It's a long way from Wellington to GallipoliAugust 7th, 2015 By Chris Szekely
This week marks the centenary of the ANZAC assault on Chunuk Bair. Earlier this year a number of National Library staff had the opportunity to visit Chunuk Bair and other Turkish landmarks as guests of the National Library of Turkey. Chief Librarian Chris Szekely recounts the experience.
Thirty-six hours in the air, on the road and on a boat; it is a long way from Wellington to Gallipoli. In early April I was part of a New Zealand delegation that travelled to Turkey to participate in that country’s library week celebrations.
The delegation was led by Peter Murray, Deputy Chief Executive of the Information & Knowledge Services branch of the Department of Internal Affairs. Other delegates included Corin Haines, President of the Library & Information Association of New Zealand Aotearoa (LIANZA), and Dylan Owen, a curriculum specialist from the National Library’s Services to Schools division.
Library Week is an annual event in Turkey, and this year it was particularly special because of the World War One centenary. A library conference was held in Çanakkale on the theme of intercultural dialogue. Peter, Corin and I delivered papers at the conference, alongside colleagues from Turkey, Palestine and Bosnia Herzegovina. A paper on the National Library’s WW100 programme was particularly well received.
The city of Çanakkale looks across the Dardanelles to the Gallipoli Peninsula. At the conclusion of the conference, we were taken there to visit significant landmarks, including Lone Pine, ANZAC Cove and Chunuk Bair. Our visit was just a couple of weeks prior to the ANZAC Day centenary, and preparations for official ceremonies were very evident. Scaffolding was being erected in several locations to provide seating for thousands of anticipated visitors.
Dylan spent the previous day on the peninsula taking photographs for use in WW100 curriculum enquiry guides. A selection of these photographs is included here, and will eventually be deposited into the Turnbull Library’s photographic archive.
After the Gallipoli visit we flew to Ankara, the Turkish capital. We met with colleagues at the National Library of Turkey to discuss various aspects of professional practice. A highlight of the visit was the presentation of several photographic prints from the Turnbull Library, including a portrait of a Turkish soldier from a camera retrieved from Gallipoli. The gift was much appreciated by our hosts.
Discussions were also held with diplomatic staff at the New Zealand Embassy to progress the development of a relationship between the two national libraries. A reference to the relationship was subsequently included in the joint declaration signed by the New Zealand and Turkish prime ministers shortly before the ANZAC ceremonies at Gallipoli:
The two Prime Ministers... emphasised the importance of enhancing cultural linkages. In this regard, the ongoing engagement between the New Zealand and Turkish National Libraries aimed at preserving and sharing the culture and history of the two countries was welcomed.
The Turkish visit was a professional highlight for all of the New Zealanders in the delegation and it was pleasing to see libraries featuring in a historic declaration between the two countries. It is a long way from Wellington to Gallipoli. However, there is now a closer relationship between our two national libraries, particularly on matters of shared and historical interest.