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Documentary Heritage

The Documentary Heritage collections depict New Zealand and Pacific culture and history with a particular emphasis on the Auckland region found in a range of media including manuscripts, photographs, prints, drawings, posters, maps, paintings, oral histories, and publications. The photography collection in particular is a major New Zealand collection.



From daguerreotype to digital, the photograph collection has more than 3 million images and spans 170 years of photographic history. The collection has early salt prints by William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of photography, and closer to home, an impressive set of albums compiled by the 19th century watercolourist and photographer John Kinder, containing remarkable examples of photography from the wet plate era.

"Off to the wedding" (1909) by Henry Winkelmann (1860–1931). Winkelmann, a photographer and entrepreneur, was an adventurer with a love of the sea. He travelled widely in New Zealand and the Pacific. A shipping agent and an enthusiast for yacht racing, he also supplemented his income by supplying photographs for publications and postcards. He captured the commercial and recreational life of Auckland up to the First World War.

Silver gelatin dry plate. PH-NEG-1290. No known copyright restrictions.

From the dry plate era another Auckland-based photographer, the prolific Henry Winkelmann, gave the Museum his entire collection of negatives, other than the documentary photographs of Auckland City which he had given to the Auckland Public Library.

Other photographers of note represented are Una Garlick and Margaret Matilda White. The latter part of the 20th century is substantially represented by the documentary photographers Robin Morrison and Gil Hanly. Other collections include photojournalism from the Auckland Star and New Zealand Herald newspapers and commercial photography by Sparrow Industrial Pictures.

Paintings and drawings

The paintings and drawings collection numbering over 3,000 works includes oil and watercolour paintings, pencil sketches and lithographic prints. Paintings and drawings are collected primarily for their historical values as visual documents rather than for their contribution to aesthetic history. These pictures can take the visual record back before the widespread use of photography. It includes substantial collections of the work of Charles Heaphy, Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky, George French Angas and John Webster. It also contains Māori portrait collections by Charles Frederick Goldie and Gottfried Lindauer.

Pictorial exhibitions

Exhibitions which draw upon these collections are displayed in the Sainsbury Horrocks gallery throughout the year.


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. The Museum holds thousands of manuscripts collections—about 2,000 linear shelf metres.

The journal of the Reverend Charles Baker for the period 28 May 1846 to 28 July 1849. In his journals, Baker (1803-1875) provides insight into a seminal time in the history of Aotearoa. He describes and records a rapidly changing world through moments of cross-cultural interaction and exchange between Māori and the growing European population. The Baker papers were inscribed on the UNESCO Memory of the World NZ register in 2018, a recognition of their global significance.

MS-22-17. No known copyright.

Personal papers

Of particular note are the 19th 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
  • Fellow botanist, Leonard Cockayne
  • Librarian and author, Johannes C Andersen
  • Historians Ruth Ross and Jack Lee


Nearly 300 manuscripts are described as being Māori or having Māori elements. Most of these are recorded in Jenifer Curnow's 1995 book Nga Pou Arahi, a tribal inventory relating to Māori 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
  • Auckland Choral Society
  • Auckland Studio Potters
  • 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)
  • Farmers' Trading Company (1909-1987)

Related links

  • TAPUHI: A database of the unpublished manuscript and picture collections of New Zealand Pacific material in the Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.
  • ARCHWAY: A database of the archival holdings of Archives New Zealand, Wellington, along with its branches in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.
  • Archives Directory: A list of New Zealand repositories with archival collections with contact and access details.

Māori language, whakapapa, history

The Museum's pictorial and manuscript collections are treasured for the information they contain and because they capture the presence of ancestors. Among these collections are important rare books, manuscripts and archives as well as maps, charts and plans. The collections also include periodicals, newspapers and ephemera.

The Library has extensive holdings of manuscript material on Māori subject matter and these are invaluable resources for researchers. The manuscript collections cover all iwi areas and include significant collections such as the George Graham Collection.

There are several finding aids available to researchers who wish to use the collections, among them:

  • Collections Online
  • Māori name index
  • Gudegeon index
  • Ngā Pou Arahi (a Tribal Inventory of Māori Manuscripts)