NZ Geographic Provisions 1.25 Million Users

The New Zealand Geographic Archive, including every issue ever published, today connected New Zealand’s 668,000 students to the service. The deal was struck with the Ministry of Education on the strength of the archive already available since 2013 to print subscribers and public libraries, and facilitated by the EPIC Consortium, a sort of Pharmac for electronic resources. It brings the total number of provisioned users of the archive to 1.25 million—over a quarter of all New Zealanders.*

Featuring 25 years of commissioned, award-winning writing and photography, the New Zealand Geographic Archive represents one of the largest and highest quality collections of local New Zealand content to be made available in recent time.

In it are the stories that only a New Zealand-based publication would cover—the kiwifruit industry, geysers, shearing, and small town icons. Few international journals have material on New Zealand marine reserves, the very latest on issues of water quality, the first days of life of a rainbow trout, a winter in the Maniototo, or a journey to Tokelau, New Zealand’s northern-most outpost.

The platform is accessible using any internet-connect device, anywhere, without the requirement for special software or plugins. The six-million-word archive is fully text-searchable, meta-tagged, and supports a number of ways of browsing. “It was our ‘Mission Impossible’,” says publisher and editor James Frankham. “Searching and navigating collections like this presents a huge problem—the content is so deep and rich, and the lens of ‘search’ is so inadequate. Rather than make search infinitely more complex, we realised we needed more lenses.”

As well as live search, the team developed facilities to browse by issue or explore the archive by school curriculum thread. A suite of free teachers’ resources are in production to allow a new way to interrogate the archive, and a news service delivers an email to teachers’ inboxes connecting news headlines with in-depth features available in the collection—milk powder threat, read the 6000-word feature article on 1080; a row over water storage in Rangitata, check out the whopping 13,000-word special feature on water wars published last year.

The service allows school librarians to promote the resource within their schools or regions by re-posting the archive connections on school intranets, newsletters and through social channels.

What really sets the New Zealand Geographic Archive apart from other electronic resources is, perhaps predictably, the importance of the photographic coverage.

“The visual narrative has always been as important as the written narrative for the magazine, and the power of the large images is a highly valued aspect of the Geographic reading experience,” says Frankham. “There was also a considerable amount of effort invested over a quarter of a century by editors and art directors into the logical and aesthetic flow of a story, and the relative emphasis given to each image. We wanted to preserve those values.”

The archive can be full-screened so the lavish photographic coverage is shown to advantage. And because it’s a web service, the template is being constantly updated and new features rolled out as they become available—geotagging stories is on the development list, as is an interface to record users’ favourites.

Along with all New Zealand schools, a number of public libraries and tertiary institutions provision the archive for their respective districts, staff and students. All current subscribers to the print magazine have access by right also.

“New Zealand Geographic content is world-class and timeless, and finding a way to deliver that over an elegant digital platform was always going to be the holy grail,” says Frankham. “The arrangement with the Ministry of Education is the culmination of years of hard work and a long-held desire to make this enormous resource available to Kiwi kids in a meaningful way.”

* Electronic resources are sold into public libraries on a ‘population served’ basis. Wellington City Libraries, for instance, serves a population of 191,956 people. Some connect within the district’s libraries, others access the resource through the library website. Tertiary libraries work in much the same way and are rated but full-time equivalent students and staff (EFTSS). Schools are provisioned sector-wide, from within the school and authenticated outside of it, which according the current Ministry of Education Directory of Schools, includes 668,335 students.