Documentary Heritage


The nationally and internationally significant Documentary Heritage collections span manuscripts, museum archives, maps and plans, ephemera, serials, Auckland newspapers, books and other publications, together with extensive photographic materials, paintings, drawings and prints. Depth areas are Māori and Pacific, human and natural history of the greater Auckland region, New Zealanders’ involvement in international conflicts and exploration and discovery. 


Each of the collection areas has a curator responsible for the development of the collection, expertise in research within areas related to the collections, provision of access and engagement, and for the organisation of the collection. A team of collection managers and a loans officer work across the collection areas with the curators, ensuring loans, documentation, storage, arrangement and access are completed to a high standard. 


Five of these collections are recognised on UNESCO Memory of the World registers, with one, the Sir Edmund Hillary Collection, acknowledged with world heritage status and listed on the International Memory of the World register. Learn more about these collections.


Jump to: Manuscripts and ArchivesMapsPictorialEphemeraMuseum LibrarySerialsNewspapers



Manuscripts and Archives Collection

War Memorial and Museum Proposed Trophy of Flags in Shrine

The Manuscripts and Archives collection is of major regional importance and—at approximately 1500 linear metres—is one of the largest non-government archives in New Zealand.

The collection covers large organisational and business archives and smaller personal collections which record and illustrate New Zealanders’ lives here and abroad, especially during military service. Auckland Museum maintains a high degree of regional cooperation and complementary collecting with other organisations across Auckland. The Museum’s own archives covering its governance, curation, exhibitions, education, publishing, building development and maintenance and internal management is also an important and well-used resource within the collection. 

Oral history and the collecting of born-digital material will be areas of increasing focus in coming years.



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War Memorial and Museum Proposed Trophy of Flags in Shrine, Grierson, Aimer & Draffin, MUS-2009-20-11-5

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Maps Collection

Auckland electric tramways, G9084.A8P33

The Museum is one of a small number of organisations in New Zealand which collects and cares for historic Maps. The collection contains large sequences of official New Zealand maps, military maps from the WWII period, subdivision plans and other material including atlases which help record and provide evidence of early New Zealand development. Their highly visual nature makes the maps collection an important resource, not just for their informational value but also for exhibition and interpretive potential.



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Auckland electric tramways, G9084.A8P33

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Pictorial Collection

Coprosma australis

The Pictorial collection comprise photographs, paintings, drawings, prints, posters and plans. This is a major resource documenting the development of New Zealand society with a particular focus on the wider Auckland region. The breadth and richness of the photograph collection has benefited from the acquisition of collections from noted newspapers, industrial and professional photographers and by donations of family or amateur photographers. Notable assemblages include images from the Auckland Star, Sparrow Industrial Pictures, Robin Morrison and Tudor Collins. The collection also includes some of the earliest examples of photography in New Zealand. The vast task of identifying and describing the pictorial collections continues and it is estimated that it contains almost 2 million images. Paintings, drawings and prints are collected for their documentary value, especially where they describe people, times and places not covered by photography. 



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Coprosma australis, PD-1898-2-469

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Ephemera Collection

Military Service Act, 1916

Ephemera or informal printed material, add an important aspect to recording day-to-day events and change in society and are often highly visual and valued for exhibition potential. 



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Military Service Act, 1916, EPH-PW-1-101

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Museum Library

South Sea Islands

The Museum’s Library Collection of books and other publications is particularly strong in New Zealand subject areas covered by other museum collections and in Māori language material. The collection has been built on key donations from private collectors starting in the 19th century and has more recently focused on becoming a major documentary heritage resource for the Auckland region.



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Charles A. Borden, South Sea Islands, 1963

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Records of the Auckland Museum, no.54, 2019

Serials (magazines and journals) were the first collection items ordered by the newly-formed Auckland Institute in late 1867 and additions to the collection have continued to the present day. There are approximately 8,000 historical and current titles in the assemblage and increasingly these include electronic journals. The extent, and in some cases uniqueness, of the Museum’s holdings of historical and current journals makes their research value of national importance.



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Records of the Auckland Museum, no.54, 2019

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Star Extra, 18 November 1918

The Museum holds the country’s most significant collection of Auckland newspapers, based on a 1967 donation by Wilson & Horton of their historical Auckland newspapers dating from the early 1840s and supplemented by individual donations. While some of these titles have been microfilmed or digitised, many have not and the original paper copies remain a key research resource for local social, economic or political history.



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Star Extra, 18 November 1918

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