A manuscript was originally defined as any book or other document written by hand. Today it is more likely to mean something unpublished, either handwritten or typed. Formats are extremely diverse and include letters, diaries, notebooks, drafts of books and articles, logbooks, minute books and financial records.
Scope of the collection
The Museum Library holds over 3700 manuscripts collections, about 2000 linear (shelf) metres.
Of particular note are the nineteenth century papers relating to the pioneering Williams family, Sir John Logan Campbell, James Busby and the Reverend Vicesimus Lush. In addition, the Library also holds the papers of former museum Director and Curator, Thomas Frederick Cheeseman, of fellow botanist, Leonard Cockayne, librarian and author, Johannes C Andersen, historians Ruth Ross and Jack Lee.
Nearly 300 manuscripts are described as being Maori or having Maori elements. Most of these are recorded in Jenifer Curnow's 1995 book Nga Pou Arahi — a tribal inventory relating to Maori treasures, language, genealogy, songs, history, customs and proverbs.
About 600 manuscripts contain material by or about women. These provide fascinating insights into the lives of both pioneering and contemporary women, and are described in the museum publication Womanscripts compiled by Sue Loughlin and Carolyn Morris (1994).
Being a war memorial museum we place a particular emphasis on manuscripts relating to New Zealanders at war. Our collections include material relating to the New Zealand Wars, World Wars One and Two, and the Vietnam War, especially letters and diaries of individual service men and women.
Society and religious organisation records
The collection includes both local and national society records. Some examples include: Ornithological Society of New Zealand, Auckland Society of Arts, Auckland Acclimatisation Society, Auckland Amateur Operatic Society, the Auckland Choral Society, Auckland Studio Potters and the Auckland Photographic Society.
The Library is the repository of the Presbyterian Church records for Auckland and Northland.
Company and organisation records
Company records can be useful for researching not only an organisation's history but also the development of business and the economy. These are some local examples: Crown Lynn Potteries (1959-1987); Martha Gold Mining Company (1915-1951); seed merchants Arthur Yates & Co., (1882-1940); Pelorus Press Ltd., 1947-1978; and Farmers' Trading Company, (1909-1987).
Most collections are open for use during opening hours (Monday - Friday 1-5pm), although some restrictions will apply to individual collections or items.
You can browse the Library’s manuscript collections by accessing the Library Catalogue and then entering 'manuscript' in the format field. Insert keywords to refine your search.
Staff at the Museum Library are happy to discuss the donation of manuscript material.
National Register of Archives and Manuscripts
TAPUHI — database of the unpublished manuscript and picture collections of New Zealand Pacific material in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.
ARCHWAY - database of the archival holdings of Archives New Zealand, Wellington, along with its branches in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.
Archives Directory - list of New Zealand repositories with archival collections with contact and access details.