In June, the Centre was delighted to host one of our favourite historians, Dr. Kate Bagnall, who was visiting Dunedin to conduct research at local archives for her current project tracing Chinese naturalisation across the British colonies. Kate also kindly presented on an aspect of this research in our Global Dunedin speaker series. In her talk she traced the legal and personal histories of naturalisation, connecting the Dunedin experience into a larger Australasian setting, arguing that tracing naturalisation processes and records helps to uncover different histories of migration and mobility from the standard narrative of single male sojourners. This is particularly important research because Chinese presence in the British colonies is often told through a focus on exclusion and immigration restriction. Incredibly, Kate also presented fresh research barely hours old from her visit to the Dunedin archives, revealing that there were 450 Chinese who naturalised in New Zealand prior to 1908, with 197 of those in Otago. The first in Otago was Louis Gay Tan in 1870. We thank Kate for a wonderful lecture and wish her all the best for the research project.
Our next Global Dunedin lecture will be given by Dr. Rosi Crane on July 8 on the international trade in museum specimens during the nineteenth century. When the Otago University Museum opened in its new building on Great King Street in 1877, amongst other things there was a giraffe skeleton, a stuffed lion, several monkeys, and innumerable birds from Australia, Europe, India and New Zealand. From the outset the collections were international. Many of the exotic animals came to Dunedin from commercial dealers from London, Sydney, Bremen and Prague. Some of the purchase money came from limited museum funds but most came from trading moa bones. Kiwi and kakapo skins had their value too but they were not as valuable as moa. A few scraps of correspondence has survived which tells us the price that these animals fetched, what else the dealers had to offer and what the curators wanted to fill perceived gaps. The business of supplying museums with specimens was extensive and Dunedin was part of this global network of supply and demand. The story of how historical commercial trade practices have impacted on the Museum is told here for the first time.
We’re really delighted to be hosting Kate Bagnall (University of Wollongong) for our next Global Dunedin Lecture at Toitū on Sunday 10 June. Kate is currently researching the stories of Chinese migrants who sought citizenship in Canada, Australia and New Zealand between 1860 and 1920. As she notes, the history of Chinese naturalisation in British settler colonies of the Pacific Rim is hidden, mostly because it has been seen through the lens of Chinese exclusion, a history of when it was prohibited by law rather than of when it was allowed. In this project, Kate is exploring the lives of naturalised Chinese, intertwining biographies and case studies with historical analysis of naturalisation law and policy, linking lives with legislation. Her aim is to understand why and in what circumstances Chinese migrants became British subjects, and what it meant for them.
Kate will discuss aspects of this research project at her Global Dunedin Lecture “Gold Mountain Guests”. This is a free event and open to the public. Hope to see you there!