Hillary's family sue over papers

The children of Sir Edmund Hillary are going to court to keep control of their father's writings, old diaries and thousands of family photographs bequeathed to the Auckland Museum in his will.

Sarah and Peter Hillary will bring the action against the executors of their father's estate in the High Court at Auckland next month.

But the dispute is actually with the Auckland War Memorial Museum and is over the interpretation of a clause in Sir Ed's will.

It gives "my personal papers, diaries, maps, colour slides, photographs and other written and illustrative material relating to my life and adventures" to the museum, "with the proviso that [Sarah and Peter] shall have ready access to and the right to publish such material if they think fit".

The clause says no other person or corporate body may publish any of the material without the consent of the Hillary children for 20 years after Sir Ed's death.

The museum is opposing the Hillarys' view that they have ownership rights to Sir Ed's possessions.

Its interpretation is that the clause does not bind it in any way, says lawyer Richard Wilson, one of the executors of Sir Ed's will. Mr Wilson and the other executor, lawyer John Jackson, are named as defendants in the action brought by the Hillary siblings.

"There is a provision ... which says no one can publish material for 20 years without the consent of Peter and Sarah," Mr Wilson said.

"The museum is alleging that doesn't bind them, that they can publish without the consent. It's that simple."

Peter Hillary said the dispute began last June, adding to an already distressing time after their father's death in January.

"It's extremely hurtful, especially when our family has always been and is very museum oriented," Mr Hillary said.

"The museum is asserting absolute ownership - complete intellectual rights over how it's used. This is our history - a lot of it is family stuff, photos of the children, our mother, our family. I don't think it's unreasonable that we are consulted about it."

After an experience with the Canterbury Museum involving items the museum believed it owned but which Sir Ed had intended to be on loan, Mr Hillary said his father had met the then Auckland Museum director, Dr Rodney Wilson, at least twice to discuss the issue.

He was concerned that Auckland Museum would not recognise that his children had the ultimate say in how his possessions were used.

"I think he'd be horrified that this is happening. He was concerned and that's why he had those meetings with Rodney Wilson. Dad needed to be sort of encouraged that the rights would stay with us."

Mr Hillary said that although the family had had a fair and mutual understanding over his father's possessions, recent months' experience with museum staff had led to a rethink of future contributions of his father's personal possessions to the museum.

"Boy, I've got to say [Auckland Museum director] Vanda Vitali has been very difficult to deal with.

"I have asked and asked and asked basically for a cup of coffee to talk things over. She just won't have it."

An Auckland Museum spokesman said yesterday that Dr Vitali would not comment personally on the issue. But the museum said it supported having the interpretation of the will examined in court.

"This clause, which lays out Sir Ed's wishes about his historical papers, is interpreted by the museum in a way that guarantees access in perpetuity for researchers, scholars and the people of Auckland," a formal statement said.

"This we see as our defining responsibility, in order to honour the desire of Sir Ed for his papers to be housed here. Peter and Sarah Hillary have a different interpretation."

Mr Hillary said the family had always supported keeping their father's possessions in the museum to share with New Zealanders, but it was important for the museum to show respect and acknowledgment that the items were also family heirlooms that also held sentimental value.

"It's a bit like me saying to you, 'I have all your family's photographs at your family holidays, outings with your parents and family history and I'm going to do whatever I want with it'. We just want to be consulted."

* This article is from The New Zealand Herald.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Danczuk has claimed he is a 'man of the world'
Seth Rollins cashes in his Money in the Bank contract to win the WWE World Heavyweight Championship
WWERollins wins the WWE World Heavyweight title in one of the greatest WrestleMania's ever seen
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Finance Manager - Central London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Business Development Manager

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: IT Buyer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This award winning IT company are currently re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Account Manager

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor