Push to protect Kiwi heritage

Edmund Hillary in 1953
Wikimedia Commons / Alexander Turnbull Library
Edmund Hillary in 1953

Documents and other items collected by New Zealand adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary are being put forward for international heritage status by the Auckland War Memorial Museum.

The museum's head librarian, Theresa Graham, said the Sir Edmund Hillary Archive comprising 25,000 photos, slides, and documents, was to be nominated for international recognition through the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organsiation (Unesco) Memory of the World register of documentary heritage next year.

The archive, covering years from 1919-2008, including Sir Edmund's childhood, was one of three - along with the original lyrics and score of God Defend New Zealand and the Charles Brasch Archive - placed on the Memory of the World New Zealand register at a ceremony in Dunedin today.

Auckland War Memorial Museum librarian Theresa Graham with the inscription putting the Sir Edmund Hillary archive into the Unesco Memory of the World register.
David McKay
Auckland War Memorial Museum librarian Theresa Graham with the inscription putting the Sir Edmund Hillary archive into the Unesco Memory of the World register.

"We're intending to apply as an institution for the international register to recognise the growing esteem Sir Edmund is held in for Everest and also after that," Graham said.

Nominations close in March 2014.

The Treaty of Waitangi is the only other New Zealand heritage document on the international register.

Since it was bequeathed to Auckland Museum in 2009, Sir Edmund's archive had attracted increasing interest internationally, perhaps more so than from researchers within New Zealand, Graham said.

"This year there have been quite a few international researchers contacting us to access his material and from that books have been produced - and for Beyond the Edge the movie," she said.

"They use the archive extensively.

"I don't know if New Zealanders appreciate the international standing he has.

"You talk to people from outside of New Zealand, everyone knows of him and the work he did after Everest as much as Everest."

Memory of the World New Zealand Trust chairwoman Dianne Macaskill said the three collections added to the New Zealand register all contributed to the story of the nation's heritage and were significant to the identity of New Zealanders today.

"The Sir Edmund Hillary Archive tells the story of our most famous New Zealanders through his personal papers and other documents," she said.

"Our National Anthem is sung at important events both at home and overseas, and Charles Brasch is highly regarded for his role in the development of our literary and arts culture.

''These items of documentary heritage are excellent sources of research for historians, researchers, educators and many others in the wider community."

Macaskill said the Unesco recognition aimed to draw attention to the significance of documentary heritage and the institutions that were their custodians.

Inscription on the register raised awareness of the custodian's institutions and helped ensure the inscribed items were protected, preserved and accessible.

Iain Sharpe from Auckland Libraries accepted today's honour for the only surviving manuscript versions of the original lyrics and score of New Zealand's national anthem, held in the Sir George Grey Special Collections.

The words were written by Dunedin-based poet and newspaper editor Thomas Bracken in July 1876 and the melody was composed soon afterwards by John Joseph Woods, a young schoolteacher in the Central Otago town of Lawrence.

Hocken Library librarian Sharon Dell accepted the registration for the personal and literary papers of poet, editor and arts patron Charles Orwell Brasch (1909-1973) held at the Dunedin institution.

Brasch played a key role in the development of a distinctive New Zealand literary and arts culture.

He was the founding editor of the literary journal Landfall and, as his letters show, gave professional and personal support to many famous New Zealand writers and artists, including Janet Frame, James K Baxter, Ruth Dallas, Frank Sargeson, and Colin McCahon.