In 2002, the New Zealand Government funded the Reference Group within the Ministry for Culture and Heritage to create a new Encyclopedia of New Zealand. Written and created specifically for the Web, this publication is being produced on-line progressively over a nine-year period: access to the Web site is free of charge. Te Ara – The Encyclopedia of New Zealand will contain approximately 2.5 million words, 25, 000 media objects and around 1,000 entries. ‘Te Ara’ in Maori means ‘the pathway’, and this Encyclopedia will offer many pathways to understanding New Zealand. It will eventually be a comprehensive guide to the country’s peoples, natural environment, history, culture, economy, institutions and society. Te Ara will be structured around nine themes, appearing progressively between 2005 and 2012. They include New Zealanders (published 2005), Earth Sea and Sky (published 2006), and seven others still to come.
Photographs, sounds, moving images, documents, graphs and maps are combined with text in Te Ara. On average there is one media object for every 100 words. An important feature of the site is its Maori content. There are currently few reliable and accessible reference sources on Maori; the Maori history, culture, science and stories contained in Te Ara will be a significant contribution to an understanding of New Zealand.
Te Ara combines short essays with a variety of multimedia additions in an exciting, entertaining and instructive way. Links provide pathways to the digital collections of libraries, archives and museums around the country, and the project has helped to encourage nationwide digitization of information. Te Ara also allows for the inclusion of community contributions such as photographs, oral histories, or updates of information.
Keywords: New Zealand, encyclopedia, culture, history, identity, Maori