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Always Here: telling Queer stories through heritage

Kerryn Pollock, senior advisor at Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, the country's national historic heritage agency, talks about the Rainbow List Project. The project aims to improve the diversity of Rārangi Kōrero, the New Zealand Heritage List, by recognising places of significance to Aotearoa New Zealand’s LGBTTFQI+ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Takatāpui, Fa’afāfine, Queer and Intersex) communities. Kerryn's talk was part of an ongoing series of public events called City Talks. The series is organised by the New Zealand Institute of Architects Wellington Branch and presented in partnership with City Gallery Wellington. A special thank you to Kerryn and the organisers for allowing this event to be recorded and shared.

Locations already on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero that relate to rainbow communities can be viewed on the Rainbow List map

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  • 00:00 - Welcome from Tina Williams, Wellington branch - Te Kāhui Whaihanga New Zealand Institute of Architects
  • 01:44 - Kerryn Pollock
  • 08:26 - Slide: Carmen's International Coffee Lounge - 86 Vivian Street, Wellington [map]
  • 09:40 - Slide: The Balcony/Le Balcon - 57a Victoria Street, Wellington [map]
  • 10:28 - Slide: The Cottage - 67 Moxham Avenue, Hataitai, Wellington [map]
  • 11:04 - Slide: Carmen's Curio Shop - 288 Cuba Street, Wellington [map]
  • 13:50 - Slide: Morgan's building (Club Exotique) - 199 Cuba Street, Wellington [map]
  • 15:50 - Slide: Queen Victoria statue - Albert Park, Auckland [map]
  • 17:52 - Slide: Rise Cottage - 10 Westenra Terrace, Christchurch [map]
  • 19:38 - Slide: Peterborough Centre - cnr Peterborough and Montreal Street, Christchurch [map]
  • 21:20 - Slide: Rewi Alley and Jack Stevens' home - Moeawatea Valley, South Taranaki [map]
  • 23:55 - Slide: Vinegar Hill/Putai Ngahere Domain, Manawatū-Whanganui [map]
  • 24:50 - Slide: Meteor Building (Charles Mackay) - 23 Ridgway Street, Whanganui [map]
  • 28:38 - Slide: Surgery of Dr Thomas Ongley - 202 Willis Street, Wellington [map]
  • 32:52 - Slide: Charles Brasch's home - 36a Heriot Row, Dunedin [map]
  • 34:10 - Slide: Frank Sargeson and Harry Doyle's home - 14a Esmonde Road, Takapuna, Auckland [map]
  • 34:40 - Slide: Courtney Archer and Chen Tan's home - 44 Belt South, Rangiora [map]
  • 37:00 - Slide: Chrissy Witoko and the Evergreen Coffee Lounge [map]
  • 44:35 - Questions from the audience


The importance of recognizing locations significant to New Zealand's LGBTQ+ communities on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero was the focal point of this presentation. The Rainbow List project led by Kerryn Pollock, senior advisor at Heritage New Zealand, sought to enhance the diversity of the New Zealand Heritage List by acknowledging places of importance to the LGBTQ+ community in a country with a heritage list that has historically mirrored the power dynamics and social priorities of the status quo.

The project takes a people-first approach, prioritizing social history over purely architectural value in its assessments. While heritage sites typically emphasize architectural significance, Pollock underscores the greater need to recognize human stories, particularly those from marginalized communities, to foster a sense of belonging and identity. The event highlighted the necessity of direct and intentional efforts by Heritage New Zealand to ensure that representation gaps in the heritage list are actively addressed.

Pollock shared examples of significant queer heritage sites: from the iconic locations associated with the legendary figure Carmen Rupe, a transgender entrepreneur and activist in Wellington's LGBTQ+ history, to the liberal-minded house of poet Ursula Bethell and their partner, Effie Pollen, in Christchurch – which reflected the deep personal connection between them independent of public views. Other notable sites included the Peterborough Centre, a covenant for LGBTQ+ socialization in Christchurch, and the historical Vinegar Hill site, hosting queer summer camps.

The project's impact is not merely to list buildings with queer associations, but to also bring to life the personal stories of individuals who influenced and were part of these places. For example, Morgan's Buildings became noted as a key part of Wellington's Red Light district and the sexual liberation movement, reaching beyond simple architectural classifications.

Pollock further elucidates that the significance a place holds within queer history doesn't solely warrant its heritage status; the location must embody historical, social, and cultural values resonant with pivotal themes in New Zealand's past.

The discussion extended beyond the Rainbow List project, as the importance and implications of physically visiting heritage sites were touched upon, providing a genuine connection to history that virtual experiences cannot replicate. The essence of heritage, in this sense, is more than the buildings themselves - it's the complex tapestry of human lives and narratives they keep intact. Heritage New Zealand's mission through this initiative is dual-faceted - preserving architectural forms and more critically, serving as an act of advocacy, recognition, and celebration of the diverse queer stories that form the pulse of New Zealand's societal fabric.

This summary is created using Generative AI. Although it is based on the recording's transcription, it may contain errors or omissions. Click here to learn more about how this summary was created.


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Record date:15th August 2022
Location:Wellington City Gallery, Wellington
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Archive:The master recording is archived at the Alexander Turnbull Library (OHDL-004679).