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The 1950 British Empire Games

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After a world war, and an absence of twelve years, the sports fans of the British Empire once again welcomed back the British Empire Games. The year was 1950; the host country, New Zealand.

The idea for New Zealand to even consider bidding for the right to host the games came from Mr Alwyn Moon of the NZ Amateur Athletic Association. Mr Moon had observed just how well the 1947 national athletics competition had run in Auckland, and especially how well Eden Park had coped with the intense level of competition at that standard. Moon subsequently called a meeting with like-minded officials to discuss the rather bold proposal: was Auckland in a position to host the 1950 British Empire Games?


Representatives from sporting codes across the city believed it was possible and began to explore the venture, while Mayor John Allum offered his backing, adamant Aucklanders would get behind the games. It soon transpired Christchurch was also keen to host, and so the New Zealand Olympic Association w…

Auckland Library Heritage Trust Scholarship 2018/2019

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Applications for the Auckland Library Heritage Trust research scholarship are now open!


Now in its sixth year, this scholarship is offered by the Auckland Library Heritage Trust to assist with research and the promotion of material held in the Sir George Grey Special Collections at the Central City Library and the distributed heritage collections across Auckland Libraries. Heritage collections are found at the north, south and west research centres at Takapuna, Manukau and Waitākere libraries.


The breadth of the collections has seen research topics range from Japanese woodblock books from the nineteenth century to the Jazz age in Auckland in the twentieth century. Last year’s scholar was Dr Majid Daneshagar from the University of Otago. Dr Daneshgar prepared a catalogue of Middle Eastern manuscripts looking at Arabic, Persian and Ottoman Turkish works in Sir George Grey Special Collections.

As well as rare and historic books Auckland Libraries’ Heritage Collections feature maps, manus…

Evolving Auckland

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Many maps and plans of Central Auckland have been drawn and published since the 1840s. The first and most well-known was drawn by Surveyor-General, Felton Mathew, for Governor Hobson and published in 1841. Mathew’s design was best known as ‘the cobweb plan’ because it envisaged a circular Trafalgar Circus (where the university is today) with radiating quadrants and a crescent connecting with Upper Queen Street. Mathew’s plan was thought impractical by many influential settlers so was eventually shelved. The only echo of Mathew’s plan that survives today is Waterloo Quadrant (originally to have been named London Quadrant – but now not even actually a quadrant) and which runs between Old Government House and the High Court.


One hundred years later a town planning model was created of the Auckland CBD, probably from an aerial photograph taken in 1939.  Possibly this was done as part of New Zealand’s centennial celebrations in 1940.  Lisa Truttman of Timespanner has suggested the model mi…

Summer in the West: Jack Diamond’s photographic record (part 2)

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Following the news that the J. T. Diamond Collection has been inscribed onto the UNESCO Memory of the World documentary heritage register, we thought that a photographic blog series featuring some of the great images from the collection would be appropriate.

Spectacular Whatipu Beach attracted many day trippers and holiday makers in the 1920s and 30s, and even then little boys photobombed family portraits! Following the fashion for the Orient at the time, these two bathing beauties in substantial swimming costumes and stylish swim hats, sit beneath a parasol on the beach at Whatipu near the Gibbons' boarding house. 

Jack Diamond sourced this photograph from the booklet 'A Guide to Muriwai' (1922). It shows two men and a young girl digging for toheroas on Muriwai Beach. This beautifully illustrated book is a tourist guide to the huge black sand beach where one could not only picnic and swim, but also watch or participate in car races. Copies of the original 1922 publication …

‘Don’t leave town until you’ve seen the country’ exhibition

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New Zealanders have the reputation of being great overseas travellers. However they are also very proud of their own country and have explored its farthest corners, despite the often difficult terrain. Now open on Level 2 of the Central Library is the latest exhibition from Heritage Collections, exploring the ways in which New Zealanders travelled and holidayed in the past century.

The exhibition features original photographs, diaries, maps, posters and oral histories from our collections. The title recalls the slogan of a Tourism department campaign from the 1980s: ‘Don’t leave town until you’ve seen the country’. The advertisement encouraged New Zealanders to explore their own back yard before heading off overseas on their OE. You can watch it online at Ngā Taonga Sound and Vision.

From travel to tourism In the 19th century and earlier travel within New Zealand was most frequently for economic or strategic reasons. But with the advent of better public transport, especially the rail…

The hundred-year-old Papatoetoe Town Hall (part 2)

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On 27 February 2018 Papatoetoe will celebrate the centenary of one of its most iconic buildings, the Papatoetoe Town Hall. A centenary dinner will be held in the hall and stories and photographs from residents and community groups who have used the building over the years will be on display (contact jennya.clark@xtra.co.nz for details).

This is the second part of a history of the hall. Read about the early years in The hundred-year-old Papatoetoe Town Hall (part 1).
Papatoetoe Civic War Memorial The section where the library stood was an obvious site for development, and Papatoetoe Borough Council decided to develop a war memorial building there. The makeshift library building was thus removed and, during an impressive open-air ceremony held on 8 October 1955, the Papatoetoe Civic War Memorial was opened in its place. This was a dignified two-storey building housing a new and much expanded public library downstairs, and a meeting room or ‘concert chamber’ and new Borough Council offic…