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Two milestones for First World War Centenary planning

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland War Memorial Museum's plans to make a significant contribution to First World War Centenary commemorations have been boosted by a $300,000 grant from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Massey University.

The grant from the Ministry will support the Cenotaph Database project - an initiative the museum is leading to bring the First World War Centenary closer to New Zealand families.

The collaboration between Massey University and Auckland Museum is expected to produce valuable new research on topics including New Zealand and the First World War.

"The Cenotaph Database details the human sacrifice of New Zealand's participation in war. It is a resource for the nation and we are very grateful for the new funding which will be used to improve the data and strengthen opportunities for people to learn about the past and contribute to the evidence from the perspective of individual families," Auckland Museum Director Roy Clare said today (Tuesday 17 July, 2012).

"Programmes will also be enriched, and the public better served, through the research, scholarship and other benefits that will flow from the collaboration with Massey University, exploring topics related to war commemoration as well as a wider range of themes and projects over time."

To be launched in 2014, the Cenotaph Database will be a starting point for families, schools, communities, researchers and people all over the world to explore content held about New Zealand soldiers. A page will be included about every NZ soldier who served in the First World War.

The project is being led by Auckland War Memorial Museum in conjunction with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage (MCH), Te Papa Tongarewa, Archives New Zealand, National Library, Turnbull Library and the New Zealand Film Archive.

"Just over 100,000 New Zealand troops served overseas from 1914 to 1918 from a population of barely one million. Of those, about 18,000 died and 41,000 wounded," said Ministry for Culture and Heritage's Chief Historian Neill Atkinson.

"The impact on every New Zealander was profound. The Cenotaph project is an opportunity for us to tell our family stories. These poignant, often remarkable stories will ultimately help us to understand what happened, and why and how the war still shapes us today."

The MoU between Massey University and Auckland Museum provides a platform for research collaboration and other projects of mutual interest.

Likely areas for research cooperation identified to date include New Zealand and the First World War (as part of the Centenary History Programme in which Massey, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, New Zealand Defence Force and the RNZRSA are jointly producing a series of authoritative histories on NZ and the First World War); the history of the Auckland Province and the history and impact of the Treaty of Waitangi.

Massey University Vice-Chancellor Steve Maharey says the collaboration with the museum provides valuable opportunities for Massey researchers to work with Museum staff and enhance what is already an impressive historical database. "It's great to be working with the Museum in this way. Massey University aims to promote the highest standards of research and scholarship and be a world leader in areas of specialisation - and the work done by our historians, led by Professor Glyn Harper, is widely acknowledged as world-leading."

The MoU was signed at Auckland Museum last night at a Massey University alumni event at which Glyn Harper QSM (Massey's Professor of War Studies and a contributor to the Centenary History Programme) gave an address entitled 'Triumph and Tragedy: Battles of 1917'.

Just over 100,000 New Zealand troops served overseas from 1914 to 1918 from a population of barely one million. Of those, about 18,000 died and 41,000 were wounded.

Like many organisations, Auckland Museum is developing a wide ranging programme of centenary events and initiatives to increase awareness and understanding of New Zealand's military heritage and the substantial social impact of the First World War.

In February the museum announced it would establish a Research Centre in 2012. A leader for the Centre is being recruited and later this year an advisory board will be appointed to guide and shape the Centre's strategic direction. Key goals are for the museum to be a place of innovation, discovery, learning and research.

"Today's announcements are further signals that research and the creation of value and participation for diverse audiences are priorities at Auckland Museum. Our Research Centre will connect us to other kinds of research and new people across the innovation sector. Partnerships make museums stronger and we are keen to expand our linkages over the coming years."

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