Monday, 24 July 2017

John A Lee on war poetry: when mud and blood became the keynote

John A Lee was, amongst other things, a war hero, politician, publican and author during his unusually eventful and varied life. In his will Lee asked that his private papers be deposited with Auckland Libraries a year after his death.

Recently described by John Horrocks in the Journal of New Zealand literature (2016; Vol. 34 (1)) as a “vast and chaotic archive”, researchers will be pleased to hear that a project is underway to undertake fuller arrangement and description of this collection. Lee’s papers came to the library in a staggered manner which leads to challenges for the archivist trying to follow archival concepts of provenance and original order. At the end of this project we will have a rich finding aid for Lee’s papers which will make it easier for future researchers to find and use them.


Whilst this work is ongoing it provides an opportunity to highlight some of the things that make up this collection.

Lee’s varied life is reflected in the variety of formats that make up this collection. As well as diaries, letters, manuscripts of his writing, photographs and scrapbooks Lee also donated gramophone records.

Friday, 14 July 2017

Further footprints with Murray Freer

Auckland Libraries has recently added a further selection of photographs from the South Auckland Courier files of the late 1960s to the Footprints database. These images provide a visual feast of local events, people and fashions at the time.

Here a group of young people model the latest styles during an open air promotional event organized by the Otahuhu Business Association, Eve's Apple Boutique and Radio Manukau in September 1969. The garments include a knitted jumpsuit, miniskirts, fringed jerkins and jackets, and a variety of hats and headbands. 

This photograph, like many others in the newly released collection, was taken by the well-known local photographer Murray Freer. Murray began providing photographs to the Courier as a freelancer in 1958, then progressed to reporter, and finally became editor of the Courier’s southern editions. Murray has provided us with a fascinating account of his years behind the camera (Murray C. Freer: A Photographer’s Life).

In another example of Murray’s work, children from the East Tamaki School are depicted singing an Austrian folk song during the Otara Schools Music Festival at Otara (later Hillary) College in August 1968. The conventional schoolchildren’s clothing provides a striking contrast to the far-out styles shown above.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Autograph books

While the autograph is now thought of as a hastily scrawled celebrity signature, autograph books were once a treasured item which collected illustrations, poems and personal messages from friends and loved ones. Sir George Grey Special Collections is home to a number of these cherished albums. These books contain amazing images and messages that provide an insight into friendship groups and communities.

Monday, 29 May 2017

Caroline Abraham: my own bright land

34 sketches in New Zealand for Mr Charles Abraham.

Ref: Caroline Abraham, Sketchbook, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 3-111.

Mrs Caroline Harriet Abraham is chiefly remembered as a recorder of the early colonial New Zealand landscape. Her cousin was the wife of Bishop Selwyn and she herself married Selwyn’s good friend Mr Charles Abraham. During the first half of their New Zealand residence, the Abrahams lived mainly at St John’s College where Charles was Principal. They moved south in 1859 when he was made inaugural bishop of Wellington.

Ref: Caroline Abraham, Sketchbook, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 3-111.

Monday, 15 May 2017

RainbowYOUTH archive

From humble but enthusiastic beginnings, RainbowYOUTH has grown to become one of the most successful youth organisations in New Zealand.

Ref: RainbowYOUTH, RainbowYOUTH Collection, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

In 2017 an exhibition was created from the Auckland Libraries RainbowYOUTH archive collection, which consists of seven recorded oral histories, images and ephemera sharing the origin and development of the 28 year young organisation, and the stories of those involved from the very first small Auckland gay and lesbian group to the highly successful present day queer youth community support network. The RainbowYOUTH Exhibition is on now at Leys Institute Library, Ponsonby, until June 3.

Monday, 8 May 2017

R. A. K. Mason: a uniquely distinguished son of the city


THIS TOTARA TREE
WAS PLANTED BY THE
AUCKLAND CITY COUNCIL
TO HONOUR THE MEMORY OF
RONALD ALLISON KELLS MASON
POET
AND NATIVE SON OF THIS CITY
1905 - 1971

I knew that the tōtara planted hard against the library edge was planted for R. A. K. Mason but the plaque has weathered in this exposed comer of Rutland and Lorne Streets. When I saw the photograph by John Daley of the new building the decision to plant a memorial here made sense. This is a resonant corner with a new modern library and a wow factor. I researched the back story in the library's own New Zealand Card Index, now digitised for convenient access.

The two articles indexed from the New Zealand Herald give a sense of the difficult road to achieving Mason's memorial which the simple plaque text gives no indication of. They are also an insight into the value of this remarkable index.

Friday, 5 May 2017

Monday, 24 April 2017

Auckland Weekly News Photos for 1914-18

The Great War is over!

Now 24,463 Auckland Weekly News Supplement photos for the period August 1914 to December 1918 have been more fully described so that they can be searched by description and subject. This means they will be more searchable and useful for librarians, social and family historians and genealogists.

The photos cover that period’s social, political and military history from a New Zealand perspective. While there is obviously a national emphasis, many photos reflect this country’s involvement with international events in an important period of New Zealand’s history. This can be seen in the following Trevor Lloyd cartoon from October 1914 demonstrates New Zealand’s loyal support for Britain as they face Germany’s massive armies of mangy curs invading Belgium.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Lilian Edger and Theosophy

Last year in the Special Collections reading room I came across a slim volume titled Religion and theosophy, a lecture delivered on Sunday afternoon in the City Hall, Auckland, New Zealand on Sunday afternoon, March 26th, 1893 by Lilian Edger, M.A.

Intrigued by the title I wondered about who the woman was who had given this lecture. After a little digging I found Lilian Edger was a scholar, lecturer, author, educator and prominent Theosophist.

More well-known is her older sister Kate who was the first woman in New Zealand to gain a university degree. Lilian was also an outstanding scholar, obtaining her B.A. at 18 and her M.A. with double first-class honours a year later from Canterbury College.


Monday, 20 March 2017

Colonial Tinder

Matrimonial agencies and personal ads were the colonial era equivalent of today’s dating apps like Tinder. In 1885 the owner of Auckland’s only agency, Thomas Hannaford, claimed to have found 115 wives for socially isolated men. He was particularly proud of encouraging “many respectable English girls to wed Maori Chiefs” who were subsequently “living lovingly together”. He felt his match-making skills helped promote “the fusion of the races” and he petitioned Parliament to recognise his expertise in this area (Star, 16 July 1885).


Hannaford started finding potential life partners for gentlemen in 1868. He also married people at “any day or hour they like.” His Queen Street offices were open for business between 10.00 am and 9.00 pm. Although scandal didn’t brew over such quickie marriage ceremonies here; in Australia, Holt’s Matrimonial Agency was known to marry “under age teenagers without permission, bigamists or some even so drunk that they didn’t realise that they were getting married.”

Monday, 13 March 2017

Mary Scott, 1888 - 1979

I discovered a Mary Scott display in Pirongia on a recent road trip following a compulsory coffee stop plus a walk across the highway to the Pirongia Heritage & Information Centre / Te Whare Taonga o Ngaa Rohe o Arekahanara.

Ref: Mary Scott display, Pirongia, 22 February 2017.

A Notable Display

The display features a gingham frame and artefacts from Scott’s writing life – notably her third typewriter. The adjacent bookcase features her prolific output. They even had some editions for sale. We left with It’s perfectly easy – one of Mary Scott’s great titles published by Paul’s Book Arcade in Hamilton, 1962. The striking dust jacket was designed by Geoffrey Ridall.

Ref: Mary Scott, It's perfectly easy.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

No description is equal to an actual leaf

Currently on display in the Special Collections reading room, in the Central Library, is a single leaf from a 13th century Latin Bible generously donated to the Library by Keith Stuart late last year.

Stuart, an archivist trained in biblical research presented a paper to ANZBS Conference in 2010 which included a detailed description of the leaf.

Described as a typical leaf from a Paris manuscript Bible it is roughly the same size as a sheet of A4. This is much larger than a Bible we may be familiar with pulling from the back of a pew, but is not especially large for a medieval Bible. As Stuart notes, the size of Bibles became smaller with the rise of Mendicant orders and their travelling preachers, so portability became important.

The text is in Latin, from Saint Jerome’s translation of the Hebrew and is from the first book of Kings, chapter 4 verse 19 to chapter 8 verse 22. It tells of the Ark of the Covenant in Philistine through to Israel’s demand for a King.

The leaf provides a significant example of a leaf from a thirteenth century Bible. It is hand written in a small gothic script on thin vellum. The thinness of the vellum can be seen in the text showing through from the other side. It also reflects the artistry of books of the period contrasting coloured lettering and fine pen work.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Churches in Onehunga

There are several historic churches in Onehunga, reflecting the early European settlement of the area.

Early Church Services in Onehunga

The first church services in Onehunga were held on the first Sunday (21 November 1847) after the arrival of the first contingent of the Fencibles. There was an Anglican service in the morning and a Catholic service in the afternoon.

St Peter’s Anglican Church

St Peter’s Church was one of the earliest churches in Auckland, constructed in 1848. The first service was held on Saint Peter’s Day, 29 June 1848.The stone wall at the church was built in 1853, a part of which still stands. In 1857, the tower and the spire were moved to the south side of the church. As the numbers of people attending the church grew, the original wooden church was extended in the 1860s and 1870s.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Manurewa Library celebrates

In February 2017 Manurewa Library celebrates its 50th anniversary. On 20 February 1967 it was opened on the first floor of the Natali Buildings on the corner of Great South Road and Station Road. It was Manukau City Council’s first full-service free public library.


Known as Pegler’s Building when it was opened in June 1930, this originally housed seven shops on the ground floor and a reception room or hall, four offices and two flats on the first floor. In 1967 the reception room was converted into a library.

Monday, 13 February 2017

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Manurewa Central and Finlayson Park Schools

The South Auckland Research Centre has recently processed two collections, which provide an insight into the history of two local schools: Manurewa Central School and Finlayson Park School.

Manurewa Central School opened as Manurewa School in 1906, after the Woodside School Building was shifted to its new site on the corner of Hill Road and Great South Road. The building was later demolished in 1972. You can read more about the move and opening in the 31 August 1906 entry on Manukau’s Journey – a Manukau timeline.

Monday, 16 January 2017

A collection of roses from nature, 1796-1799 / Mary Lawrance

In 1799 a young woman called Mary Lawrance completed a 3 year-long project, a self-published book on roses, with all the 91 copper plates depicting varieties of roses etched and hand-coloured by herself.


It was purchased for Auckland Libraries in 2014 by the Mackelvie Trust, a charitable trust that supports J.T. Mackelvie’s bequest of art and decorative arts to the city. A luxurious book, it is one of the highlights in the current exhibition Old and new, showing until 28 February 2017 at the Central Library.