As the blogging year draws to a close, it’s time to review 2014. The goal of this blog is to share stories I come across during my research for the forthcoming 150th anniversary history of the University of Otago, and to elicit more information on Otago’s past. Now in its second year, the blog has been more succesful than I could have imagined – thanks very much to all who have provided feedback, helped identify photos, come up with new information and shared your own memories, both on and off the blog.

Here are the top ten of the 47 posts published on the blog this year (as measured by “hits”):

  1. Our oldest building (the hunt for the oldest building on campus – Mellor House was the winner)
  2. Naming flats (entertaining names which have been given to student flats over the years)
  3. Promoting Otago, 1980s-style (the 1982 film which promoted the University of Otago – some fascinating scenes of student life back in the day)
  4. A tale of 10 libraries (how one bookshelf expanded into 10 libraries on 4 campuses)
  5. Our oldest building – some runners up (more stories of old houses which were integrated into the Dunedin campus)
  6. Building for the arts (the history of the Arts Building, opened in 1969 and now scheduled for replacement)
  7. 25 years of Cumberland (the unlikely beginnings of one of Otago’s residential colleges)
  8. Eating at the union (the joys of student cafeteria food)
  9. Maori Club – the early years (the beginnings of one of the most significant student clubs, featuring some great 1970s photos)
  10. Allen Hall turns 100 (celebrating the centenary of the first student union building, now the home of theatre studies)

One story from 2013 also continues to attract lots of readers. The vanishing hall of residence is the story of Helensburgh House, which was open from 1984 to 1991. It has been lovely to read of the fond memories some former residents hold of this distinctly non-elite residential college!

I’d like to put a word in also for a couple of my personal favourites. The stories of individual departments don’t attract as many readers as tales of buildings or student life, which more people can relate to, but they are just as interesting to research and write. A favourite of mine this year was The gift of music, which explores the connection between turnip seeds and the Department of Music! Our oldest alumnus? shared the story of the remarkable Ian Chirnside, whom I had the privilege of meeting early this year. Ian, who died in September aged 106, started working as a technician at the dental school in 1922, eventually becoming an associate professor of dentistry.

A big thank you to all those people who have helped share blog stories through social media and in print this year, especially the staff of the Hocken Collections, Department of History and Art History, the Alumni Office and Marketing and Communications; Vaughan Elder of the Otago Daily Times; David Murray of Built in Dunedin and Upright! Exploring Dunedin’s Built Heritage; and Owain Morris of Growing up in Dunedin in the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s & 90’s. Thank you also to the university departments who shared stories of their own departments. Top marks as social media whizz must go to Sarah Gallagher of the Dunedin Flat Names project.

Many of the stories on this blog were sparked by interviews I carried out for the oral history project attached to the 150th anniversary history. I am truly grateful to all those people who have shared their time and their memories with me – it has been a privilege to meet so many interesting people from Otago’s past (and present!). A special thank you to those who shared images from their personal collections. For images I am also grateful to various university departments (most notably Marketing and Communications), the Alexander Turnbull Library, Te Papa Tongarewa and, especially, the Hocken Collections (with a special shout out to Richard Munro from reprographics).

Above all, I would like to thank all of you who read this blog – without you there would be no point. And remember, I am always keen to hear more about any topic featured here (as comments on the blog or, if you prefer, by email, letter or in person). Corrections are especially welcome!

I’m now taking a wee break from blogging, but will be back in February 2015 to share more stories from the University of Otago’s fascinating past. Have a great Christmas and New Year!

Ali Clarke

Assistant blogger Minerva McGonagall (aka Minnie) prepares to lend a paw.

Assistant blogger Minerva McGonagall (aka Minnie) prepares to lend a paw.

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