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2021 inscription announced

November 2021

The archival collection of Christchurch poet and social worker Ursula Bethell has been registered on the UNESCO Aotearoa New Zealand Memory of the World Register.

This collection of Bethell’s personal and literary papers and artworks is held in the University of Canterbury’s Macmillan Brown Library.

Ursula Bethell (1874-1945) is recognised as a pivotal figure in New Zealand literature. Her correspondents include Charles Brasch, D’Arcy Cresswell, Ngaio Marsh, Allen Curnow, Denis Glover and Monte Holcroft.

Bethell, who initially published under the pseudonym Evelyn Hayes, returned to New Zealand in 1924 with her lifelong companion Effie Pollen. They settled at Rise Cottage on the Cashmere Hills, the focus of her first collection, From a garden in the Antipodes, published in 1929.

D’Arcy Cresswell wrote in Landfall that “New Zealand wasn’t truly discovered until Ursula Bethell, very earnestly digging, raised her head to look at the mountains. Almost everyone had been blind before”. Cresswell’s commentary speaks to the close attention Bethell pays to her surroundings, the close view in the garden and the Southern Alps beyond.

Jane Wild, Chair of the Memory of the World Aotearoa New Zealand Trust, notes: “This focus on Ursula Bethell and her important archive of letters, poetry and paintings is timely, just as The Press coverage in digital form through Papers Past https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/press, is extended to 1961. Both help researchers to access the cultural scene in Christchurch, where Ursula Bethell made her significant contribution”.

“UC Puna are thrilled to have this significant and popular collection inscribed on the Register”, says Anne Scott, Canterbury University Librarian. “The collection continues to actively contribute to our understanding of New Zealand literature, cultural and gender history.

Anne adds: “We have already digitised 75 paintings by Ursula, and photographs, which can be viewed via our online platform Kā Kohika.”

An inscription event will be held when Covid-19 levels allow.

The UNESCO Memory of the World Aotearoa New Zealand Register now includes the Ursula Bethell Collection. https://unescomow.nz/inscription/ursula-bethell-collection

2022 nominations

Expressions of interest close on 31 March 2022.

Nominations close on 31 May 2022.