Ephemera Collection

The Ephemera Collection forms part of the Alexander Turnbull Library collections.

The Ephemera Collection contains published programmes, posters, menus, advertising, pamphlets, and other material relating to New Zealand, the Pacific, and New Zealanders overseas.

The Collection has over 200,000 ephemera items dating from the 1840s to the present. Subject strengths include theatre and entertainment, politics and activism, horticulture, war, Māori, tourism, alcohol, environmental issues, everyday life and popular culture.


You can do a keyword search on a format, or combine any topic word with a term for a specific format as well. For example, search on:

Types of ephemera include


Including advertisements, protest posters, political, theatre, and music posters

Three posters
L-R: (1) Public dinner on Thursday, 15th April, At Barrett's Hotel, Wellington to commemorate the Intelligence of the Islands of New Zealand being declared INDEPENDENT of New South Wales, and of the adjustment of Differences between the Government and the New Zealand Company. Ref: Eph-B-POLITICS-1841-01 (2) Opera House [New Plymouth]: The Great Levante and his magical extravaganza "How's tricks". Opera House June 4th, 5th. Ref: Eph-C-CABOT-Magic-1941-01 (3) Rountree, Harry, 1878-1950 :New Zealand, the sportsman's paradise. [1925-1930]. Ref: Eph-E-TOURISM-1925-01

Sales catalogues

Including plant and seed catalogues, building supplies catalogues, department store mail order catalogues

Three sales catalogues
L-R: (1) George Harrison & Co (Bradford): Linoleum, 2 yards wide. [Victorian scroll and classical pattern] [1880s?] Ref: Eph-B-DECOR-1880s-01-06 (2) Te Aro Seed Company :Garden annual, 1931. [Front cover. 1931] Ref: Eph-A-HORTICULTURE-TeAro-1931-01-front (3) McFarlane & Co (Auckland, N.Z.): Malvern Star, the world's super cycle. [Front cover of sales catalgue. 1939] Ref: Eph-B-CYCLE-1939-01-cover


Including canning labels and crate or bottle labels

Two labels
L-R: (1) Gear Meat Company: Prime quality. [Sheep. 1880-1890]. Ref: Eph-F-MEAT-Gear-004-1 (2) New Zealand National Airways Corporation: NZ NAC. [Circular gummed label. ca 1950s?] Ref: Eph-A-AVIATION-Labels-03

Theatre programmes

Including performances in music, drama, opera, circuses, and other variety shows. For productions after 1950, we concentrate on collecting material from the Wellington region.

Three theatre programmes
L to R: (1) Theatre Royal Christchurch "So this is love". [Programme cover]. Ref: Eph-A-OPERA-1930-01-front (2) The Kiwis Revue Company. His Majesty's Auckland. [23rd May, 1950]. Ref: Eph-A-VARIETY-1950-02-cover (3) J C Williamson Ltd present Anna Pavlova and her Ballet Russe, H.M. Theatre Dunedin, commencing Tuesday June 29th1926. Ref: Eph-A-DANCE-1926-02

Agricultural show programmes and posters

Including national and regional exhibitions.

Two show programmes
L to R: (1) Exhibition axemen's carnival. World's & New Zealand 1914 championships. Domain Cricket Ground. Second day Feb 281914. Ref: Eph-A-EXHIBITION-1914-01-cover (2) Waikato Winter Show, Hamilton, 29th May to 5th June, 1928. Show. Rail excursion[1928]. Ref: Eph-E-RAIL-1928-01

Sports programmes and posters

Covering major codes and athletics.

Two sports programmes
L to R: (1) Women's cricket. England v N.Z. Lancaster Park, Feb 16th & 18th [1935]. Ref: Eph-D-CRICKET-1935-01 (2) The third Springboks First New Zealand tour. Official souvenir programme,1921]. Ref: Eph-A-RUGBY-1921-01-front


Two calendars
L to R: (1) Loloma Mai Viti; Calendar. [Fiji. 1948]. Ref: Eph-B-FIJI-1948-01-front (2) Family Hotel, Otaki :[Calendar], 1952. Ref: Eph-B-HOTEL-1952-01
Three menus
L to R: (1) New Zealand Shipping Company :S.S. "Aorangi". Breakfast bill of fare. 1883. Ref: Eph-A-SHIP-1883-01 (2) Sanitarium Health Food Company :Menu, Vegetarian cafe. [1933]. Ref: Eph-B-DINING-1933-01 (3) THC Gala. Christmas dinner, The Hermitage, Mount Cook 1963. [Menu]. (3) Ref: Eph-B-HOTEL-Mt-Cook-1963-01

Postcards and greeting cards

Three postcards
L to R: (1) Best wishes. To greet you for a right happy Christmas. [1900-1910?] Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-1900/1910-01-closed (2) Kia ora. For old times sake. [Christmas card. ca 1890-1910?] Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-1900-01 (3) He awhina! Translation - "A friendly wish". [Christmas greeting card, ca 1934] Ref: Eph-A-CARDS-Christmas-1934-01

Categories and collections within the Ephemera Collection

The Cabot Collection

Charles Henry Cabot, 1890-1978, was a theatrical agent, and collector of entertainment programmes and posters. He left the family bakery business to join the Empire Picture Company in 1911-1912 and toured with circuses as a publicity agent. In 1926, he set himself up in Wellington as a pre-publicity agent for any shows that might come along. His large poster and programme collection, spread across nearly 250 individual folders of various sizes, features circus, magic and variety shows, and many overseas singers and musicians.

L to R: (1) Nicola, world’s master magician [Wellington][1938]. Ref: Eph-E-CABOT-Magic-1938-01 (2) Mi Re Do; celebrated original eccentric comedy musical act. [ca 1910] Ref: Eph-E-CABOT-Circus-Australia-1910-01 (3) Paul Pedrini and his Royal Zambesi Baboons. [1929]. Ref: Eph-E-CABOT-Circus-1929-01

Political ephemera and protest

Ephemeral material captures the mood of the moment, has its finger on the pulse of political and public opinion. The Ephemera Collection collects such material from the past and the present.

Three political posters
L to R: (1) Meeting, tonight, Thursday ... charges of peculation and jobbery… 1855. Ref: Eph-D-POLITICS-Wellington-1855-01 (2) Notice to epicene women. [1902] Ref: Eph-B-WOMEN-1902-01 (3) The big brewers want 10 p.m. and bigger profits...Vote for six as closing time. [1949]. Ref: Eph-D-ALCOHOL-Hours-1949-01-1

New Zealand at war

New Zealand’s wars have always been strongly represented in the advertising, campaigning, and propaganda of the day.

Three war posters
L to R: (1) "Kia ora". Hancock's "Imperial" ale, stout. Calendar 1917. Ref: Eph-D-WAR-WI-1917-02 (2) Victory 1946 calendar. Ref: Eph-C-WAR-WII-1946-02 (3) "We can give it!" Buy YOUR Bonds TODAY! [1942] Ref: [Eph-D-WAR-WII-1942-01](https://natlib.govt.nz/records/23216870

Pieces of ephemera from past years can remind us of trends and fashions, the texture of our environment, and our daily lives.

Three popculture posters
L to R: (1) The 1967 Golden Disc spectacular. [Cover] Ref: Eph-B-CABOT-Music-1967-01-cover (2) Do it yourself (for her) with Laminex [ca 1955] Ref: Eph-A-DECOR-1955-01 (3) New Zealand full-cream cheese [ca 1930s] Ref: Eph-F-CHEESE-1930s-01

New Zealanders overseas

The Ephemera Collection collects theatre programmes and posters for New Zealand actors, dancers, musicians and sportspeople overseas.

Three theatre related images
L to R: Rawei, "a young native evangelist from New Zealand" [1896] Ref: Eph-A-MAORI-CONCERT-1896-01 (2) Kathleen Cruickshank, first song recital [1923] Ref: Eph-B-MUSIC-GB-1923-01 (3) Grand Theatre, Blackpool … The wind and the rain, by Merton Hodge [1943] Ref: Eph-D-DRAMA-Hodge-1943-01

More about the Alexander Turnbull Library collections

Access to the Printed Ephemera Collection

Original materials in the collection are available in the Library's Katherine Mansfield Reading Room.

Digital copies of some items are shown online through their catalogue descriptions. To see them, use the Gallery view when looking at a search result. Additional photographic and digital copies of some pictorial items are also available in the Library's Reading Room.

Get copies from items in this collection

The Library can provide copies of available ephemera material if copying does not harm the physical state of the original, or breach copyright. We provide photocopies for research purposes, or digital copies for publication. As an alternative to photocopies, visitors may use their own digital cameras to make copies for private research purposes only.

More about making copies

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