UNESCO status for Wellington heritage collections

29 November 2017: Wellington’s heritage institutions are celebrating a UNESCO award for two of its prestigious documentary heritage collections.

The Alexander Turnbull Library’s New Zealand Official Photographs, World War 1914-1918 and Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s Kaleidoscope – a weekly television arts documentary programme 1976-1988, are two new inscriptions on the Memory of the World New Zealand documentary heritage register.

UNESCO recognition draws attention to the significance of documentary heritage and the institutions that care for it.

The Memory of the World New Zealand Trust announced the two Wellington inscriptions together with the John A Lee Papers, and J. T. Diamond West Auckland History Collection (Auckland Libraries), the Ng New Zealand Chinese Heritage Collection (Presbyterian Research Centre, Dunedin), Salmond Anderson Architects Records (University of Otago’s Hocken Collections, Uare Taoka o Hākena, Dunedin) and the Tyree Studio Collection (Nelson Provincial Museum and Alexander Turnbull Library) onto the register today (29 November).

There are now 27 documentary heritage collections on the New Zealand register. Each is a valuable source of research for historians, researchers, educators and many others in New Zealand and the world.

UNESCO recognition draws attention to the significance of documentary heritage and the importance of ensuring it is preserved and made accessible.

The Memory of the World New Zealand Trust Chair Dianne Macaskill said, “the Memory of the World Trust is delighted to have these seven new inscriptions on the register. Inscription on the UNESCO register makes our history, our culture and our values more visible to New Zealanders and to the world The inscriptions include collections that cover the Great War, 20th century politics, the arts and literature, Chinese culture and experiences in New Zealand, architectural design and social and industrial developments. 

“All greatly contribute to the story of our nation’s history and heritage and are significant to the identity of New Zealanders today. The Memory of the World Trust congratulates the successful institutions and the people who have cared for these taonga.

“You should all be proud of the work you have achieved to safeguard these valuable collections and make them accessible so that we understand our past and its significance for our future.”

Chris Szekely, Chief Librarian, Alexander Turnbull Library, says: ‘’this collection of New Zealand’s official First World War photographs, held at the Turnbull Library, is the most extensive visual record of New Zealanders at the Western Front during WWI.

“These 1838 black and white glass plate negatives, four photograph albums, and two loose photographic prints are deeply evocative of New Zealand’s experience of the War. They capture the efforts of our soldiers at the Somme, Passchendaele and Le Quesnoy, and they record daily life at the camps and in hospital.

“They are a powerful and significant record that has continued to engage and inform a wide audience since their first publication, 100 years ago.’’

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision’s Chief Executive, Rebecca Elvy says “Ngā Taonga is delighted to see the television series, Kaleidoscope inscribed into the prestigious Memory of the World register. This award-winning documentary series showcased New Zealand artists and their work at an important time in the country’s cultural history. Broadcast from 1976 to 1989, it provided a forum for exploring our ideas of nationhood and reflected the country’s increasingly Pacific-centric identity. The series contains hundreds of unique, longer-form interviews with New Zealand artists and has become an invaluable resource which continues to be heavily used in many arts programmes. The series was originally produced and broadcast by Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and is part of the TVNZ collection owned by Manatū Taonga – the Ministry for Culture and Heritage.”

Heather Baggott, Group Manager Delivery Ministry for Culture and Heritage Manatū Taonga said, “we are thrilled to see the television taonga Kaleidoscope added to the Memory of the World NZ Register as the series has a unique place in our nation’s documentary history.

“Kaleidoscope is a precious visual record of our arts and culture at a time when our nation’s distinctive cultural identity was rapidly changing and evolving. 

“Broadcast from 1976 to 1989, it was the first television series dedicated to New Zealand’s arts and culture showcasing both established and emerging artists, from painters and poets to dancers and stained-glass artists. 

“Capturing stories of the past that might otherwise be lost forever, Kaleidoscope’s rich content has been widely used to illustrate resources and documentaries on our artistic and cultural history, including by the Ministry’s own Te Ara online encyclopedia.”

New Zealand Soldiers In Front Line On The Somme
New Zealand soldiers in the front line on the Somme, La Synge Farm, France, Ref: 1/2-013092-G.

Media contacts

For further information and to arrange interviews please contact:

UNESCO Memory of the World New Zealand: Dianne Macaskill 021 317 060, Cathy Holmes 021 338 227
Alexander Turnbull Library: ATL media@dia.govt.nz, 027 535 8639
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision: Jeanette Bullen 04 896 4833; 021 2732 739
Ministry for Culture & Heritage: Christine Seymour 027 807 9400

Background information 

UNESCO launched the Memory of the World Programme in 1992 and sits alongside UNESCO’s World Heritage List and Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The Memory of the World register is the most visible part of the Programme. It highlights significant documentary heritage as a way of demonstrating the importance of preserving and providing access to all documentary heritage. The Programme operates at three levels - international, regional and national. The New Zealand Programme was established in 2010. Further information about Memory of the World and the inscriptions on the New Zealand register can be viewed at www.unescomow.org.nz.

  • New Zealand also has inscriptions on the Asia and Pacific register and the international register.
  • UNESCO recognition draws attention to the significance of documentary heritage and the role that professional custodians and individuals play in ensuring its preservation and accessibility.
  • The NZ register promotes the stories of our country to the wider New Zealand community and internationally.
  • The Programme is the only one in New Zealand that takes an overview of all New Zealand’s documentary heritage.
  • The New Zealand Trust is part of the international community working to promote the importance of documentary heritage through the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme.