander writes of his war experiences in the trenches and his yearning to return home to see Jessie. He was killed on 12 October 1917, at the battle of Passchendele. A later Court of Enquiry found him: ‘Missing Believed Killed’.
The Alexander Mee Service file: http://ndhadeliver.natlib.govt.nz/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE18761162
The Alexander Mee Online Exhibition: http://gallery.archives.govt.nz/v/dunedin/Alexander+Mee/
Caption: A page from Alexander Mee’s war diary, [Archives References: DAAC 9075 D239/363 – 4956].
Thursday, 7 June 1917
At Sea. Weather good Cold Wind. Lost our job on Coal through going to Sports. Washing clothes
Morning. Vaccination inspected. Afternoon & Physical Drill
Going on guard 6-Pm Third Relief
Slept on Deck
Friday, 8 June 1917
At Sea. Weather Good on Guard all day 8 to 10 & 2 to 4 hours A Coy Sports.
Between 3 & ½ past we sighted the escort 10 Torpedo Destroyers moving at full speed.
It a fine sight, the troopships all fell into single file.
The destroyers are all round us took 2 snaps of them
Slept on Deck
Friday September 19 is Suffrage Day marking 121 years of women’s suffrage in this country.
In 1893, New Zealand became the first nation in the world to grant women the right to vote and people are invited to visit Archives New Zealand’s Wellington office to see the original Suffrage Petition.
The petition is on display in the Constitution Room, along with the 1840 Tiriti o Waitangi and other significant national documents. Opening hours are 9.00am to 5.00pm Monday to Friday.
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Public offices made substantive recordkeeping progress during 2011/12, with the public offices audited meeting the requirements of the Public Records Act 2005, says Chief Archivist Marilyn Little.
The audits were summarised in the Chief Archivist’s report State of Government Recordkeeping and Public Records Act 2005 audits 2011/12 which has now been tabled in Parliament.
Commenting on the report Marilyn Little said, “it’s pleasing to note that in only the second year of a five year audit programme public offices were increasingly aware of their requirements and responsibilities under the Act and were taking positive steps to build their recordkeeping capability.
“Awareness of the requirements under the Act was high among the audited organisations."
“Good recordkeeping practices assist organisations to better manage business risks and ensure records are maintained to uphold government accountability and transparency.”
A total of 43 randomly selected public offices were independently audited in 2011/12. Public offices are audited on a five-year cycle, with 200 being audited by the completion of the cycle in July 2015.
The report includes the Chief Archivist’s recommendations for managing records in times of change and disaster, the value of digitisation in records management, and disposing of routine records coupled with the transfer of important ones to the archives. The report also acknowledges the impact of cloud computing.
The report combines both the annual state of recordkeeping and audit reports required by the Public Records Act in a single document.
Marilyn Little said Archives New Zealand had an active education and advisory programme in place to assist organisations develop and maintain robust recordkeeping standards.
More information including useful tools and training is on the Archives New Zealand website. Work is underway now to ensure a timelier finalisation of the reports for 2012/13 and subsequent years.
Ngā Tapuwae - the Footprints - is the newsletter of Archives New Zealand. It tells the stories of our people, our work and achievements. The April issue of Ngā Tapuwae is out now.
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