I am very sad to be writing this farewell blog to all our loyal Te Ara users. Along with the other four staff who have been working on the Te Ara website content for the past year, my contract ends in a few days. We’ve been very busy over the past twelve months developing new processes and ways of working, and getting our heads around the multitude of jobs that have to be done to keep the site reliable, useful and engaging for the many people who refer to it each day. Among many other things, we have:
- published the last Creative and Intellectual Life entries, on Translation and interpreting – te whakamāori ā-tuhi, ā-waha hoki, Māori composers – ngā kaitito waiata, Waiata hōu – contemporary Māori songs and Māori non-fiction and scholarship – ngā tuhinga me te rangahau
- updated census statistics in all the entries about iwi and New Zealand peoples, and for the major regional entries
- produced a new entry on Adult education
- made significant updates to diverse entries including Canterbury, Law of the foreshore and seabed, Cricket, Violent crime and Rugby union, and smaller updates and corrections to numerous entries
- updated all the entries about birds, including text and image changes and amendments to numerous tables
- begun work on the backlog of entries to be translated, publishing seven translations on the site, with another 49 entries yet to have their translations completed
- made a start on the comprehensive update of over 50 entries on New Zealand Peoples. First published ten years ago, these are now in urgent need of revision. So far we have completed work on the entries about Indonesians, Filipinos and Malaysians and Singaporeans. Twelve more entries have been reviewed and are in the process of editing, resourcing and production, and there are another 40 yet to be reviewed.
Completing the Peoples entries and various other entries in process, and undertaking the major, ongoing task of updating the 980-plus Te Ara entries (including the large number of science entries) will now be the job of the new Research and Publishing Group of Manatū Taonga. This team will be managing the site from 2 November, and I wish them well with that important responsibility.
The title of this blog, ‘Beautiful people’, comes from the hit song ‘Sensitive to a smile’ by Herbs, which features in our entry about the East Coast, written by Monty Soutar. The video was filmed by soon-to-be famous director Lee Tamahori and John Day on the coast in 1987, and, like the song, was a huge success at the time. Watch it, and you will understand why. It is one of my favourite resources on Te Ara, and to me it exemplifies what has been created through the site – a rich, nuanced and affectionate portrayal of this unique country and its peoples.
I would like to thank the many beautiful people I have been privileged to work with down the years, first during the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography project under the leadership of Bill Oliver and Claudia Orange, and then during the Te Ara project, until 2014 under the guidance of the inspirational Jock Phillips. It has been my great good fortune to belong to two wonderful teams, and I will never forget the laughter, the arguments, the camaraderie and the sheer hard work. Out of all that came two taonga: the DNZB and Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand. I hope they will be cherished and looked after as they deserve for years to come.
Finally, I want to pay tribute to an amazing, staunch group of women who not only helped to build Te Ara, but have done their best this past year, under very difficult circumstances, to put it on a secure footing for the future. Kerryn Pollock, Caren Wilton, Mel Lovell-Smith and Emily Tutaki, I salute you. May you find new paths, and be truly respected and rewarded for your great talents.
We all know that an online encyclopedia like Te Ara is never really finished – to remain relevant it must be constantly updated and refreshed. That will be the challenge for our successors, and you, the users, will judge whether or not the goal is achieved.