A vision to stimulate world-class historical research is behind a $500,000 gift to establish a History Innovation Fund
at the University of Auckland.
Based in the history department, the fund has been made possible by Dr Felicity Barnes, a senior lecturer in New Zealand
history and her partner Michael Whitehead, co-founder of international data analytics company WhereScape and New Zealand
services firm NOW Consulting.
One of the fund’s first initiatives will be recruiting a postdoctoral fellow, initially in New Zealand history, for
2021. It will also support research grants, primarily for New Zealand history and history generally, as well as in
allied subjects like art history and ancient history.
As well as being current staff, Dr Barnes is an Auckland graduate, as is Mr Whitehead, and says they are both
“beneficiaries of the earlier free university system” so the choice to support the Faculty of Arts at Auckland seemed a
“We'd like to support an institution that has helped us succeed and we also both believe that, despite current trends
towards vocational teaching, the world of work and beyond is best served by smart, adaptable thinkers who are encouraged
to question the world around them.”
And while those qualities aren't exclusive to Arts, she believes the discipline’s role in producing such people, and the
impact they have, is under recognised.
“Arts’ subjects in particular are underfunded. The government spends more than double on a science student than an Arts
one, so this is one small attempt to tip the balance, and I’m so pleased my colleagues in the School of Humanities and
the Faculty of Arts share our vision.”
Dean of Arts, Professor Robert Greenberg, is delighted with the gift and what it could make possible.
“I’m so pleased Felicity and Michael have chosen History for this generous gift at a time when all over the world, we
are seeing how people are forgetting and misunderstanding the past and increasingly believing fake news, which has so
grossly distorted so many historical facts in recent times,” he says.
“I’m particularly excited that we will be able to support New Zealand history, which will become part of the compulsory
school curriculum in 2022, and is a very exciting area of scholarship where there is so much still to discover.”
The fund will make a call for the inaugural postdoctoral scholarship in September 2020, and the remainder of the
endowment will be used to fund research grants for current history department staff within the University of Auckland.