Monday, 15 October 2007

Against Indifference, De Luxe Glory and the Cult of the Arty-Crafty: The New Zealand Design Review Online Archive

In a 1950 editorial the "New Zealand Design Review" identified the "horrible forces ranged against good design" as Indifference, Cheapness First, Unnecessary Novelty, Mass Production, De Luxe Glory, and the cult of the Arty-Crafty. The bimonthly "New Zealand Design Review" was published by the Architecture Centre from 1948 to 1954. A complete online archive of the journal has just been launched by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre and the Wellington Architecture Centre. All 29 issues are now freely available online where users can search and read the full text of articles as well as browse the many photographs and design illustrations.

The "New Zealand Design Review" addressed design topics as broad as furniture, town planning, theatre and stage design, packaging, church design, book-binding, poster design, industrial design and of course architecture. It was the first journal of its kind in New Zealand, reflecting an interest in architecture, design and the arts in the broadest sense.

The editorial of April/May 1949 explicitly asked the question "What is Design?", answering this with a statement about the purpose of the Design Review:
"Like everything that has to do with the arts, design cannot be tested for its quality in a laboratory … The elusive quality that a consensus of opinion agrees to call good design is not to be defined in terms like an axiom in geometry … So we will leave the making of formulas and rules to those who like that sort of thing ... we shall publish in each number a discussion on some particular object; a house, a chair, a teapot or what have you. The contributor will tell you his or her opinion about the merits or demerits of the way that thing is designed, omitting any waving of the big stick to lay down laws of design. It is for you to decide if you think they are right."

The project to make this content available in a digital format has been a collaboration between the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre (, the Wellington Architecture Centre ( and the Architecture and Design Library, Victoria University of Wellington ( We are also grateful to the Alexander Turnbull Library who allowed the digitisation of two issues of the Review which we would not have otherwise been able to include in the online collection.

The "New Zealand Design Review" archive is online

New Texts

Several new texts have been added to the NZETC online collection. They include historical essays on mathematics in New Zealand, an early Maori Grammar and the text of two lectures given in 1851 by the Methodist missionary Thomas Buddle. The full list is given below.

In addition the NZETC collection is now enriched by links to articles in Te Ao Hou. The links are to articles by authors who are also represented in the NZETC collection. For example the topic page for Rewiti Kohere includes links to three texts in the NZETC collection and four articles he contributed to Te Ao Hou. The NZETC web pages now include links to content in Te Ao Hou, the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society, and Early New Zealand Books.

List of new texts in date order:

The Aborigines of New Zealand, by Thomas Buddle (1851)
Grammar of the New Zealand Language, by Robert Maunsell (1862)
The Maori: Yesterday and Today, by James Cowan (1930)
Hero Stories of New Zealand, by James Cowan (1935)
The Study of Mathematics, by James Tower Campbell (1946)
Mathematics at Victoria in Retrospect, by C. J. Seelye (1974)
In Peace & War: A Civilian Soldier's Story by Haddon Donald (2005)

Thursday, 11 October 2007


Jonathan O'Donnell's kindly created a customised Google Search for the ANZDEG group, (Australia New Zealand Digital Encyclopedias Group) which includes the NZETC.

It's included here near the bottom right, so give it a go if you want to search across content in the online collections of the participating ANZDEG members.

Normally, I guess, people would appreciate the wide-range of a general Google search, but there could be occasions where this restricted search would be useful. For example, if you want to search on New Zealand and Australian content about Cook, in order to get an idea of the Antipodean perspective, enter "James Cook" in this search box.

Friday, 5 October 2007

The Names Project

Names are something dear to our hearts here at the NZETC, as we have so many of them (something like 40,000 people, places, organisation, and titles of works) represented in our collection.

So, in light of this, it's heartening to see that a panel of experts convened for The Names Project in the UK is putting some thought into how to treat names authoritatively to allow for better searching and matching of names between different collection.

There's been other attempts at similar work, notably the now-finished LEAF project (which is covered in quite full detail here), though to date there appears to be nothing like a suitable / sensible solution that can be widely used by organisations such as NZETC to link their collections with others via shared name authorities

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Connexions: peer-reviewed creation of content

Relating to some research that we're doing surrounding the generation of content, both for our own website and for others, I've been thinking about the question of how to create collaboratively create content in a way that allows both ease of use (for non-technical users), while at the same time allowing for advanced editing functions by more technical users, such as the use of structured markup and authority identifiers.

I stumbled on Connexions, an open-source plone-based system developed by Rice University, and used by them to collaboratively create educational and academic content.

Connexions allows for creation of XML-based content, as well as importing from other formats such as Word, and appears to have a nice collaborative environment.

Where this gets interesting is that Rice University Press have in recent times re-invented themselves as a fully digital publisher, producing print-on-demand books using the Connexions system.

They claim that, using Connexions to create the digital content and then partnering with an on-demand printing service, they can create peer-reviewed academic publications for a tenth the cost using the traditional model of a University Press.

As Connexions is open-source, it is also downloadable for use by others.