Heritage Māori manuscripts acknowledged by UNESCO

Published: Fri 8 Jul 2011 01:46 PM
8 July 2011
Heritage Māori manuscripts acknowledged by UNESCO Memory of the World programme
Unique Māori manuscripts from Auckland Libraries’ internationally recognised Sir George Grey Special Collections are among the first documents officially inscribed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World New Zealand register.
The milestone was marked at a ceremony at the NZ Film Archives in Wellington on Thursday 30 June, attended by Auckland Libraries’ Regional Heritage and Research Manager Sue Cooper.
“This collection is the largest existing 19th century collection of indigenous manuscripts brought together by a single collector and we are excited that it is one of the first to be inscribed on the New Zealand Memory of the World Programme,” says Sue Cooper.
“This is a tribute to the uniqueness of the manuscripts and to their significant heritage and cultural value.”
The UNESCO Memory of the World Programme developed from a growing awareness to preserve and open up access to heritage documentation throughout the world.
Among the other documents registered were The Treaty of Waitangi and the New Zealand Suffragette Petition, the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal documents and the original Douglas Lilburn score of Aotearoa.
The programme’s vision is that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to all and should be permanently accessible to everyone.
To be selected for registration the documentary heritage needs to demonstrate historic, aesthetic or cultural significance to a community or the nation, be unique and irreplaceable.
Since the inception of the UNESCO programme, individual countries have developed branches. The New Zealand Memory of the World Programme was launched by UNESCO on 30 June by National Archives, in Wellington.
About the Grey New Zealand Māori Manuscript Collection:
The collection consists of 147 items donated by Sir George Grey as part of the Governor’s Gift.
It is a cultural and historical record of pre-European examples of Māori knowledge and information and documents mātauranga Māori (knowledge) in relation to song, incantation, custom, ritual, genealogy and traditions pertaining to various Māori collective communities.
Grey developed an interest in Māori and began encouraging various hapū representatives, such as Wīremu Maihi Te Rangikāheke, Hāmi Hōne Ropiha, Hōri Pātara, Himiona Te Wehi, Piri Kawau, Te Uramutu, Tīmoti Tahi and Tamihana Te Rauparaha, to write down their traditions.
The shared vision was to record and document the Māori world view (Te Ao Māori) for future generations before it disappeared under colonial change.
As Grey’s proficiency with tikanga Māori and Te reo Māori developed, so did the aspiration to publish. Ko nga Moteatea, me nga Hakirara (1853) was his first publication, followed by Ko nga mahinga a nga tupuna Maori (1854) which he translated and published as Polynesian mythology and ancient traditional history of the New Zealand race, as furnished by their priests and chiefs in 1855.
Grey completed his publications of Māori material with the publication of Ko nga whakapepeha me nga whakaahuareka a nga tipuna o Aotea-roa and Ko nga waiata Maori in 1857.
The Grey Māori manuscripts have stamped an impressive deep imprint in the fields of education, arts and politics, and assisted in the fashioning of distinctively Māori approaches, from their early inception into New Zealand’s psyche through publication.
The value of this taonga (treasure) is validated by Māori and non-Māori interests that have accessed the collection for information that could add, support and reinforce hapū or iwi identity and assist Te reo Māori retention and rendition.
Grey’s collection was gifted to the Auckland Free Public Library (now Auckland Libraries), in 1887 and consists of 14,000 manuscripts, letters and books, and commonly known as ‘The Governor's Gift‘. The Māori material of the gifting consisted of artefacts, manuscripts, early published books and newspapers, letters and telegrams.
They are continually revisited by researchers for material or evidence that substantiates or supports a particular Māori stance or view.
For more information about the New Zealand Memory of the World Programme go to
For details about the Grey New Zealand Māori Manuscript Collection go to
Sir George Grey and Hāmi Hōne Ropiha (Ngāti Kahungunu) one of the contributors to the Grey New Zealand Māori Manuscript collection.

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