Are you sitting comfortably? It’s time for some UC history!
The University of Canterbury recently launched a campus-wide survey to catalogue any heritage artefacts that once lived at the original Canterbury College site. The survey is being conducted by two recent UC graduates, Natalie Looyer and Amy Boswell-Hore, under the supervision of Terri Elder, Curator of the Logie Collection and UC Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities.
Earlier this month, the team began their survey in the Department of Classics, where they found several typewriters, two tables, a lectern, and a spindled club chair. The chair was of particular interest as it may have belonged to John Macmillan Brown, one of the founding professors at Canterbury College.
While the chair itself is not remarkable, the same cannot be said for the man who may have once owned it. John Macmillan Brown arrived in Christchurch on Christmas Day, 1874, to take the Chair of Classics, History, and English Literature at a newly founded college with nowhere to call home. Fortunately, Macmillan Brown not only had a passion for scholarship but also for University policy and administration. He became a central figure in the College’s growth.
With his innovative teaching methods, students flourished and class sizes rapidly expanded under Macmillan Brown’s care. To accommodate the growth, he gifted many of his books to the university for the student’s use. His donation eventually became the Macmillan Brown Library, which takes particular interest in Māori and heritage studies like Macmillan Brown himself. Outside of his teaching role, Macmillan Brown became a member of the Royal Commission on Higher Education (1879-82), a member of the University Senate (1879), was Vice-Chancellor (1916-1923), and finally Chancellor (1923-1935). He also acted as a de facto rector in the early years of the College, particularly supporting women and students from lower-income households. By the time of his death in 1935, Canterbury College was well on its way to becoming the world-renowned University of Canterbury that we know it as today.
As the University of Canterbury moves towards our 150th anniversary, it is time that we dust off the artefacts that are hidden away, no matter how unassuming they might initially seem. You never know what story they can tell us.
Keep an eye out for more stories of Canterbury College as the survey team visits more departments around UC.
Want to know more about the survey? You can find contact details and links at Teece Museum of Classical Antiquities.
London Stereoscopic Photographic Company. London Stereoscopic Company: Portrait of Professor John Macmillan Brown. Haast family: Collection. Ref: PA2-2914. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand. /records/22590878