Thursday 14 March 2019 10:45pm
Dr Alison Clarke, author of Otago, 150 Years of New Zealand’s First University.
The history book Otago, 150 Years of New Zealand’s First University by Dr Alison Clarke will be launched at the Staff Club tomorrow evening.
Dr Clarke, an experienced historian and author, spent five years part-time researching and writing the history. She began by examining previous histories and launched a blog which helped identify photographs as well as uncover a wealth of anecdotes, memories and information.
"It’s a place of contrasts – at once amazingly innovative and entrepreneurial, and also, at times, very conservative. Mostly it’s a place of talented people and always has been."
She says the biggest challenge has been organising the material and keeping it to one volume.
“With such an enormous wealth of interesting material, I’ve had to leave a lot out.”
Rather than a straight chronological history, the book is structured thematically, with around half the book focusing on the four academic divisions, Humanities, Sciences, Health Sciences and Commerce, and the remainder exploring other aspects of University life, the University’s campuses in Invercargill, Christchurch and Wellington, and some of the changes and challenges faced over 150 years. She also takes a good look at student life at Otago over the years.
“In previous histories, there was not much written about Māori or Pacific students, women, international students or technology so they all became major focus areas.”
Dr Clarke describes the University as “not a perfect institution; it’s an organisation made up of humans, so it will never be perfect.
“It’s a place of contrasts – at once amazingly innovative and entrepreneurial, and also, at times, very conservative. Mostly it’s a place of talented people and always has been. When you look at the big picture, and what the University has achieved around the world, particularly in the Pacific, it is pretty remarkable.”