JD Stout Fellow Annual Lecture 2022 – Thursday 3 November 2022

J.D. Stout Annual Lecture 2022

Dr Ben Schrader
J.D. Stout Fellow 2022

Fabricating identities: a short history of historic preservation in
Aotearoa New Zealand, 1890-1990

Scholars have linked the evolution of historic preservation with the rise of nineteenth century nation states, where nation builders used historic places to invent traditions that rooted people in (national) soils. This was harder to do in settler colonies like New Zealand, where Pākehā had no historical links to Aotearoa. Most settlers accepted Māori heritage as fixed in the land but looked back to Britain as the source for their own.

The 1890s saw tentative recognition of Pākehā-produced heritage. Select historic places came to represent, first, regional, and later, national invented traditions and identities. These include Old Government House (Auckland), Canterbury Provincial Chambers, and the Waitangi Treaty House. This process culminated in the creation of the Historic Places Trust in 1955 to promote Aotearoa’s Māori and Pākehā heritage. Growing activism among preservationists led to grassroots campaigns that saved structures like Wellington’s Old St Paul’s Cathedral and Rongopai Marae near Waituhi but couldn’t save other structures like Nelson’s Provincial Building and Auckland’s St James Theatre and Arcade. Why were some places retained and others lost? 

The case studies reveal how communities formed strong affective bonds with their built heritage and these activated preservation efforts; that ideas of what constituted heritage was often contested and mutable; and, that heritage has played a pivotal role in shaping and reshaping many New Zealanders’ identities and attachments to place.


Dr Ben Schrader is a Wellington public historian specialising in urban history and the history of the built environment. The talk is drawn from a book research project he is undertaking with Michael Kelly on the history of historic preservation in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Date:                     Thursday 3 November

Time:                    4.30pm to 5.30pm – Lecture followed by refreshments.

Venue:                  Hunter Council Chamber, Level 2, Hunter Building, Kelburn Parade.

Zoom:                  https://vuw.zoom.us/j/98138083252

RSVP:                   Deborah.levy@vuw.ac.nz by Friday 28 October 2022