Collecting plan – Ephemera: 2016-2018

Find out about collecting and priorities for the Ephemera Collection.

Purpose of this plan

The Ephemera Collection is a national collection, developed to sustain in-depth research in New Zealand and Pacific 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 Ephemera 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’s Collections Policy.

Scope of the collection

The collection covered by this plan is that of the collection of ephemera, published or distributed material both analog and born digital, and carrying a verbal or illustrative message. It is a transient document produced for a specific purpose and not intended to survive the topicality of its message or the event to which it relates.

It is produced digitally or by printing or illustrative processes, but not in the standard book or periodical format. Format includes analog or digital posters, pamphlets, leaflets, sales catalogues, programmes, timetables, cards, menus, labels, and items with display potential.

A small amount of the following formats is also collected:

  • Three-dimensional scrapbooks containing published material, such as advertisements and postcards, are held. Some three-dimensional board games are held.
  • Printing on media other than paper.

A small representative collection of material of the following type is kept:

  • Badges, especially protest badges
  • Plastic shopping bags (non-biodegradable)
  • Silk programmes and posters

The collection is particularly strong in areas of politics, war, women, environment, theatre and musical performances.

Pacific Scope: The Library selectively collects ephemera relating to the Pacific Islands and Pacific Islanders. Priority is given to those countries that New Zealand has had a strong historical involvement and where there has been significant New Zealand activity in the Pacific, documenting the peoples, landscape (both urban and rural), and relations with New Zealand.

Antarctic Scope: The Library selectively collects ephemera relating to the history of Antarctica and the Sub-Antarctic Islands, with an emphasis on ephemera that involve New Zealand and New Zealanders.


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. However in general, the Library does not collect:

  • After 1950, material of regional interest only (e.g. local body politics and amateur theatre productions) in regions whose institutions already collect their local ephemera.
  • University and tertiary prospectuses
  • Fine printing - This is collected by Rare Books and Fine Printing
  • Art prints - These are collected by Drawings Paintings & Prints
  • Art ephemera – collected by Drawings Paintings & Prints
  • Ephemera with a predominantly cartographic component – collected by Cartographic Section
  • Items in poor condition, or which pose a risk to the collections.

Collecting principles

The National Library of New Zealand collection policy provides a suite of principles that guide all collecting across the published and unpublished collections by the National Library and Alexander Turnbull Library.

The relevant principles from the Collections Policy are provided below, with an explanation of how they will be realised for the Ephemera Collection.

Principle no 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.


Interaction with our researchers and knowledge of their research topics continues to inform decisions about acquisition of ephemera.

The Library will be review the extent to which it’s born digital collecting capability can be used to fill gaps in the national documentation for digital ephemera, to support future research needs of New Zealanders.

The Library welcomes and encourages dialogue with any part of the research community regarding the collection of manuscripts and archives that supports an existing or identified future research need.

Principle no 2

Active engagement with iwi, hapū and whānau helps build collections of documentary heritage and tāonga created by Māori and relating to Māori, for the benefit of all New Zealanders.


The Ephemera Curator will engage with the Curator Māori when tāonga Māori is available for collecting, and will take advice on when wider engagement with Māori is necessary.

Principle no 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 tāonga collections for all New Zealanders.


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

The Library seeks to avoid unnecessary duplication of ephemera held by other collecting institutions. Potential areas for collaborative or coordinated proactive collecting will be explored with other institutions, especially when the Library’s born digital collecting and preservation capacity can be utilized, and gaps in the national ephemera documentation are identified.

Principle no 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.

Due to the impossibility of comprehensive collecting of ephemera, representative collecting will continue to be done, with emphasis on our major interest areas identified in the priorities.

For items that are donated to the ephemera 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 2016 – 2018

The collecting of ephemera cannot be comprehensive. With its focus on collecting New Zealand and Pacific materials, the ephemera collection prioritises its subject areas and is then selective within these priorities.

Collecting for the Ephemera Collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library will focus on contentious issues, big events, popular culture.

The ephemera priorities are grouped into two categories.

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

Proactive priorities: Areas where there is a known gap in the Library’s collection or national documentation, where the Library proactively builds relationships and collects in order to fill these gaps.

The Library welcomes expressions of interest and donations 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

The subject areas in which ongoing collecting is done can be divided into two levels, reflecting the desired percentage of available material.

  • More comprehensive (reflects the Library’s subject specialist areas, where the collecting is already rich, and the areas where there are perceived gaps which need to be filled)
  • Representative and selective (collected to support some degree of research and comparison, and where the amount of material produced may be too large to be comprehensive)

The list of subjects below is not comprehensive. A complete list may be obtained from the Ephemera Librarian:

More comprehensive Representative and selective
Alcohol Architecture and building supplies
Art and Graphic arts Cards and calendars
Antarctica Costume and fashion, decor, interior design
Health and social welfare Dining (Menus), Food
Human rights (including Women, Racism) Disasters, crises
Immigration and ethnic groups Education, Schools
Labour and industrial disputes Horticulture and agricultural shows
Māori Literature
Music, theatre, entertainment (pre-1950; Wellington only for post-1950) Organisations (associations, communes)
Politics (national and local Wellington) Famous people
Religion (Christian religion, and other religions and philosophies) Printing and publishing
Tourism (includes national parks, historic walks, local descriptive brochures, posters) Retail (includes, advertising, labels, packaging)
War Sport and recreation
Television, radio, video
Transport (air, sea, land, roads)

Proactive priorities

  • Pasifika communities in New Zealand
  • New Zealand's diverse ethnic communities
  • Climate change

Supporting documentation

This collecting plan is supporting by further documentation that outlines some of the criteria, objectives, and processes for appraising ephemera and documenting collecting decisions.

Download the Ephemera collecting plan

Ephemera collecting plan (pdf, 136KB)