Monday, 28 August 2017

John Masefield's watercolour of the HMS Endeavour

Nowadays English author John Masefield is chiefly remembered for two short poems with nautical themes: “Sea Fever” (“I must down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky”) and “Cargoes”  (with its strikingly exotic opening line, “Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir”).

John Masefield, portrait. From: Nelly Scott's Masefield Collection. NZMS 1139.

In the first half of the 20th century, however, he was popular throughout the Commonwealth not just as a poet but also as a novelist, children’s writer, playwright and memoirist. Appointed poet laureate by George V in April 1930, he remained in that post until his death in May 1967, making him the longest-serving British laureate after Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Auckland Libraries has a fine collection of signed books and letters by Masefield, gifted to us from the estate of Paeroa-based teacher and local historian Nelly Scott Climie.

She first met Masefield in 1931 while in England on a teacher exchange programme. After returning to New Zealand, she kept up a correspondence with him that lasted until his death. A poet herself, she sometimes sent her verses to him to critique.

Early in 1955 she wrote a poem called “Captain Cook’s Dream” to commemorate the 80th jubilee of Paeroa District High School, where she had once been a pupil and where, although officially retired, she did some relief teaching. The poem referred to Cook’s naming of the Thames estuary during his first visit to New Zealand.

“My grateful & tender thoughts to you for your charming kind letter,” Masefield responded, “and for your lively patriotic poem about the Paeroa school & Captain Cook.Years ago, when I lived at Greenwich, I used to go often to the Painted Hall, as it was called, where there were many marine paintings, including a fine portrait of Cook, who was a very fine-looking fellow. I like also to see, sometimes, elsewhere, some of the exquisite charts he made, for he was (in that way) a lovely artist. How thrilled he would be to land at Paeroa & see what you & the others have made of it.”

These thoughts seem to have stirred in Masefield a desire to create some art of his own. On 11 June 1955 he wrote again to “dearest Nell”, telling her: “I have tried to paint you something like-ish to one of Captain Cook’s ships, in case you might care to have it. Such as it is, here she comes, under a fair amount of sail, and with every blessing & grateful & loving thought that I can send with her.”

John Masefield. Watercolour of the HMS Endeavour. From: Nelly Scott's Masefield Collection. NZMS 1139.

About the size of a postcard, Masefield’s little watercolour painting of the Endeavour is now part of our archive at NZMS 1139.

Author: Iain Sharp, Sir George Grey Special Collections

Friday, 18 August 2017

The Lewis Eady legacy

Update: Auckland Libraries acknowledges the late John Eady Snr ONZM who passed away on 10 October 2017

John led the iconic Lewis Eady music business - established by his grandfather Lewis, 137 years ago - with an unwavering passion for supporting the music community in both Auckland and throughout New Zealand. He donated and loaned pianos, supported countless charitable events and emerging musicians, as well as donating the beautiful Kawai Grand Piano and large numbers of books and musical scores to the Lewis Eady Music collection at the Auckland Public Library.

It is interesting to discover how a part of a library's collection originates. In the case of Auckland Libraries' music collection, it started when a visionary librarian connected with an Auckland city councillor.

In 1926, Mr L. Alfred Eady, an Auckland city councillor, attended a library conference in Dunedin. There he heard Mr John Barr, Auckland’s chief librarian, speak about the need for public libraries to have music scores and music literature. Barr put out the challenge: Was there any library in New Zealand which even held a collection of the standard operas?

Ref: Bettina Photography. Lewis Alfred Eady. Alexander Turnbull Library,
Lewis Eady Family Collection , ID: 1/2-190380; F
Barr was convinced that the citizens of Auckland should have access to sheet music in the same way they had access to other resources. Access to the written expression of musical imagination should be as core to a library service as other scholarly endeavours.

Ref: Bookmark promoting the
Lewis Eady Music Room, 1928
This obviously struck quite a chord with Mr Alfred Eady. The two men got together to discuss what could be done. The starting point was a list of core repertoire needed to establish a music collection, drawn up by the deputy librarian Mr Abram Cunningham. Alfred’s father, Mr Lewis Eady, owned a successful music shop on Karangahape Road which made for a ready source for supply. The next step seemed logical - Alfred Eady announced, on behalf of his father, that he was going to present to the Auckland Public Library over 600 volumes of music scores and literature. This donation formed the basis of the Lewis Eady Music Room.

On 13 June 1928, with a base collection of 1,181 items, the first music section in a public library in Australasia was established. That same year Lewis Eady Ltd shifted to imposing new premises on Queen Street. Further donations were made by the Eady firm in 1956. In September 1984, they donated a sum for the purchase of music or music literature in celebration of their centennial. In January 2005, they donated a selection of classical music in celebration of their 120th anniversary, along with a generous sponsorship for the purchase of a grand piano.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Dominion Road: A musical!

What happens when real life politics and art collide? Aucklanders can find out as Dominion Rd - The Musical hits the stage this month.

Ref: Dominion Rd - The Musical promotional poster
In a case of fiction confronting current events, this brand new musical follows a group of residents on Auckland's iconic Dominion Road. Will they be able to put aside their differences to fight against a proposed development of their street as a 'Chinatown'?

Penned by award-winning duo Renee Liang and Jun Bin Lee, and directed by Borni Te Rongopai Tukiwaho, Dominion Rd - The Musical features five well known faces working with local Dominion Road community cast members to form the chorus. The production has been a work in process for over a year and weaves the true stories of the community into a toe-tapping, family friendly creative musical.

The inspiration for the characters and the lived experiences of Dominion Road shopkeepers and residents have been drawn, in part, from the Auckland Libraries Oral History Collection, created in 2013 as part of the Dominion Road Stories project. You can listen to audio extracts from the project on the websites above.

During the Dominion Road Stories project, Auckland Libraries also commissioned new work from photographer Solomon Mortimer. Solomon created a series of black and white images, capturing on the street sights and activities of people and place, as well as some fine images of shopkeepers and buildings.

Ref: Solomon Mortimer. Full length portrait of Colin Wigg in his cobbler's shop at 315
Dominion Road, 2013. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1212-12 

Ref: Solomon Mortimer. An interior view of the Soak and Suds Laundromat at 588 Dominion Road,
2013. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1212-42.

Dominion Road may be unbending in its physical geography, but one thing we can be sure about is that its social landscape is always evolving – and this may indeed be worth having a sing and dance about!

Dominion Rd - The Musical is playing at the Glen Eden Playhouse from August the 9th – 19th.

Author: Sue Berman, Principal Oral History & Sound

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

NZ Herald Glass Plate Negatives and the man in a hat with a cat

Auckland Libraries received an important donation in 2015 when the negatives formerly in the original New Zealand Herald offices, in their historic Albert Street base, were gifted for digitisation. We worked closely with Lauri Tapsell at the Herald. Library staff from Sir George Grey Special Collections and the team of library experts in the wider Heritage Collections, Preservation and Digitisation teams worked together to make the mystery negatives accessible online. The boxes with cryptic labels have been unpacked, cleaned and repackaged in preservation enclosures. They now add up to 16,416 records on our Heritage Images database.

In August 2017, Auckland Libraries will celebrate with New Zealand Micrographic Services the project which has seen the glass plates carefully cleaned and the images digitised. This project has proved to be more than the ‘NZH’ and more than ‘glass plates’. Images from other titles including the Auckland Weekly News were included. And as well as glass plates there were more recent negatives, including fragile acetate.
Staff from NZ Micrographic Services on the glass plate cleaning exercise.  
The glass plates needed expert and careful attention to allow for exhibition quality prints. Here’s an outline of the cleaning process from our Photograph Conservator Gabrielle Hillebrandt:
Working with glass plates is slow and meticulous. Well-fitted nitrile powder-free gloves must be worn when handling photographic negatives and prints. An air blower is used using air to remove any dust from the emulsion, while the non-emulsion side can be brushed and cleaned using accepted conservation techniques. Some items might have graphite re-touching or manually applied diffusing layers on the glass side, so staff must be sure that what they are cleaning off is actually dirt.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Crossing an exasperating little stream: the Milford foot bridge

Originally built to allow pedestrians to easily reach the 'new' Castor Bay Estate at the northern end of Milford beach, the Milford foot bridge has long been a focus of debate for local residents.

Ref: Photographer unknown. Beachgoers on the Milford over bridge, 1923. 
Auckland Libraries, Local History Online, EF0021.
The first foot bridge was initially built as a temporary crossing for the Wairau Creek in 1923. It was known as a ‘lighthouse’ structure, and since the depth of the creek allowed scows and other sailing vessels to sail upstream, as far as Sheriff’s Gum Store at the lower end of Shakespeare Road, it had to be built high enough to allow "the largest yacht to pass under".

Ref: Photographer unknown. Steam tram at Sheriff's Corner, Milford... 1920s.
Auckland Libraries, Local History Online, T0134