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Distinguished Hocken item inscripted on UNESCO NZ register

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Thursday 28 November 2013 12:21pm

Charles Brasch, circa 1930s.

The Hocken Library has this week received national recognition, with the inscription of the literary papers of poet Charles Brasch taking their place on the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand register of documentary heritage.

At a national function at the Hocken on Thursday (November 28), the Charles Brasch papers were announced as a significant new addition to the UNESCO register, along with the Sir Edmund Hillary Archive at Auckland Museum and the original score and lyrics of God Defend New Zealand held at Auckland Libraries.

UNESCO launched the Memory of the World Programme, which promotes the nation’s heritage stories to the wider community, in 1992. It sits alongside UNESCO’s better-known World Heritage List and Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage. The New Zealand Programme was established in 2010.

“The Memory of the World Trust is truly delighted to welcome these three inscriptions of such distinguished documentary heritage items onto the register. All three greatly contribute to the story of our nation’s heritage and are significant to the identity of New Zealanders today,” the Memory of the World New Zealand Trust Chair Dianne Macaskill says.

Hocken Librarian Sharon Dell says the Inscription of the Brasch papers onto the Register is also recognition of the national importance of the Hocken as a research archive.

BraschJournalD226wPages from one of Brasch’s journals.

“This is a huge advantage for University staff and students to have a resource like the Charles Brasch papers in their midst. As well as conferring a higher level of protection on this archive resource, this inscription from UNESCO also enhances the Hocken’s international profile,” she says.

Hocken Curator of Archives and Manuscripts Anna Blackman says after Brasch’s literary and personal archive was opened at the Hocken in 2003 (30 years after his death), the significance of his legacy began to be appreciated.

“We are very fortunate that the Hocken holds such a substantial collection - 25 linear metres of his personal letters and archives. The work, papers and journals of Brasch are now a significant resource for researchers focusing on New Zealand’s rich cultural and literary development during his life-time,” she says.

Charles Orwell Brasch (1909-1973) corresponded with over 600 individual people and this correspondence forms the bulk of the collection. People represented include Janet Frame, James. K Baxter, Colin McCahon, Frank Sargeson, James Courage, James Bertram, Rita Angus, Toss Woollaston, Alistair Campbell, Fred and Eve Page, Douglas Lilburn, Louis Johnson, Denis Glover, Ruth Dallas, Carl Stead and many more.

Brasch’s editorial activities and contribution to the literary scene, as well as the thoughts and opinions of his correspondents are documented through the correspondence.

“It is a unique insight into the opinions and activities of this group who created so much of New Zealand’s cultural life,” says Anna Blackman.

From 1938 to just prior to his death Brasch wrote a personal journal. These journals document both his inner life of thought as well as his opinion on many topics and his everyday activities.

“Brasch was an acute observer of the world around him and the journals include commentary on not just the arts and literature but also people, politics and contemporary events.”

Otago University Press recently published "Charles Brasch Journals 1938–1945", a new book spanning a crucially formative period in the poet’s life.

Further information about Memory of the World and the inscriptions on the register can be viewed on

Background on UNESCO Memory of the World

Documentary heritage reflects the diversity of languages, peoples and cultures. It is the mirror of the world and its memory. But this memory is fragile. Every day, irreplaceable parts of this memory disappear forever.

UNESCO launched the Memory of the World programme in 1992 to recognise significant documentary heritage in a similar fashion to the way UNESCO’s World Heritage List recognises significant natural and cultural sites.

The Programme has documentary heritage registers at International, Regional and National levels. About 200 items have been inscribed on the international register including the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition held by Archives New Zealand. The Tokyo War Crimes Trial Papers 1946-48, held at the Macmillan Brown Library, University of Canterbury, are inscribed on the Asia Pacific Register.

The International Memory of the World seeks to identify items of documentary heritage that have worldwide significance. It aims to bring value and significance of documentary heritage to wider public notice, along with the work performed by libraries, archives and museums in preserving this valuable heritage.

The New Zealand Memory of the World Programme is one of over 60 Memory of the World programmes and was established in 2010 by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. A committee of dedicated volunteers runs the New Zealand programme as a charitable trust. The committee’s members have a broad knowledge of New Zealand’s heritage institutions and communities.

The New Zealand Memory of the World Programme raises the profile of the importance of New Zealand’s documentary heritage. It highlights the value of documentary heritage for understanding the New Zealand experience, and supports economic growth and transnational links.

Items inscribed on the New Zealand register to date include:

  • The 1840 Treaty of Waitangi/ Te Tiriti o Waitangi
  • 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition
  • Records of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials (1946-48)
  • Sir George Grey New Zealand Maori Manuscript Collection
  • Douglas Lilburn’s Manuscript Score “Overture: Aotearoa” (1940)
  • National Film Unit Weekly Reviews and Pictorial Parades (1940 to 1971)
  • Maori Land Court Minute Books 1862 to 1900
  • Patu! Documentary of the 1981 Springbok tour of New Zealand
  • Sir Edmund Hillary Archive
  • God Defend New Zealand Original Lyrics and Score
  • Charles Brasch Literary and Personal Papers

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