Cartographic collecting plan

Find out about collecting and priorities for the Cartographic Collection.


The Cartographic Collection is a national collection, developed to sustain in-depth research in New Zealand, Pacific and Antarctic studies, and to preserve documentary heritage. The purpose of this collecting plan is to describe the extent of collecting to be undertaken, and any subsequent priorities, for the Cartographic Collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

This collecting plan was developed in accordance with the collecting principles outlined in the National Library of New Zealand Collection Policy.

National Library of New Zealand's Collections Policy.


Cartography is the art, science and technology used in the process of making graphic representations of geographic information.

For the purposes of selecting for the Alexander Turnbull Library Cartographic Collection, the key features of cartographic materials are that information is presented in the form of plans, maps, charts, atlases, aerial and remote sensing photographs or images, globes, and digital spatial databases.

Primary areas of collecting for Cartographic Collection are cartographic materials that depict:

  • early exploration, discovery, settlement and ongoing development of New Zealand (including NZ offshore Islands) and other geographic areas with strong connections to New Zealand or New Zealanders
  • early exploration, discovery and ongoing development of the Pacific Islands. Priority is given to those countries that New Zealand has had strong connections - Antarctica, especially Sub-Antarctic Islands and area around New Zealand’s Antarctic base.

Other important areas of collecting for the Cartographic Collection are:

  • cartographic materials that represent significant developments in cartography

When it is not possible to acquire original materials, the library will acquire high-quality facsimiles or, when appropriate, digital images of older original cartographic materials.

  • literature and reference books about cartography to support in-depth research into cartography and cartographic materials in the collection Material that falls outside the scope of this plan may be accepted if it forms part of a larger multi-format collection that the Library wishes to acquire, or if it provides context for other items in the Library’s collections.

Collection strengths

The main strengths of the library’s Cartographic Collection are:

  • early manuscript maps and printed maps and atlases of European exploration and discovery in the South Pacific and Antarctic Oceans and settlement in New Zealand. These are built around Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull’s personal collection and cartographic interests
  • the wide range of genre of New Zealand cartographic materials such as electoral, topographic, cadastral, survey, scientific, hydrographic, bathymetric, geological, census, weather, military, forestry, road, tourist and recreation, town plans, local authority, district plans and subdivision plans and real property posters that promote the sale of planned subdivisions
  • non-government and commercially published NZ cartographic materials
  • cartographic materials depicting places where New Zealand has deployed Armed or Defence Forces, especially during World War I, World War II, Korea and Vietnam War.


Excluded from the scope of the Cartographic Collection are:

  • cartographic materials produced by government agencies and covered by the Public Records Act 2005
  • plans of architectural building and landscape design (See the Alexander Turnbull Library’s Drawings, Paintings and Prints Collecting Plan)
  • real estate advertising posters (see the Alexander Turnbull Library’s Ephemera Collecting Plan)
  • copies of items (microfilm, digital scans, and photocopies) that are not inherent to the provenance of the original. The Library is concentrating on collecting the most original versions of unique materials
  • cartographic materials as part of a local or regional authority plans (see the Alexander Turnbull Library’s New Zealand & Pacific Published Collecting Plan)
  • items in poor condition or which pose a risk to the collections, unless these are very rare, are integral to a larger collection or include important provenance evidence or content, and where any risk can be managed.

Collecting principles

The National Library of New Zealand Collection Policy provides the principles that guide all collecting across the published and unpublished collections by the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library.

National Library of New Zealand Collection Policy.

The relevant principles from the collection policy are provided below, with an explanation of how they will be realized for the Cartographic Collection.

Principle 1

Developing breadth and depth in the Library’s research collections requires decisions to be informed by and responsive to, current and emerging research trends as well as the anticipated needs of future generations of New Zealanders.


Staff working closely with the cartographic collection take an active role in the cartographic research and industry communities in New Zealand.

Good relationships with the research community and cartographic industry and keeping a good understanding of current events, relevant cartographic materials of today can be identified for the New Zealanders of tomorrow.

The Library welcomes and encourages dialogue with any part of the research community and industry regarding the collection of cartographic materials that supports an existing or identified future research needs.

Principle 2

Active engagement with Māori helps build collections of cartographic materials and taonga relating and relevant to Māori, for the benefit of all New Zealanders.


The Library has a strong collection of cartographic materials and taonga relating to Māori, including such materials that depict locations of early Māori settlements, pā or kianga, iwi and hapū areas and Māori place names, and Māori land tenure, land blocks and reserves.

Principle 3

The Library has an important leadership role in collaborating and coordinating collection-related activities across institutional and national boundaries to enable New Zealanders to connect to information important to their lives and to support strong documentary heritage and taonga collections for all New Zealanders.


The Library always considers the most appropriate repository for a collection prior to acquisition, which can often be a collegial institution within New Zealand or further abroad.

Cartographic materials relating to areas outside central New Zealand are not collected in competition with any recognised collecting institution.

Potential areas for collaborative or coordinated proactive collecting will be explored with collegial institutions, especially when the Library’s born digital collecting capacity can be utilised.

Appraisal practice and collecting priorities will change over time as institutions, and the archives and library professions engage with virtual collections, collaborative citizen appraisal and new guardianship relationships.

Principle 6

The Library takes into account the cost of acquiring, storing, managing, and making accessible collection items when building its collections.


The Library’s process for approval to purchase collection items includes consideration of cost and benefit, and is followed at all times when the Crown’s acquisition budget is used to build collections.

For items that are donated to the cartographic collection, the total cost of collecting, processing, conserving, and providing access is one factor considered as part of determining the benefit to New Zealand of having the items available in perpetuity as part of our documentary heritage.

Collecting priorities

The cartographic collection is built to sustain advanced research in the cartography of New Zealand and New Zealand studies and to preserve heritage taonga in-perpetuity for all New Zealanders. While the library seeks to collect comprehensively cartographic materials of New Zealand within scope of this plan, it is not possible.

Therefore, the Library chooses to priorities certain areas in order to focus the limited resource to either build on existing collection strengths, to fill gaps in collections, or to respond to the changing needs of researchers now and in the future.

The cartographic priorities are grouped into two categories,

Ongoing priorities: Those areas in which the Library strives to build on its existing collection strengths.

Proactive priorities: One or two areas where there is a known gap in the Library’s collection or the national documentation and the Library proactively strives to build relationships and collect in order to fill these gaps.

The Library welcomes expressions of interest and donations of cartographic materials from a range of people, communities and organisations. However, the current priorities are provided to give a guide on areas we are likely to prefer, given limited resources. Priorities include, but are not limited to, the list provided below.

Ongoing priorities

  • Maps relating to Māori
  • Early exploration, discovery and settlement of New Zealand and the South Pacific Colonial surveying and mapping
  • Recreation maps (for example, tramping, orienteering, mountain biking maps)
  • Real estate and subdivision plans
  • Campaigns of New Zealand Defence Forces
  • Pacific Islands
  • Overseas produced maps of New Zealand, Pacific Islands and Antarctica
  • Published New Zealand cartographic materials

Proactive priorities

  • Climate Change
  • Digital spatial information.

The Library already collects digital cartographic material in the form of static images and on optical media (for example, CD-Roms) and is developing policies and possible procedures for archiving published (dynamic) digital spatial data.

Supporting documentation

This collecting plan is supported by further documentation that outlines some of the criteria and objectives for assessing cartographic materials for assessing and documenting collecting decisions.


Igor Drecki, Curator Cartographic and Geospatial Collections, Alexander Turnbull Library.
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Download the Cartographic collecting plan

Cartographic collecting plan (pdf, 220KB)

Last updated 2022