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Source: University of Canterbury

25 August 2020

Detailed memories of the Canterbury earthquakes, captured in video interviews of some 750 Canterbury residents, are safely preserved in the University of Canterbury (UC)’s QuakeBox archive and publicly available.

  • The UC QuakeBox sitting outside Westfield Riccarton, November 2012. Photo: Waynne Williams Port Hills Productions CC-BY-NC-ND 3.0

An innovative, mobile recording studio built into a shipping container, the QuakeBox travelled around Canterbury in 2012, giving the public a chance to share their personal experiences of the earthquakes, which began 10 years ago on 4 September 2010.

The QuakeBox team has since been funded by the Royal Society’s Marsden Fund to re-interview some of the original interviewees in a world-leading longitudinal study of the ongoing effects of a natural disaster.

Associate Professor Donald Matheson is a director of the Arts Digital Lab, which hosts the archive. “It is fascinating to revisit people’s stories of their personal experiences of the earthquakes,” he says. “I am very glad that we were able to take the QuakeBox out into the community in 2012 and capture this material. And now we can go back and interview some of them again to find out what has happened since then. We can learn a lot about the ongoing issues such as insurance claims and rebuilding, and other changes to people’s lives after these pivotal events.”

Professor Paul Millar, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor, College of Arts, was interviewed on TVNZ One News about the project. “I don’t think the disaster is over until the last person has their life restored as close to normal as possible,” he told the programme.

Watch the TVNZ One News interview here.

Professor Millar has led the establishment at UC of New Zealand’s only Digital Humanities qualification, which helps develop digital skills in Arts students through participation in Arts Digital Lab projects such as the QuakeBox.

The QuakeBox is a collaborative project between the New Zealand Institute of Language, Brain and Behaviour (NZILBB) at UC and UC CEISMIC (Canterbury Earthquake Digital Archive), a group of national organisations that aim to gather and preserve digital content related to the Canterbury earthquakes.

The QuakeBox is just one of the highlights of the CEISMIC archive at UC, which contains over 175,000 images, video, audio, stories, research and official documents related to the Canterbury earthquakes (22,000 items relate to the first 2010 earthquakes, including 13,000 images).


Learn more about Digital Humanities at UC:

UC is the only Aotearoa New Zealand university where students can specialise in the rapidly growing area of Digital Humanities, through an arts minor, honours, masters and postgraduate certificate programmes, as well as Professional & Community Engagement (PACE) internships with a digital focus.

Digital Humanities students learn to apply digital tools and methods in their studies, and develop a critical understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the digital world and our knowledge economy (including ethical issues related to information technology). Using digital tools in the study of humanities and social science prepares students to think critically about technology in society broadly, and offers essential skills for success in today’s digital workplace.

MIL OSI