Over the last few weeks Te Ara people have been thinking about what will be needed to keep the site up-to-date over the long term. There are certain obvious events that require updates. There are expected events such as the release of the 2013 census figures, which will call for innumerable changes to statistics and conclusions throughout the site. There are unexpected happenings, like the Christchurch earthquakes, which forced us quickly to add new sections to our entry on Historic earthquakes. There are new political developments such as the revised law on the foreshore and seabed, which will need including in relevant parts of the site.
Then there are more subtle changes – such as new scholarly interpretations. If archaeologists suddenly decide that there is evidence for Polynesian arrival long before 1300, many entries will have to change. And there will be changes in fashion and public interest which might require new entries. For our final theme – on creativity, which we are just scoping now – we will have an entries on conceptual art and on video art, which would have been inconceivable when A. H. McLintock put together the 1966 encyclopedia.
All this seemed clear, but it was only when I went down to Invercargill last month that I realised just how quickly entries can date. A couple of months before I had finished writing an entry on Memorials and monuments, a history of the way New Zealanders have commemorated people and events in free-standing objects. I concluded that the great age of monument-building was from about 1900 to 1960; but since then people have been less interested in commemorating ‘great men’ in stone, and relatively few memorials have been put up.
I had gone to Invercargill for the wonderful Southland Heritage Forum, a real outpouring of energy and passion about local heritage. I had been asked to talk about – you guessed it – monuments and memorials. So to get a local flavour into my talk I took a walk around central Invercargill. There were some old favourites, such as the magnificent South African War memorial isolated in the middle of a busy round-about; and there was one new ‘great man’ statue of local genius and personality, Burt Munro.
I also discovered four memorials to recent commemorative occasions. Directly opposite the South African War memorial in the centre of the city are two memorials commemorating the sesquicentennial of the Treaty of Waitangi. One, which is very large, is inscribed with the words, ‘Now we are one people’ (which may surprise some New Zealanders from further north committed to multi-culturalism) and the other has a beautiful interweaving of Union Jack and koru beneath the tail of a whale – to express the bicultural traditions of the early whalers. These were the first 1990 memorials I had seen.
Then just along the road I discovered a striking memorial to the millennium. It was in the shape of an umbrella, and functioned as a sun dial. Shadows cast by the umbrella handle told the local time, and on the walls around was a fascinating inscription explaining how and why a standard time came to New Zealand (you will see the story in Te Ara also). This was the first millennium memorial I had seen.
Finally, I discovered a cute bronze of a weka which had been erected in 2006 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Invercargill becoming a city.
So here were four monuments to recent anniversaries, all of which were news to me, a self-professed memorial nut. It looks like I need to go and revise my entry. But, before I do, does anyone know of other 1990 or millennium memorials in New Zealand – or is Invercargill alone in its commemorative splendour?