The joys of Christmas shopping

Christmas shopping, 1956 (click for image credit)

Christmas shopping, 1956 (click for image credit)

I am not exactly the Christmas grinch, but there is something I always despise this time of year.  It is not the decorations up earlier every year, the overboard advertisements everywhere or the countless amounts of junk mail – but Christmas shopping.

This year, much like every other year, I resolved to do my shopping early so that I didn’t have to deal with the masses of people.  I partially succeeded, if early means early December. I always know what I want and where to get it from prior to going, to make the trip short and sweet.

However, for another reason, I made the very rookie mistake of going to a mall two weeks before Christmas and there was nothing leisurely about it. The mall was so full it resembled a mosh pit.

I’m pleased to say I escaped unscathed with my few boxes of chocolates.

In the future you would think I would do online shopping and get my presents delivered to my front door to avoid the crowds – but secretly, I like the immediate gratification and sense of achievement I feel from physically shopping.

Picturing people

Aileen Stace and Fluffy in Stace's electric car, Atalanta (click for image credit)

Aileen Stace and Fluffy in Stace's electric car, Atalanta (click for image credit)

It is always a pleasure to announce the addition of images to the biographies section of our site. Recently 13 more were uploaded, some generously donated by descendants and others obtained by our researchers. I find it fascinating to put a face to a name – in the case of Minnie Dean, a notorious name (though she looks harmless enough here).

We’ve included some pictures of less well-known subjects, as well as the famous. It is so exciting to obtain photographs from family collections. Market gardener and winemaker Joe Ah Chan beams out from this candid photo, while midwife Inger Jacobsen and her husband sit proudly surrounded by their many children in a formal portrait.

We’ve also added to our gallery of artists and craftspeople. Clas Edvard Friström poses with his paint palette, while Margaret Butler is shown at work on a sculpture, ‘The shepherdess’. Pat Perrin sits for the photographer surrounded by examples of her innovative pottery.

Objects in the photographs often tell a story. The microscope to the side of the desk in this portrait of Charles Hercus proclaims his status as a scientist and medical researcher. Fashions and facial hair trends also send subtle messages. John O’Donovan looks every inch the gentleman with his neatly trimmed goatee, while Gilbert Mair was a swashbuckling figure in his day and would surely qualify as a hipster now with his luxuriant beard.

Finally, with the assistance of a descendant we have been able to include a lovely series of photographs of Aileen Stace throughout her life. Stace helped revive the craft of spinning, and also coped with disability in the days before much community assistance existed. These images from the family album show her as a teenager, with her supportive father and sisters, cuddling beloved pet dogs, and in her specially made electric car, which she named Atalanta. Her determination, courage and warmth shine out from these delightful photographs.

World famous in Te Ara

Nappy Valley: Reference Group manager Janine Faulknor, bottom right, and her siblings, about 1969 (click for image credit)

Nappy Valley: Reference Group manager Janine Faulknor, bottom right, and her siblings, about 1969 (click for image credit)

Te Ara staff are a dedicated lot, as evidenced not only by their long hours of hard work, but also by the way they’ve happily plundered their family photo collections and posed for photos themselves to help illustrate the site.

Resource researcher Melanie Lovell-Smith on her fourth birthday (unfortunately she had a stomach bug, hence the white bowl to her right)

Resource researcher Melanie Lovell-Smith on her fourth birthday (unfortunately she had a stomach bug, hence the white bowl to her right)

As well as the many Te Ara-ites who feature in the entry Te Ara – a history, staff who appear in Te Ara – at varying ages and degrees of cuteness – or who have volunteered their family members or treasures for the site include:

General editor Jock Phillips in his back garden in 1950s Christchurch (click for image credit)

General editor Jock Phillips in his back garden in 1950s Christchurch (click for image credit)

Our own little calabash

Last year at the National Digital Forum conference in Wellington I talked about a pilot we were running to link Te Ara and Te Papa’s Collections Online websites. We called it the Calabash Project, taking its name from the simple idea of linking, for example, Te Ara’s image of a hue to the same object on Te Papa’s website, taha huahua (calabash) – with a reciprocal link from Te Papa back to Te Ara.

Te Papa’s gourd on a Te Ara resource page, with a link from the reference field below the image. The link is very subtle, too subtle in fact and we’ll be looking at ways of unobtrusively highlighting it.

Te Papa’s gourd on a Te Ara resource page, with a link from the reference field below the image. The link is very subtle, too subtle in fact, and we’ll be looking at ways of unobtrusively highlighting it.

This isn’t a very complicated idea. It’s using the web the way it’s supposed to be used, by providing hyperlinks from one place to another to give users more or different information about similar things – in this case, about exactly the same thing. That said, it relies on permanence or persistence of the hyperlink. We need to know that the link will work now and in the years to come if we’re going to set up thousands of links like this. It’s what Michael Lascarides from the National Library talked about at the same conference, the idea of collection websites becoming islands of persistence.

In doing this, Te Ara can become a front door to larger collections of the digital objects it uses. (In fact, with reciprocal links we can all become each other’s front doors!) Te Ara becomes, if you like, a discovery tool that can provide context about a particular object and then pass users and researchers on to the institution that holds the object. It’s good for the institutions as they get more traffic and can further their own engagement with researchers.

It’s also good for us. We get a lot of requests to re-use content that’s on Te Ara, and where it’s not ours, these links will help us direct researchers to the institution that can provide the image.

We’ve now extended the pilot to include the Alexander Turnbull Library collections. Te Papa provided a good small set to experiment with and initially Adrian Kingston and staff at Te Papa matched the objects for us manually. Prompted by a helpful suggestion from Andy Neale at DigitalNZ, we’re now using the DigitalNZ API to match the objects. Given that we have over 6,000 Turnbull images – for instance, this lovely shot of a pātaka at the 1888 Melbourne Centennial Exhibition, or this slightly risqué portrait of cabaret manager Theo Tresize – it’s been great to be able to automate the process. All told we’ve matched 238 Te Papa objects from a total of 578 and 5,360 Turnbull objects out of 6,564.

We’ve had some good feedback about this. As Amy Watling from Turnbull said recently, it’s ‘a real win for researchers who can go from Te Ara’s popular pages directly to our site where they can enquire about the item, get the original metadata, or order a high res copy.’

It’s no longer a pilot and we’re now thinking about how to extend it further. It works and makes sense so we’ll be looking at the collections we use and identifying more islands of persistence that we can link out to. The more we can all link our islands the better for people travelling the rich network of digital information about New Zealand that we’re creating.

Party time

Amos Pollock takes a swing at the piñata during his dinosaur-themed fifth birthday party (click for image credit)

Amos Pollock takes a swing at the piñata during his dinosaur-themed fifth birthday party (click for image credit)

The end-of-year party season is upon us, and this prompted me to see how well Te Ara does parties. I plugged ‘party’ into the search box and was greeted with an array of entries and images about political parties – not quite what I had in mind.

Super-stylish 1970s dinner party featuring matching outfits and wallpaper (click for image credit)

Super-stylish 1970s dinner party featuring matching outfits and wallpaper (click for image credit)

Luckily, the party-on variety soon cropped up in the image and media page. After party pills comes this fabulous 1970s dinner party where the guests’ attire merges with the floral wallpaper. Then there’s a 1956 film of a chimps’ tea party at the Wellington Zoo, a decorous garden party in 1900 and a 1930s-style outdoor dance party. Remember The Gathering? One big party at Tākaka to see in the new year. I went to the 2000 monsoon Gathering and was reminded why buying a cheap tent is never a good idea. Matariki heralds the Māori new year, and we are now seeing more mid-winter Matariki celebrations.

Pōhutukawa fairies party with native birds in this Avis Higgs illustration (click for image credit)

Pōhutukawa fairies party with native birds in this Avis Higgs illustration (click for image credit)

We’ve got writer/artist Avis Higgs’s cute pōhutukawa fairies party, public humiliation at a stag party and a 1955 cross-dressing party. These blokes in drag are not quite so elegant.

Cakes and keys: turning 21 in 1961 (click for image credit)

Cakes and keys: turning 21 in 1961 (click for image credit)

Our Birthdays and wedding anniversaries entry is party central. I love Jacqueline Fahey’s evocative painting ‘The birthday party’, with the exhausted nana staring glumly at the viewer, surrounded by party detritus. The adults are having much more fun at this birthday party (which happens to be my son’s fifth). This entry would not be complete without the ritual that is downing the yardie on your 21st. This 21st of 1961 is a tad more demure.

My favourite party entry is the Nightclubs one. From the glam to the seedy, it’s a fascinating history of public partying in New Zealand.