Using our music collections
The music collections at the National Library of New Zealand and Alexander Turnbull Library are broad and varied, spanning all genres. Whether you’re a musician, researcher or simply curious, this guide will help you find and access music and music-related material in our collections.
There are two overarching collections for music held at the Library:
- Alexander Turnbull Library Collections — our heritage collections of both published and unpublished material, primarily focused on New Zealand and the Pacific, and
- National Library Collections — containing published music and material from New Zealand and overseas.
Searches on our website will include both of these collections. Below you can find links to search the individual catalogues.
Use the links on the right-hand side of the page under the heading ‘In this research guide’ to navigate the information on this page.
Alexander Turnbull Library music collections
In the Alexander Turnbull Library, unpublished music materials can be found in the Archive of New Zealand Music (ANZM) and published materials in the New Zealand Music, Sound and Audio-Visual Collections (NZMSAV). However, please keep in mind that some of our unpublished collections do include published material.
- Douglas Lilburn Papers
- Dennis Huggard Jazz Archive
- Flying Nun Records Ltd Records
- Radio New Zealand Music Library Māori Music Collection
- Willow Mackey Music scores, papers and sound recordings
- Chamber Music New Zealand Records
- Recordings from local recording labels, including TANZA, Zodiac, Ode, Flying Nun and Rattle
- Sheet music from local music publishers such as Wai-te-ata Music Press, Begg’s and Price Milburn
- World War One sheet music (digitised)
- Significant early recordings by New Zealanders on wax cylinder and 78rpm formats
- The Anthony Norton Collection (vinyl records)
Music-related materials in the Turnbull Library collections
In addition to sheet music and sound recordings, the Turnbull collections also contain a wide variety of published and unpublished material relating to music of New Zealand and the Pacific.
Some examples of these kinds of material include:
- books, magazines and journals
- ephemera such as posters and concert programmes
- business records, and
- a variety of material associated with individual musicians, composers, other people in the music industry, and fans.
We hold many collections that relate to the music industry in New Zealand, such as the personal papers and collections of radio personalities, promoters, music critics, and people active in the wider entertainment industry. These collections contain a variety of content that can be useful for music research.
National Library music collections
In the National Library collections, you can find published music material like scores, recordings, books and journals. We hold a wide variety of reference literature across almost all genres of music, including the Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (available online in the Oxford Music Online database), and the Garland Encyclopedia of World Music, as well as books on individual topics, such as musical theatre, hip hop, jazz and many others.
We also hold a broad collection of sheet music that ranges in levels of difficulty (from beginner to advanced) and in genre.
A particular highlight is our extensive collection of international and local recordings on CD and vinyl.
How can you access material?
Much of the music and music materials at the Library is only available to access onsite in our Reading Rooms. However, material in the National Library collection may be available for use outside of the Library via the national inter-library loan scheme and the Music Hire service.
Additionally, some digitised material is available remotely on our website and via the individual National Library and Turnbull Library catalogues.
To request to view items you will need to register as a library user.
Is any help with research available?
Music staff can assist you with enquiries covering any aspect of New Zealand and international music. We welcome enquiries from libraries, schools, organisations, or individual clients. We can help you develop a personal research strategy, access material, or refer you to other sources of information within New Zealand and overseas.
Something says it’s digitised, why can’t I see it at home/work/school?
Due to copyright and/or donor restrictions some of the digitised content is only available onsite in the library. If you’re unsure whether something can be accessed remotely then get in touch with us. There's a link to our Ask a Librarian service at the top of every page of our website.
Can I get a copy of a recording?
Yes, you can. However, material that is still in copyright or has other access restrictions will require permission from the rights holder. See our page about making copies for more information on obtaining a copy of a sound recording.
Choral and orchestral score hire
A large collection of more than 4,700 orchestral sets and 2,500 choral sets is available for hire directly from the Library through our Music Hire Service.
Does National Library hold any music events?
The library plays host to a wide range of events and exhibitions, many of which include music or are music focused. Keep an eye on our Events page for information about performances, music talks and exhibitions.
Piano room bookings
Additionally, there is a small piano room available for one hour bookings during reading room hours.
Other places for music resources
A number of libraries in New Zealand have a good, basic collection of music books, scores, recordings and magazines that can be borrowed or inter-loaned to other libraries.
Some have digital collections that can be accessed either onsite or from home. Many libraries also have research collections that contain music and music-related material such as theatrical programmes, music posters, photographs and other ephemera.
You can search for these via the Te Puna catalogue, and by going directly to the relevant library catalogues. Librarians at these institutions will be able to advise on how to access their material.
The following is a list of some important local institutions, followed by selected local and international websites and online collections that hold significant music research materials.
Archive of Māori and Pacific Sound, University of Auckland
Formerly the Archive of Māori and Pacific Music, the Archive of Māori and Pacific Sound at the University of Auckland was founded by ethnomusicologist Mervyn McLean in 1970. It primarily holds field recordings from around New Zealand and the Pacific in a variety of audio and video formats from 1919 through to the present day.
Archives New Zealand
Archives New Zealand’s music related material includes material from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and Radio New Zealand, among many other institutions and personal collections. The music material in the Archives collections is mostly ephemera, photographs, and written records rather than AV recordings or scores.
Hocken Library, University of Otago
The music collections of Hocken Library at the University of Otago in Dunedin are similar to the National Library and Turnbull, with both published and unpublished materials.
The formats range from recordings and scores to personal papers, ephemera, books and serials.
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is New Zealand’s largest audio and film archive, created by the amalgamation of the Film Archive, RNZ Sound Archives and the Television New Zealand Archive in 2012-2014. They hold a wide variety of audio-visual material including music.
SOUNZ is New Zealand’s information centre for New Zealand composition and music. It collects, aggregates, hires out and sells music by New Zealand composers. Additionally they have digital resources including film and audio recordings of performances (frequently premieres of works), masterclasses and Q&A sessions.
They also organise workshops, promote local music news and events, and offer advice on repertoire and programming of music at events.
Digital Collections and websites
Billed as the noisy library of New Zealand music Audioculture hosts articles on music in New Zealand from the early 20th century through to today. Audioculture works with musicians, historians and people within the music industry to celebrate those who played the music, the scenes they helped shape and the audiences and fans they entertained.
New Zealand Folk Song
New Zealand Folk Song is a website that collects historical and current folksongs, lyrics and recordings, many pages also include articles explaining the heritage and alternate variants of the songs presented.
Douglas Lilburn was the founder of the Turnbull Library’s Archive of New Zealand music. This website is the electronic home of the Lilburn Trust and includes information about Lilburn and his works, and the grants, prizes and fellowships that the Trust distributes.
The International Music Score Library Project or Petrucci Music Library is a database of public domain scores and recordings, which you are able to download for free.
The Choral Public Domain Library (CPDL), sometimes called Choral Wiki, is an Internet-based free sheet music website which specializes in choral music. They host music scores and supporting audio files which are free to download. Most of the scores on CPDL are modern editions based on older works whose copyright has lapsed, but some scores are newly composed and offered for free download by the composer.
Beethoven Haus Bonn (digital archives)
The digital archives at Beethoven Haus, Bonn contains digitised primary documents of Ludwig van Beethoven's life and work, also portraits, recordings of his music and audio recordings of his some of his correspondence, and supporting material to aid the depiction of Beethoven's life and the society he lived in.
Mozart Complete Works
This is the digitised version of the Bärenreiter-Verlag printed edition of the Mozart Complete Works (Neue Mozart-Ausgabe). It contains both scores and critical commentaries.
Chopin Early Editions
This is a collection of early print editions of Frederick Chopin's works that have been collected and digitised by the University of Chicago Library.
University of Michigan Composer collection and sheet music collection guides
These two links are a series of guides to a wide variety of freely-available online music sources (including some mentioned above in this guide). It is an excellent set of resources to give you an idea of what is available digitally around the world.