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PM Helen Clark's Address at Launch of Te Ara

Tuesday 8 February 2005

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister

Address at Launch of Te Ara:
The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand

Soundings Theatre, Te Papa

11.30 am

Tuesday 8 February 2005

Welcome to the launch of Te Ara: the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. I extend a special welcome to those schools which are watching the launch today via video-link.

Today we celebrate a world first. This is the world’s first original, official, digital, national encyclopaedia. Canada has an online encyclopaedia derived from a print version. But Te Ara is the first official national encyclopaedia to be born digital.

Today’s launch stems from a decision the government took three years ago to develop a new national encyclopaedia for the internet age.

What inspired us was the possibility of making authoritative information about our country available to the broadest possible audience through digital technology.

The first and most important audience for the new encyclopaedia is the people of New Zealand.

This digital project is just one of a series of initiatives the government has pursued over the past five years to raise awareness about New Zealand’s culture and heritage, and about the forces, events, and people which have shaped our nation.

Others include:

- the Cultural Recovery Package of May 2000, and many new funding initiatives for arts culture and heritage
- the dedication of the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior,
- the effort which has gone into commemorating major New Zealand military anniversaries on battlefields from the Middle East and Europe to Asia and the Pacific, and to involve both veterans and young people,
- the ongoing reconciliation in New Zealand through Treaty settlement processes, and
- through acknowledgement of past wrongs to Chinese New Zealanders and to Samoa.

We believe that to know the country we are today, we need to understand what has gone before. Our small country has a rich history and a complex identity. From a knowledge of how we came to be who we are can come both enormous pride, and a determination to learn from experience.

This new encyclopaedia will become both a very significant and a very easy way for us as New Zealanders to learn more about ourselves and our country. It will also become a key resource for those elsewhere who want to learn about us.

So far, Te Ara has 337,000 words in its main text, and 197,000 words in the captions. There are 2,394 different media resources in total, including 253 artworks, 177 maps, and 63 pieces of moving images from archives and from contemporary New Zealand films such as Whale Rider. Yet this is just the first stage of the project.

The first theme of Te Ara to be developed is about the people of New Zealand – nga tangata - and our stories.

There are 96 entries in this ‘New Zealanders’ section. There are entries on all the major settlement groups and on all major iwi.

In these entries we follow the various pathways to our nation taken by those who came before us and contributed to building New Zealand as a unique and special nation: Maori and their distinctive place as indigenous people; and all who followed thereafter from around the globe.

There are also currently eight entries entitled ‘New Zealand in Brief’ which cover the natural environment, history, society, government, creative life, sports and leisure, the economy, and Maori. These entries are intended as a quick overview, pending the completion of the encyclopaedia when these sections will be developed in full.

Important strengths of a digital encyclopaedia are that it is easy to update, easy to search, free to all, and interactive. Te Ara will go online progressively over the next seven years, as its various themes are developed.

This encyclopaedia follows the creation of earlier information resources about New Zealand of national scope, notably McLintock’s much-used 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. More recently there has been the 1997 New Zealand Historical Atlas and the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, online since 2003.

It’s a credit to the durability of McLintock’s scholarship that the 1966 Encyclopaedia of New Zealand has been digitised and is now available within the new Encyclopaedia. Sitting within Te Ara’s web pages, the entries give a valuable insight into the social, cultural and economic priorities of its time and how they compare with today’s values and knowledge.

This major digital project has been driven by the Reference Group of the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, led by General Editor Jock Phillips.

This team has called upon many advisers and experts from around New Zealand over the past two and a half years: the Advisory Committee chaired by Sir Geoffrey Palmer, writers, academics, specialists of all kinds, scientists and technologists; sound, moving image and print archivists; librarians, newspapers and broadcasters, and museums and galleries. Hundreds of people have put their knowledge and resources into this project.

Around 250 New Zealanders responded actively to the call for personal and family stories of migration to New Zealand. There will be people here today whose own stories, or those of their ancestors, appear on Te Ara – stories which speak of their commitment to and love of the country they live in.

In this sense, Te Ara has become a major collaborative success story – a model of willing co-operation involving many New Zealanders.

We can also note other successes for Te Ara – the highly effective technology partnership, its compelling design, and its branding. The logo has won the Designers Institute of New Zealand BeST award for the graphic design arts category.

My thanks to everybody who has been involved with this project.

It is now my pleasure to launch officially Te Ara: The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand.


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