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Paul Diamond - Curator, Maori, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand - visited the Library for the 10th International Indigenous Librarian’s Forum and had the opportunity to view the William Charles Cotton journals. Paul had heard about these journals from a New Zealand archaeologist and was eager to see what surprises they had in store.
Given a rare glimpse at the original journals, he commented: "They are quite different to anything I’ve ever seen.” “They’re not just journals,” he said. “They’re richly illustrated scrapbooks”.
William Charles Cotton’s journals contain sketches of people and places in New Zealand. They also include kiwi feathers, locks of hair and even a detailed drawing of the facial tattoos of a Maori chief. Strikingly, the journals have printed material written in Maori.
Missionaries at this time learnt Maori in order to preach to the Maori people in their own language. Consequently, journals like these have become a written record of Maori language. As an Indigenous librarian, Paul remarked that he found the process of looking at the journals “quite moving” and considers them a valuable resource for understanding New Zealand’s history.