What’s on: Events







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 – at the Tiakiwai Conference Centre, National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, Aitken Street entrance (corner of Molesworth Street, Thorndon, Wellington).

Programme of Events 2017 

Programme of public talks, February-June 2017

All public lectures are free, although donations are welcome.

For the latest news, see the Bulletin Board.

— — — — — — — — — —

Thursday 9 February at 5.30pm

Serendipity and Palimpsests: Re-imagining Colenso and his contemporaries

Dr Sydney Shep, co-curator of an exhibition (which closed on 9 March) at Turnbull Gallery titled Unexpected Connections: Colenso and his contemporaries, took a fresh look at the multi-layered world of 19th century polymaths like William Colenso who lived rich interconnected, transnational lives that populate the pockets and corners of our nineteenth century re-imaginings and who remain challenging figures for biographers and historians alike. 

— — — — — — — — — —

Wednesday 22 March at 5.30pm

Murder: A New Zealand social history


Christchurch sociologist Dr Jarrod Gilbert – who received the 2016 FoTL Research Grant – is the author of Patched: The History of Gangs in New Zealand. His talk about his research on his current project, a book titled Murder: A New Zealand History, engaged his audience and provoked lively debate about murder trials and the social climate that surrounds them.


— — — — — — — — — —

Tuesday 11 April at 5.30pm

Te Oka — Pakeha Kaumatua: The life of Jock McEwen

McEwen-2_for website 

Dr Mary McEwen is a retired ecolgist and a writer. Her biography of Jock McEwen (her father-in-law) gives many insights into the complex nature of this man and his times. Jock McEwen – administrator, historian, linguist, master carver and composer – was a significant figure in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands for more than half a century.


— — — — — — — — — —

Wednesday 10 May at 5.30pm

Shirley Smith and the Mongrel Mob



Auckland oral historian and biographer Sarah Gaitanos – the author of biographies of Nola Millar and violinist Clare Galambos Winter – is working on a biography of the trail-blazing human rights lawyer and activist Shirley Smith. She will talk about Shirley Smith’s own assessment of her legal career, when (reflecting on her life) she suggested that her advocacy for her “boys” in the Mongrel Mob in the 1970s and 1980s was among the most satisfying things she had ever done.


— — — — — — — — — —

Tuesday 27 June at 6.00pm


FOOTNOTES TO HISTORY: How does the historian get from footnotes to text? Or vice versa? Malcolm McKinnon draws on his experience researching and writing New Zealand economic history to probe the often unpredictable journey from the archive to the book.

Malcolm McKinnon is a Wellington historian. His most recent publication is The Broken Decade: Prosperity, Depression and Recovery in New Zealand, 1928-39 (Otago University Press, 2016). He is also the author of Treasury: the New Zealand Treasury 1840-2000 (Auckland University Press, 2003). He was the general editor of the New Zealand Historical Atlas (1997), wrote the content for the library’s online millenium project, Te Waimano, and has written extensively for Te Ara, the online encyclopedia of New Zealand, www.teara.govt.nz .

— — — — — — — — — —

Looking back:

Programme of Events, February-November 2016

Thursday, 18 February at 5.30pm

Measured Works: Surveying Wellington

Mark BagnallMark Bagnall, Curator ATL Cartographic Collections, talked about his research for the February exhibition at the Turnbull Gallery.

The first plans for the settlement of Wellington, drawn up in London in 1839, were probably more marketing-focussed, and gave quite vague directives for early surveyors from 1840 onwards. (Left: Mark Bagnall)


— — — — — — — — — —

Wednesday, 30 March at 5.30 pm

Mr Explorer Douglas and his giant geological maps of South Westland

Detail_Douglas map

Detail of the huge map of South Westland

Simon Nathan, science historian and biographer of Wellington – himself a geologist – discussed the achievements of Charles Douglas, one of New Zealand’s most accomplished – but least known – explorers, who devoted himself to the detailed exploration and mapping of Westland. Charles Douglas’s map of Westland remains on display on the Lower Ground floor of the National Library of New Zealand, Aitken Street entrance.



— — — — — — — — — —


Wednesday, 13 April at 5.30 pm

‘Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Settler: Garrison and Empire in the 19th century’

Charlotte Macdonald, Wellington historian & university professor, talked about her current research project, which aims at putting a face to the British army and navy presence in colonial New Zealand. Read more about the project on Soldiers of Empire

— — — — — — — — — —

Thursday, 19 May at 5.30 pm

A H Turnbull and ‘that most entertaining little man, Dr Hocken’

Donald Kerr, biographer of the famous NZ collector who lived in Dunedin from 1862 until his death in 1910, spoke on his research. Dr Thomas Hocken was a contemporary of Alexander Turnbull, and accumulated the extraordinary treasures forming the basis of the Hocken Library – now in the University of Otago.

— — — — — — — — — —

Wednesday 15 June at 6.00pm
 The 2016 FOTL Founder Lecture

Moss and Mason: some reflections on writing literary biography

Wellington writer, biographer and historian Rachel Barrowman discussed the research for her acclaimed biographies of RAK Mason and Maurice Gee. Rachel is the author of The Turnbull: a library and its world.

— — — — — — — — — —

Tuesday 5 July at 6.00pm
 The AGM of the Friends of the Turnbull Library

National Librarian Bill Macnaught

Following the business of the AGM, Bill Macnaught talked about the future directions of the National Library of New Zealand / Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa, looking ahead to 2020.

— — — — — — — — — —

 Tuesday 23 August at 5.30pm

Helen Clark – Secretary-General of the United Nations?

Wellington political analyst and researcher Ken Ross shared some insights from his research on former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who was a contender for the top job at the United Nations in New York.

— — — — — — — — — —

Tuesday 14 September at 5.30pm


From left: Bill Sheat, Peter Bland, Sunny Amey, Laurie Atkinson and Murray Lynch

The contribution of Wellington’s Downstage to theatre in New Zealand

A panel discussion was held, featuring:

Peter Bland, poet, playwright, co-founder of Downstage

Sunny Amey, former director of Downstage

Bill Sheat, lawyer, co-founder of Downstage

Laurie Atkinson, recently retired theatre reviewer

Chair: Murray Lynch, Director of Playmarket, former director of Downstage

 — — — — — — — — — —

Tuesday 11 October at 5.30pm

Dr Lydia Wevers, Director of the Stout Research Centre, spoke on Reading TROLLOPE in New Zealand.

— — — — — — — — — —

Programme of Events, February-November 2015

Wednesday 4 February at 5.30pm


Professor Atholl Anderson


Dr Aroha Harris

Professor Atholl Anderson and Dr Aroha Harris, described the huge research project that became Tangata Whenua: An Illustrated Historypublished by Bridget Williams Books in November 2014. New perspectives on Maori history, to commemorate the 175th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.




— — — — — — — — — —

Wednesday 11 March at 5.30pm
Once on Chunuk Bair: Cultural artefact of the 1980s?


Dr Lucy Treep

Auckland researcher Lucy Treep, now working on a biography of Maurice Shadbolt, spoke about Shadbolt’s only play, Once on Chunuk Bair. The play dramatises events that occurred on Turkey’s Gallipoli peninsula in August 1915. At the time Shadbolt said that the play was intended to be a ‘monument’ to the men who died at Gallipoli but in 1989 he also suggested that the play was ‘really about New Zealanders and New Zealand seventy years on’ from 1915.  Dr Treep is a graduate of the University of Auckland with a degree in architecture and a PhD in English.

— — — — — — — — — —

Thursday 30 April at 5.30pm  

The First World War and the Pacific


Damon Salesa at the National Library on 30 April 2015


Toeolesulusulu Damon Salesa, Associate Professor of Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland, spoke on Pacific perspectives of the First World War. He stressed that, although it is typically seen as a European war, it was global and imperial, with important dimensions and engagements in the Pacific. Many lasting legacies of the war—for New Zealand, especially—took place much closer to home. For New Zealand, Samoa was where the first act of the war occurred.



— — — — — — — — — —

Thursday 14 May at 5.30pm
 The Future of the Past? Collecting internet and other born digital heritage at the Alexander Turnbull Library

Mark Crookston, Digital Collection Strategy Leader at the ATL, spoke about the born digital and internet collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, looking back over seven years since the launch of the National Digital Heritage Archive. He discussed aspects of the role the research library of the futurein enabling society to understand the past.

— — — — — — — — — —

Wednesday 17 June at 5.30pm

Ken Ross spoke on David Lange’s ‘diplomatic’ journey from the Oxford Union to Yale


Left: David Lange hosts Paul Eddington (‘Yes Minister’ actor), 28 January 1988.

Ken Ross discussed his assessment of David Lange alongside the trio of our other best prime ministers internationally since 1945 – Norm Kirk, Jim Bolger and Helen Clark. (See Bulletin Board) He concludes that David Lange warrants a biography written by someone with the talent of John Mulgan or Michael King.

__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

Wednesday 22 July at 6.00pm
 The 2015 FOTL Founder Lecture

Tales from the digital frontier: Developing Te Ara, the world’s first national encyclopedia on the web

Wellington writer, digital communicator and historian Jock Phillips spoke on his role in developing and eventually completing the huge online project, Te Ara, Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Jock received the 2014 Prime Minister’s Award for Literary Achievement in Non-fiction. Looking back on the design and development of Te Ara, Jock offered insights into the editing challenges of this enormously successful website, www.TeAra.govt.nz

This 2015 Founder Lecture was held at the Aronui lecture room of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Wellington.

— — — — — — — — — —

Tuesday 4 August at 5.30pm
Tea, Zen and Cosmic Anatomy: The mysticism of Katherine Mansfield

In this FoTL talk, Gerri Kimber explored Katherine Mansfield’s spiritual development during her life, culminating in her decision to enter Gurdjieff’s ‘Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man’ in Fontainebleau in the autumn of 1922, claiming that ‘I want to be all that I am capable of becoming so that I may be – […] a child of the sun’.  Gerri Kimber is Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Northampton, and Chair of the international Katherine Mansfield Society. Gerri is the recipient of the Friends of Turnbull Library Research Grant for 2015.

— — — — — — — — — —

Tuesday 8 September at 5.30pm
New Zealand Publishing Today

Fergus for website

Wellington publisher Fergus Barrowman MNZM discussed aspects of New Zealand publishing from his perspective of 30 years as Publisher of Victoria University Press.

Fergus is a literary commentator and is editor of the literary journal Sport, which he co-founded in 1988 with Elizabeth Knox, Damien Wilkins and Nigel Cox. Fergus was awarded the NZ Order of Merit for services to publishing, in June 2014.


— — — — — — — — — —

Tuesday 8 September at 5.30pm

The Rona: a significant historical racing yacht

Peter_Scott_OctPeter Scott, a former National Librarian, came along with Philippa Durkin, from the Rona Preservation Trust to talk about the preservation and conservation of a very special old lady: the classic kauri racing yacht Rona which was built in 1892 for wealthy merchant and benefactor Alexander Turnbull. The Rona has continued to sail and be raced but she does need more work now.

Peter Scott is particularly interested in the history of the Rona, and is currently chairing the fund-raising sub-committee for the deck restoration project.

— — — — — — — — — —

Tuesday 10 November at 5.30pm

You Don’t Travel in China at the Full Moon: Agnes Moncrieff and China, 1930-1945


Wellington researcher and former teacher Barbara Francis (pictured) discussed Nessie Moncrieff’s life in China. Agnes ‘Nessie’ Moncrieff had an interesting life. She graduated MA from Victoria University College and represented NZ at a World Student Christian Federation Conference in Beijing in 1922. After three years as a Travelling Secretary for the NZ Student Christian Movement and four years teaching at Feilding Agricultural High School, she trained with the NZ YWCA in order to return to China in 1930 as an International Secretary with the YWCA of China until 1945. She wrote weekly letters to family and friends and monthly reports to NZ YWCA during these 15 years in China, covering her involvement with YWCA and her experiences in China.

— — — — — — — — — —

Thursday 19 November at 5.30pm

The Maori Land March forty years on … 


Paul Diamond, Curator Maori at the Alexander Turnbull Library, spoke about the exhibition (showing until 4 December 2015) in the Turnbull Gallery, “Not One More Acre”, commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Maori Land March – which set off from Te Hapua to march to Wellington in 1975. The impact of the march has been far-reaching, and the images of Dame Whina Cooper and her mokopuna quickly reached iconic status.

— — — — — — — — — —

All public lectures are free, although donations are welcome.

For the latest news, see the Bulletin Board.