University history covers wide expansive themes


The University of Otago is calling on students, staff, alumni, and the public of Dunedin to submit black and white line artwork for inclusion in the 150th anniversary colouring book.

Artwork submitted for the competition must be an original line drawing and show either the university campus, or a scene from the wider Dunedin area.

Entries close on Friday, March 22, and there are prizes available of $500 for the book cover and $100 per page (up to 20).

For further information, visit academic research to the shenanigans of students, the official history of the University of Otago’s first 150 years tells a broad-ranging, inclusive story.

Written by Dunedin-based historian and Otago graduate Dr Ali Clarke, Otago: 150 Years of New Zealand’s First University will be formally launched next week.

Producing the detailed, themed history of the university was a five-year, part-time project for Dr Clarke, who also works at the Hocken Collections.

The lengthy timeframe gave Dr Clarke the opportunity to research and consult widely to reveal both the official achievements of the university and the personal, behind-the-scenes stories from its long history.

“I started a blog early in the first year, which was very helpful –it allowed people from all over the world to get in touch with me, help identify photos, and tell their stories.

“It did take over my life, but it was a lot of fun as well – I met some really interesting people through this process,” she said.

The book is arranged thematically, looking at the university’s foundation and administration, the evolving student body, the staff, research, the Christchurch and Wellington campuses, the Maori and Pacific Island centres, the changing styles of teaching, the built environment, and more.

It also looks at the university’s place in the world, its relationship with the city of Dunedin, its interaction with mana whenua and its importance to New Zealand and to the Pacific.

“About half of the book looks at the academic aspects of the university, and the other half is about student life, the teaching, and the buildings,” Dr Clarke said.

“Previous histories haven’t said much about the students, but I really wanted to include them in this book.

“They add so much to the vibrancy of the place, and also many of the people who will read the book will be former students.”

Through the research process, Dr Clarke learned many fascinating things about the university, including the remarkable research that has been done there.

“It was also great learning about the early students and staff, including the women,” she said.

Thanks to some snooping in early newspapers, she was able to put together a list of early students, and was interested to find that many had not been to secondary school.

“A lot of them were from ordinary families and it showed that the university was founded on that Scottish ideal of people with the intelligence and drive being able to further themselves.”

Dr Clarke is thrilled with the design and look of the full-colour book, which was done in-house by Otago University Press.