Thursday 3 October 2019 12:24am
The many important scientific, political, commercial, cultural and medical milestones reached 150 years ago were celebrated during the 1869 Conference and Heritage Festival, which was held in Dunedin between 25 and 29 September.
The conference and festival combined a traditional academic programme with a range of public heritage festival events, special forums and social engagements.
Conference coordinator Associate Professor Wanhalla, who is also a member of the University’s Centre for Research on Colonial Culture (CRoCC), says the conference programme invited the public and academics to critically explore what was a crucial decade in New Zealand, Otago and the University’s history.
“In that decade the Otago goldrush began, there was war in Taranaki, the Waikato and on the East Coast of the North Island, and at the end of the decade British and New Zealand writers and intellectuals argued for women’s political rights.
“This was also an important decade in scientific, literary and cultural production and so our speakers and keynotes addressed these diverse histories to further discussions with our academic and wider communities,” Associate Professor Wanhalla says.
On Wednesday, 25 September, the academic conference began with Backstory: Heritage in Words, Pictures and Threads which featured panellists Tina Makereti, producer of the BBC-adaptation of The Luminaries Lisa Chatfield, Dr Catherine Smith and Dr Madeleine Seys.
At the Conference’s formal welcome ceremony on Thursday, 26 September, Office of Māori Development Director Tuari Potiki delivered the Mihi Whakatau.
In his capacity as Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Otago Politics alumnus Hon Grant Robertson spoke about his time at Otago and the significance of the Conference. Mr Robertson graduated with a BA (Hons) in 1995. He was also President of the Otago University Students Association and became Co-President of the New Zealand University Students Association.
Following the opening, Te Tumu’s Megan Potiki delivered a keynote address entitled The Beginning of an End: The Demise of Te Reo Māori at Ōtākou.
Thursday evening featured a well-attended public keynote address by Dr Helen Pearson, Chief Magazine Editor for the journal Nature. Friday evening saw delegates, Otago academics and members of the public attend a gala dinner at Larnach Castle. Professor Liam McIlvanney, Otago’s inaugural Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies, spoke about Otago’s early role in promoting education in New Zealand. The dinner was MC’d by William McKee from Toitu.
Heritage festival events, run in conjunction with the Southern Heritage Trust, included tours of the WD Trotter Anatomy Museum, Otago’s Geology Museum, various heritage buildings on the Dunedin campus and a walking tour of the 1869 shoreline. Otago’s Archaeology Programme held an open day and a highlight of the weekend was a “Tweed Ride” – featuring penny farthings and vintage bicycles – from the Gasworks Museum in South Dunedin to the University campus.
On Sunday, the Philip Neill Memorial Concert celebrated 75 years of the Philip Neill Memorial Prize in Music and featured performances of eight prize winners from the past.
The 1869 Conference and Heritage Festival was coordinated by the University of Otago’s Centre for Research on Colonial Culture and was run in conjunction with the Australasian Victorian Studies Association, the Town and Gown Heritage Festival, Heritage New Zealand, Dunedin UNESCO City of Literature, the University Book Shop and the Rutherford Foundation.
Photos courtesy of Sharron Bennett.