UNESCO recognition for New Zealand’s documentary heritage
Maori Land Court Minute Books from the 19th century and a documentary recording the 1981 Springbok Tour of New Zealand have been inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand register for documentary heritage.
Ray Edmondson, Chair of UNESCO’s Memory of the World Asia/Pacific Committee, said the minute books and Patu! tell stories of events from two powerful periods of New Zealand history. They still have an impact on society today and are highly regarded sources of research for historians, Maori researchers, educators and many others in the wider community.
The Maori Land Court Minute Books 1862 to 1900 comprising 704 bound volumes and associated documents, record the early years of the Native Land Courts and the hearings and evidence given to establish the Native Land Court titles across New Zealand, recording tribal history, whakapapa and evidence of iwi/hapu use and land occupation.
The minute books are a source of research for Treaty of Waitangi claimants and also help Maori maintain their connections to land, hapu, iwi and their history.
The early Minute Books are housed at Archives New Zealand repositories. Copies of the books have been produced in a variety of formats for public use. The Maori Land Court has also created electronic copies within its database, the Maori Land Information System for the public to use at Maori Land Court registries.
The documentary Patu! records events from the 1981 Springbok Tour to New Zealand, from the opinion of those who were against the tour. Featuring the work of many New Zealand film and documentary makers, it was created by veteran documentary maker Merata Mita (who passed away suddenly in 2010).
The 1983 theatrical length release of Patu! and supporting material is held by the New Zealand Film Archive who say that the documentary lives on as an educational and cultural resource as the impact of the tour is assessed and researched here and overseas. It was screened at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year. A version of the documentary can be viewed on the NZ Onscreen website.
UNESCO recognition draws attention to the significance of documentary heritage and the institutions that are their custodians. Inscription on a register raises awareness of the custodian institution’s holdings and helps ensure the inscribed items are protected, preserved and accessible.
UNESCO launched the Memory of the World Programme in 1992. New Zealand’s Memory of the World Programme was established in 2010 and is an example of the international community working to promote the importance of documentary heritage through UNESCO. This UNESCO programme sits alongside UNESCO’s World Heritage List and Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Memory of the World Programme register is the flagship and promotes the nation’s heritage stories to the wider community in New Zealand and overseas.