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New Zealand Memorials: Digitising Memories in Stone

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New Zealand Memorials: Digitising Memories in Stone

Sophie Coombe
Collection Technician, Online Cenotaph

Picton War Memorial 1914-1918, Marlborough.

Picton War Memorial 1914-1918, Marlborough.

Image provided by John Halpin 2017, CC BY John Halpin

New Zealand's War Memorials were created to commemorate those who served in wartime. These memorials can take many forms, ranging from formal honour-boards and monuments to pools, plaques and community halls.

Whether purely sculptural or functional, each one honours those who served. They evoke a range of emotions from viewers, they remind us of the lives lost and allow people to pay their respects.

The historian Jock Phillips has written the reference works on War Memorials in New Zealand titled To the Memory: New Zealand's War Memorials (2016) and The Sorrow and the Pride (1990). He discusses the stories and histories behind the War Memorials, and how these memorials say much about New Zealand identity and the tragedy of war:

"Important events and people have often been honoured and remembered in monuments and memorials. New Zealand’s massive loss of life in the First World War led to more than 500 war memorials around the country, expressing New Zealanders’ sorrow and pride. Second World War memorials were more likely to be halls, swimming pools or libraries. Politicians, explorers and royalty have also been honoured with statues"


Hokianga Arch of Remembrance, Kohukohu, Hokianga, Northland

Hokianga Arch of Remembrance, Kohukohu, Hokianga, Northland

Image provided by John Halpin 2012, CC BY John Halpin.

Connecting whānau to their ancestors

By collaborating with volunteers and other members of the public, we are working to ensure that whānau are able to connect with their ancestors and discover the exact memorial where family members are publicly remembered.

Dedicated Auckland Museum volunteer, John Halpin

Dedicated Auckland Museum volunteer, John Halpin

We do this with the help of one high-resolution camera and one particularly dedicated volunteer - John Halpin. To capture the name of each serviceperson on these memorials, John has been travelling the country taking pictures of memorials and researching the names he finds there.

Once the names are identified, staff and volunteers match these against the profiles on Online Cenotaph and then add memorial pictures to each service person's profile to bring a personal connectedness to these sites of remembrance.

To search for a Memorial and the people it commemorates, you can use a Custom search filter on Online Cenotaph. Type in the Memorial you are looking for into the 'Memorial name' drop-down box on the Custom search page for a list of the service people named there.


Further information

There are many War Memorials around New Zealand, each with their own history. For more information, you can visit

To view more Memorials and their location around New Zealand, please visit the NZ Memorials register

Cite this article

Coombe, Sophie. New Zealand Memorials: Digitising Memories in Stone. Auckland War Memorial Museum - Tāmaki Paenga Hira. First published: 13 July 2017. Updated: 9 March 2021.

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