This week Te Ara marks an important milestone: the publication of the first new Dictionary of New Zealand Biography entry since 2011. Joan Druett has written a new entry on the Polynesian navigator, Tupaia, the subject of her award-winning biography published in 2011. We’re delighted to announce that this marks the beginning of a new phase in the life of the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography.
The Dictionary was originally published in five print volumes between 1990 and 2000, under the general editorship of W.H. Oliver and later Claudia Orange. It comprised biographies of more than 3000 people who had risen to prominence before 1960 and died before the publication cut-off date of 1998. No living person was eligible for inclusion. Separate volumes reprinted the biographies of the nearly 500 Maori subjects in te reo Maori, which together with the te reo sections of Te Ara constitutes the largest Maori-language publishing programme ever conducted.
In late 2001 all the biographies were made available online, with a team of researchers locating images and in some cases audio and video recordings to illustrate the essays. In 2010 the online biographies were relaunched as part of Te Ara, with the biographies and encyclopedia entries enriching and amplifying each other. Fifteen new biographies were added to Te Ara in 2010–11.
Happily the Dictionary’s time has come again, and from 2018 onwards we will release a small batch of new biographies annually. The first round will place the spotlight on a number of high-achieving women, to celebrate the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage. Subsequent rounds will illuminate the lives of significant and representative people from a cross-section of New Zealand society, with a focus on the decades after 1960. The new biographies will be released online only.
We’re still working through the details, but the new Dictionary of New Zealand Biography will honour the tradition of rigorous and broad-ranging scholarship established by the Dictionary’s original editors, staff, working groups and authors. They have left big shoes to fill.