Another departure from Te Ara prompts a trip down memory lane and a chance encounter with an embarrassing archive of institutional memories.
Way back when, in the days when Te Ara had gestated from a sparkle in Jock Phillips’s eye to a rapidly growing neonate, its gross weight was bulked up by the incorporation of a fully formed, indeed rather mature, fellow encyclopedia.
A. H. (Archibald) McLintock’s classic An encyclopaedia [sic] of New Zealand was published by the Government Printer in three volumes in 1966. The print run of 30,000 sold out in three months and it was never reprinted though remains widely available in second-hand bookshops, a copy in every library in the country, quite a few to be found gathering dust on the top shelves of small-town junk shops throughout the land. Digitised in India, TEI-ised in Wellington by the New Zealand Electronic Text Centre, Te Ara swallowed it whole and incorporated it as a stopgap until we finished our coverage of the entire world of Kiwi knowledge. We skited (skote? skate?) about it to the world (or at least to anyone who read the DigiCULT.Info newsletter in November 2004).
Of course it didn’t happen entirely automagically and this post was prompted by the departure of our long-serving production editor, Fiona Oliver, who delivered the not-so-small but perfectly formed behemoth, tamed and caged the beast. It (and this) is a tribute to her strength of purpose, patience, and reach.
I doubt if there’s anyone in the country, or on the planet, who knows so much about what lies between its brown buckram boards.
Of encyclopedic interest only, perhaps, is this hilarious period piece – a re-enactment of a Te Ara ‘resource meeting’, at which resourcers tremble, writers wail, and editors harrumph from the distance among the tendrils of the vineyard in which we labour. Another sow’s ear? You’d never know it from this candid shot of creativity in action. Butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths. O tempora, o mores.