UNESCO Memory of the World


Auckland Museum's Documentary Heritage collections contains a number of nationally and internationally significant archives of manuscripts, books and photographic materials. Five of these 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. These collections are profiled below.


The New Zealand Memory of the World programme is one of over 60 Memory of the World programmes worldwide. It was established in 2010 by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO. The International Memory of the World Register, administered by UNESCO, seeks to identify items of documentary heritage which have worldwide significance. They aim to bring the value and significance of documentary heritage to wider public notice, along with the work performed by libraries, archives and museums in preserving this valuable heritage. 


The vision of the Memory of the World programme is that the world’s documentary heritage belongs to all, should be fully preserved and protected for all and, with due recognition of cultural mores and practicalities, should be permanently accessible to all without hindrance.


My Negatives' Shadow
Aotearoa New Zealand Register 2020

Olaf Petersen Collection

Olaf Petersen (1915-1994) is Aotearoa New Zealand’s pre-eminent 20th century nature photographer. Patient and exacting, Petersen said capturing nature was being in the right place at the right time.

His desire to make pictures began as a young boy on the Swanson farm where he grew up. He photographed the landscape around him for 50 years, from when he got his first camera in 1933 until well into the 1980s, in a career as a freelance photographer and camera artist that yielded over 50,000 images. They evidence the changes that have taken place over the past 70 years and as such are significant historic documentation. The images connect with global concerns around climate change and fragile ecosystems that will register strongly with current and future generations of New Zealanders.

The intensity and duration of his photography of Auckland’s west coast beaches and birdlife in particular represents an unprecedented visual record of one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most iconic coastal regions. Petersen’s archive demonstrates the vital role that artists can have in bearing witness and supporting the environmental movement.

Petersen’s photography also acknowledges the interaction of people and nature – from children among sand dunes to tyre tracks on the beach – and both celebrates and critiques its occupation.

From 1956 his involvement with the Auckland University Field Club took him to sites that were chosen because of their distinctive native flora and fauna, in the company of botanists, zoologists, geologists, ecologists, and archaeologists, creating an extraordinary illustrative scientific record.

View on Aotearoa New Zealand register.


Shaun Higgins (Curator Pictorial) offers the Olaf Petersen Collection for inscription to the UNESCO Memory of the World.

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My Negatives' Shadow

Olaf Petersen, PH-1988-9-EX6-27 © All Rights Reserved More information ›
Sir Edmund Hillary
Aotearoa New Zealand Register 2013, International Register 2015

Sir Edmund Hillary Archive

In 1953 Hillary captured the world’s imagination by conquering Mount Everest (Sagarmatha सगरमाथा; Zhumulangma 珠穆朗玛) and went on to explore places where no man had been before.

Edmund Hillary KG, ONZ, KBE (1919-2008), renowned New Zealand mountaineer, explorer, environmentalist and philanthropist, bequeathed his personal archive of papers, photographs and documents to Auckland Museum. Hillary’s work with the Sherpas and his enduring legacy in Nepal earned him the title of Surra Sahib (Big of Heart). In 1953 the order of Gorkha Dakshina was conferred on him by the King of Nepal. His stature as a heroic figure continues to grow on the international stage.

View on Aotearoa New Zealand register & International register.

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Sir Edmund Hillary

Yousuf Karsh, PH-2010-4-P23-5 © All Rights Reserved More information ›
A korao no New Zealand, or, The New Zealander's first book
Aotearoa New Zealand Register 2014

A korao no New Zealand

In 2015 we celebrated the bi-centenary of the publication of the first printed book in Māori, A korao no New Zealand, which was composed as lessons for Māori.

Written by Thomas Kendall and printed in Sydney in 1815 by George Howe after Kendall sent it to Samuel Marsden, Anglican Chaplain based at Parramatta.

Thomas Kendall was one of the first lay missionaries settled in New Zealand by the Church Missionary Society in 1814. He was hired primarily as a school master and one of his first tasks was to set about systematically recording the Māori language and English translations for instruction of his pupils.

The copy held by Auckland War Memorial Museum is a notable publication because it is the only known extant copy from the 200 copies printed.

View on Aotearoa New Zealand register.

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A korao no New Zealand, or, The New Zealander's first book

Thomas Kendall, EMI0001 More information ›
John Logan Campbell
Aotearoa New Zealand Register 2016

Sir John Logan Campbell Papers

‘Father of Auckland’ John Logan Campbell was involved in the business, cultural and recreational development of Auckland since 1840.

Sir John Logan Campbell (1817-1912) is widely regarded as the major founder of the Auckland settlement, where he was one of the earliest merchants, active in establishing many commercial and cultural organisations, and perhaps the main benefactor to the Auckland region. The papers are owned by the Sir John Logan Campbell Residuary Estate, on deposit at the Museum.

View on Aoteroa New Zealand register.

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John Logan Campbell

Louis John Steele, PA1 More information ›
Journal of Reverend Charles Baker, 16 August - 19 November 1840
Aotearoa New Zealand Register 2018

Journals and Papers of Reverend Charles Baker

Through his writings Charles Baker describes and records a rapidly changing world through moments of cross-cultural interaction and exchange between Māori and the growing European population, beginning in the late 1820s.

Baker’s first journal opens on 2 January 1827 as he is about to embark on his journey to New Zealand as a missionary with the Anglican Church Missionary Society. He writes:

“I certainly expect many trials and difficulties in the Missionary field, therefore I feel that it is needful to beseech God to give me an increase of faith, so that I may stand steadfast.”

After a short stay in Australia, Baker arrived in Paihia, Bay of Islands, in 1828. His journals chronicle the next 39 years of his life and work in Aotearoa, charting a time of immense cultural and societal change.

View on Aotearoa New Zealand register.

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Journal of Reverend Charles Baker, 16 August - 19 November 1840

Charles Baker, MS-22-14 More information ›