Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search


Uncovering Canterbury’s Hidden Women

Museum Hopes Crowd-power Can Uncover Canterbury’s Hidden Women

A new crowdsourcing project hopes to harness twenty-first-century technology to make the women of nineteenth-century Canterbury more visible in the history of the province.

The project, organised by Canterbury Museum and the University of Canterbury Digital Humanities programme, is looking for computer-savvy volunteers to tag names which appear in the G R Macdonald Dictionary of Canterbury Biography to make them computer-searchable.

The Macdonald Dictionary comprises more than 12,000 handwritten index cards of biographical information on 22,000 nineteenth-century Cantabrians.

Currently, the scanned index cards are available on the Museum’s website, but only the heads of each household, mainly men, are digitally searchable.

The project aims to tag and transcribe the hundreds or possibly thousands of other names mentioned in the biographies, including wives, children, business partners and occasionally neighbours.

Joanna Szczepanski, Canterbury Museum Associate Curator Human History, says one of the project’s major benefits is providing better access to information about the women of nineteenth-century Canterbury.

“Only 64 women have their own entries, mostly because they were high profile and had a public life, but many other women are hidden in their husband’s or father’s biography. This project will give them much more visibility in Canterbury’s historical record.”

The dictionary itself is the result of 12 years of labour by farmer, historian and Canterbury Museum volunteer George Ranald Macdonald (1891–1967).

From 1952 to 1964, Macdonald scoured newspapers and church registers and traipsed through cemeteries to read tombstones. He visited numerous libraries and archives and searched for information through his personal contacts as well as radio and newspaper advertisements.

The result is a resource that genealogists, family historians, students and academics have treasured for decades – and one that will become even more useful if the name-tagging project is a success.

The index cards have been uploaded onto the crowdsourcing platform Zooniverse where volunteers can tag and transcribe the names they see.

“Platforms like Zooniverse make it easy for anyone to contribute from anywhere in the world, in the comfort of their own home at any hour of the day,” says Dr Chris Thomson, a senior lecturer in Digital Humanities and member of the UC Arts Digital Lab, which set up the technical side of the project.

Volunteers just need to sign up for a free Zooniverse account, watch the tutorial and start tagging.

“It’s a relatively simple exercise, but I’m sure volunteers will find it fascinating, especially if they’re interested in family history and the history of Canterbury,” Thomson says.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines


Howard Davis: 1917's 1,000 Yard Stare

Sam Mendes has created a terrible and barbarous trek, one that we appreciate all the more for being catapulted right into the midst of this ear-splitting melee from the film's opening sequence. More>>

Floorball: NZ To Host World Cup Of Floorball In 2022

In a major coup for a minnow nation in the European-dominated sport of floorball, New Zealand has won the rights to host one of the sport’s marque international events. More>>

National Voyage Continues: Tuia 250 Ends

Tuia 250 has unleashed an unstoppable desire to keep moving forward and continue the kōrero about who we are, say the co-chairs of the Tuia 250 National Coordinating Committee, Dame Jenny Shipley and Hoturoa Barclay-Kerr. More>>


Te Papa: New Chief Executive From Its Own Staff

Courtney Johnston has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of Te Papa. Ms Johnston will take up the role in December 2019. Since its founding, Te Papa has had a dual leadership model, and as Tumu Whakarae|Chief Executive, Johnston will share the leadership with Kaihautū Dr Arapata Hakiwai. More>>


Over 150 Productions: NZ Fringe 2020 Has Launched

The upcoming festival will be held at 40 venues all over Wellington Region from 28 February to 21 March, and includes every genre possible—theatre, comedy, dance, music, clowning, cabaret, visual art, children’s shows and more! More>>





  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland