You may now be able to find a good home for this heritage material which could be kept and preserved for future generations. In 2016, Dr James Ng and his wife, Eva Wong Ng, approached the Presbyterian Research Centre (PRC) with the offer of depositing their significant archive of material relating to New Zealand Chinese heritage within the PRC. The PRC archives already hold substantial resources relating to New Zealand Chinese, especially in relation to New Zealand Presbyterian missions, so the Ng collections strengthens current holdings. The Ng Collection contains an extensive and diverse range of papers, photos and oral histories, collected over the years by Dr James Ng and his wife Eva. It documents the history and experiences of Chinese New Zealanders from the first arrival of Chinese miners in the 19th century to the eventual reunification of Chinese families in the late 1940s to early 1950s after the Japanese invasion of China. The Ng Collection includes notebook and diaries, 30 folders of research notes, papers (including unpublished Chinese community newsletters), at least 300 letters in Cantonese and English, and 100 unique photographic negatives of Chinese gold miners taken by Rev Alexander Don. The Collection was transferred to the Presbyterian Research Centre in 2017. Jane Thomsen, Director of the Presbyterian Research Centre of the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand, says it is hard to single out one item from the vast collection but a ‘Roll of Chinese’ which belonged to Reverend Alexander Don, a Presbyterian minister/missionary, is a significant item in the collection. “No other document like it exists anywhere else in the world. It dates from 1883 to 1929 and contains the names and details of more than 3,500 New Zealand Chinese, including personal, work, travel and financial details, and it shows the changing nature of the New Zealand Chinese community.”
Jane emphasises that the collection is “unique in the voice and agency it gives to Chinese on their experiences of life in New Zealand, through their own words, as recorded by missionaries and in later oral histories, or as documented in letters they wrote”.
The significance of the Ng collection was recognised in 2017. It was one of seven heritage collections which were inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand Documentary Heritage Register that year.
The UNESCO recognition draws attention to significance of documentary heritage and the institutions that care for it. To ensure that the Ng collection and other heritage material relating to the history of Chinese in New Zealand are
preserved, The New Zealand Chinese Heritage Research Charitable Trust was established in Dec 2017.
The material will be housed at the Hewitson Wing of Knox College Dunedin. The Trust’s objects are as follows:
a) To establish and operate a resource library of material relating to the history of New Zealand Chinese.
b) To support research in the history of New Zealand Chinese.
c) To increase the public’s understanding and appreciation of the history of New Zealand Chinese.
As part of the above, the Trust would like to collect and provide a unique library and archive of the New Zealand Chinese heritage material. It is planned that such library will be available by appointment for researchers and that most of the collection, including diaries, will be digitised to provide online access to researchers world-wide. In time it would like to create and offer scholarships and fellowships to promote the use of the Trust collection for
Research. Please note that the material the Trust is interested in is not confined to print or written material. The Trust is also interested in photographs or other material of heritage significance. The material may be in English or Chinese. We are very proud that a Trust has been set up with historians and archivist professionals to look after this heritage material for us. Our Association hopes to organise a fundraising event in future to support the Trust’s on-going activities. Watch this space. The last word goes to Jane Thomsen, director of PRC and a Trustee of the Trust: “The PRC Chinese collections started with the European voice – Don’s diaries and published articles etc, and the other materials owned and being gathered by the Trust represent the Chinese voice. This makes the NZ Chinese Heritage Research collection as a whole far richer, as well as giving a far more accurate picture of NZ Chinese history. Archives and Libraries in the Western world tend to be very white-focused by nature, and this will help to address that.”
If you would like to consider depositing any material with the Trust, please contact Jane Thomsen, Director of
Presbyterian Research Centre – 03 473 0775, email email@example.com . If there is a better repository for
your material, Jane is happy and well placed to advise you where that is.
Phillip Shum is our representative on this Trust.
Teresa Chan – Chair, OSCA
Photo credit: Auckland Libraries
(from left to right) Rachel Herd (Archivist, Presbyterian Research Centre), Jane Thomsen (Director, Presbyterian Research Centre), Wailin Elliot (Eva Ng’s sister, who represented the Ng family) at the UNESCO presentation.