Unfolding the map

14 October 2015: NLNZ opens a new programme on the cartography of New Zealand

A new exhibition showcasing the history of maps in New Zealand will open tomorrow at the National Library. It tells the story of this country’s maps – from the surprisingly accurate charts of Captain Cook’s 18th Century voyages to the GPS technology used today.

The exhibition, Unfolding the Map, will be officially opened on October 15th and is a collaboration between the National Library, Land Information New Zealand, Eagle Technology and Archives New Zealand.

The maps and charts on display highlight the variety and richness of resources held by New Zealand libraries and explain the concepts of cartography. They are supplemented by a selection of tools used by map-makers.

A hand-coloured, annotated map of Gallipoli is featured in the exhibition. The map was issued to the commanding officer of the New Zealand and Australian Division and taken ashore by Major General Alexander Godley on 25 April 1915. Its lack of detail, however, made it little use in the campaign.

Other treasures include the first map of New Zealand drawn by a Māori, whimsical tourism maps from the 1920s and a 1938 trampers’ map of the Tararua ranges.

Curator Roger Smith of Wellington-based firm Geographx, says the art and science of map-making has changed radically in the last 250 years.

“It’s a fascinating story. These maps and charts are a historical record. They trace our development as a nation and offers insights into our changing priorities. The roles of government and private sector mapping organisations have also changed with time – and the impact of digital mapping technologies has been nothing short of extraordinary.”

The exhibition is free and open to the public from 16 October 2015 until August 2016, which coincides with International Map Year 2015–2016. A programme of public events accompanies the exhibition.

Hands-on activities, stories of the country’s quirky place names (eg. Snuffle Hose, Mounds of Misery and Cesspool) and a large floor map of New Zealand that can be walked on, make the exhibition accessible for all ages.


Sarah-Lee Crellin, Department of Internal Affairs, 04 494 0630 or 027 801 9956