The Maori’s of New Zealand wrote a collection of 19th century manuscripts recording their lives before the arrival of Europeans. These records have been officially listed on UNESCO’s Memory of the World New Zealand register. UNESCO was established in 1945 by the United Nations to promote the exchange of ideas, information and culture.

Found among 14,000 manuscripts and books given by Sir George Grey to the Auckland Free Public Library in 1887 was a collection of 147 documents detailing Maori heritage. Sir George Grey was a two-term Governor of New Zealand, a member of Parliament and Premier when New Zealand was still a British colony.

As one of the most influential figures in New Zealand’s colonial times, Sir George Grey had an interest in Moari traditions and encouraged Moari leaders to write down their traditions for future generations before it was lost. Sir George was a wise man.

The documents are a cultural and historical records documenting Maori knowledge in songs, incantations, customs, rituals, genealogy and traditions.  And, according to Sue Cooper, Auckland Libraries regional heritage and research manager,  “This collection is the largest existing 19th Century collection of indigenous manuscripts brought together by a single collector and we are excited that it is one of the first to be inscribed on the New Zealand Memory of the World Programme. This is a tribute to the uniqueness of the manuscripts and to their significant heritage and cultural value.”

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