Wednesday, 22 April 2009

New Zealand’s WWII Pacific stories available online

The New Zealand Electronic Text Centre is pleased to be able to make available online the histories of the New Zealand Third Division, covering the activities of New Zealanders in the Pacific during the Second World War.

The digitisation of these texts provides the most complete picture of the activities of New Zealanders in the Pacific during WWII. Being printed more than 50 years ago in relatively small quantities, these texts are now difficult to access and a complete set may go for more than $500 at auction.

Although many people know about the activities of New Zealand troops in the northern hemisphere during WWII, it is often forgotten that New Zealand's undertakings in the Pacific were comparable in terms of scale and importance. More than 38,000 New Zealand troops embarked to serve in the Pacific during the war (compared with around 59,000 for the northern hemisphere), and a number of these were wounded or killed in battle.

Many New Zealand families have fathers and grand-fathers who served in the Pacific, and now that these texts are digitised they will now be able to learn more about the role these men played in defending their country. As other commentators have noted, there seems to be an increasing awareness and interest among the public of the activities of New Zealanders in the war, particularly as many of these former soldiers are now passing away.
Attendances at ANZAC day services have been steadily increasing, and it seems that New Zealand's participation in the war is strongly bound up in our sense of national identity.

As a nation our thinking about New Zealand's role in the Second world War has been influenced by the fifty-volume Official History of which the Pacific activities are covered in a single volume. However, important though this work is, it underplays the scale and significance of New Zealand's contribution in the Pacific during the war.

At the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre we often receive feedback and queries about the texts that we have previously digitised concerning New Zealand's activities in the Second World War, and the 73,000+ page views of this content within the last month lead us to believe that the Third Divsion histories will be as well-received by the New Zealand public.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Cyclopedias of New Zealand online

We are happy to announce that all six volumes of the Cyclopedia of New Zealand are now available online.

These six volumes were published between 1897 and 1908, and present a glimpse of life in New Zealand at the turn of the twentieth century. There are around 20,000 people profiled in these texts, many of whom have biographical notes and photographs providing a snapshot of their activities and achievements.

The six volumes are:
The aim of The Cyclopedia, stated the publishers in the Preface to Volume One, was to “place on record plain facts regarding the settlement and progress of the Colony”. Notwithstanding this ideal, it is important to note that members of the public paid to feature in The Cyclopedia and supplied the compilers with their histories and personal details. The information they provided was as accurate as memory—and honesty—permitted. Not surprisingly, the portraits are invariably flattering: in the publishers' words, “the compilers have recognised the advisability of representing the various subjects of notice as they individually appeared to themselves and their friends, in their best and happiest moments, rather than as they might have appeared to their enemies, at their worst.” Similarly, many of the business entries are unashamedly promotional—business owners were, effectively, buying advertising for their products and services. Individuals who would not or could not pay the fee required to feature in The Cyclopedia are not included—there are few entries for women, Māori or non-European settlers for example.

We hope that having these texts online in a structured digitial form will present a great resource for researchers and genealogists.