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What would you like to know about the past?

What would you like to know about the past?

Museum exhibitions, radio programmes, television documentaries and popular history books all contribute to our perceptions of the past. But do these forms of public history help us understand our own lives?

This is just one question the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies at Victoria University will open up for discussion in a forthcoming seminar series on public history.

Historians working on a variety of projects are participating in the series to contribute to the debates about history in the public sphere—and they warmly invite Wellingtonians to come along and join in.

Kicking off the series is convenor Associate Professor Anna Green, who will explore the contemporary debates among public historians in the context of her work as an oral historian in New Zealand and the UK.

“Evidence from surveys overseas suggests that many people look to the past to gain insights into the challenges or moral dilemmas of their own lives, but we really do not know if this is how New Zealanders approach the past. And it raises the question: do public historians pay enough attention to the audiences who watch our programmes or read our books?”

Other contributors include the writer Julia Millen on producing commissioned histories, including those of Kirkcaldie & Stains and law firm Bell Gully; and Therese Crocker on the Treaty claims settlement process in the context of public history.

Turning to museums, Kristelle Plimmer from Te Papa Tongarewa will discuss the ways in which she has sought to actively engage diverse audiences, from the Women's Institute to a group of young refugees.

The importance of remembering and stories will be a recurring theme: Marina Sciascia will talk about the community oral histories she has recorded with Hilary Pedersen in Porangahau, and documentary maker Anna Cottrell will show clips from her programmes on war, refugee, and immigrant stories from both New Zealand and around the world.

At the end of the series Jock Phillips, the general editor of Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of New Zealand, will sum up the state of public history in New Zealand.

The 'Public History' seminar series begins on Wednesday 13 March at 4.10 pm at the Stout Research Centre, 12 Wai-te-ata Road, Kelburn. Everyone welcome.

For full programme visit, and for more information, please contact Associate Professor Anna Green on (04) 463 6885.


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