Ephemera collecting plan

Find out about collecting and priorities for the Ephemera Collection.


The Ephemera Collection is a national collection, developed to sustain in-depth research in Aotearoa 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 during the period 2021-2023.

The Ephemera collection now sits within the Contemporary Voices and Archives curatorial area, which has been developed to build a more inclusive collective memory to reflect Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse multi-cultural identities and forms of cultural expression through participatory and collaborative work with communities, scholars and researchers. Continued development of the Ephemera collection draws on the expertise of curatorial areas across the Library.

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

National Library of New Zealand's Collections Policy.

Scope of the collection

The Alexander Turnbull Library’s Ephemera Collection contains primary source items in the form of; proclamations, programmes, posters, menus, timetables, advertising, pamphlets, clippings, and other everyday material relating to Aotearoa New Zealand, the Pacific, and New Zealanders overseas. The collection has over 200,000 ephemera items dating from the 1840s to the present.

Ephemera has been described as “minor transient documents of everyday life”.1 It is a format that traditionally focusses on events, experiences or items that are short-term in their relevance, usefulness, or popularity. As a format ephemera can help researchers to map larger political, social, historical or aesthetic trends. As a result, ephemera can provide an insight into significant national experiences, events, cultural practices, and social developments that have affected the lives of New Zealanders.
The existing collection has strengths in the following subject areas:

  • Alcohol and food
  • Art and graphic arts
  • Antarctica
  • Health and social welfare
  • Human rights (including subject areas of women, racism, refugees)
  • Immigration and ethnic groups
  • Labour and industrial disputes
  • Māori people and culture
  • Music, theatre, entertainment (pre-1950; Wellington only for post-1950)
  • Politics and protest (national and local Wellington)
  • Religion (Christian religion, and other religions and philosophies)
  • Tourism (includes national parks, historic walks, local descriptive brochures, posters)
  • War and conflict
  • Disasters, crises
  • COVID-19


Ephemera covered in this collecting plan may include:

a) published or distributed material, both analog and born digital, that carries a verbal or illustrative message. It is produced digitally or by printing or illustrative processes, but not in the standard book or periodical format. Formats can include analog or digital posters, pamphlets, leaflets, sales catalogues, programmes, timetables, cards, menus, zines, labels and items with display potential.

b) transient documents produced for a specific purpose and not intended to survive the topicality of its message or the event to which it relates.
Two-dimensional printed, published material and born digital ephemera is collected.

A small amount of the following formats is also collected:

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

A small representative amount of the following material is kept:

  • Badges, especially protest badges
  • Plastic shopping bags (non-biodegradable)
  • T-shirts displaying logos
  • Silk programmes and posters.


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, the library collects material of regional interest only (e.g. local body politics and amateur theatre productions, tourism and events).
  • University and tertiary prospectuses
  • Fine printing — collected by the Rare Books and Fine Printing area
  • Art prints — collected by Drawings Paintings & Prints
  • Art ephemera — collected by Drawings, Paintings & Prints
  • Ephemera with a predominantly cartographic component — collected by the Cartographic Section
  • Ephemera with a predominantly music component — collected by the Archive of New Zealand Music
  • Items in poor condition, or which pose a risk to the collections
  • Duplicate items already held by the Alexander Turnbull Library, or in another repository or institution within Aotearoa New Zealand.

Material already collected under Legal Deposit will reside within the New Zealand and Published collections.

Legal Deposit

Collecting principles

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

National Library of New Zealand’s Collections Policy.

The relevant principles from the collection development policy are given below, with an explanation of how they will be implemented for ephemera.

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.


Interaction with our researchers and knowledge of their research topics continues to inform decisions about acquisition of ephemera to support an existing or identified future research need.

The Library will be review the extent to which its 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.

Principle 2

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


The Library is committed to ensuring that ephemera created by and relating to Māori is collected, preserved, and made available to the highest possible standard, in ways that are acceptable to Māori, and are carried out in consultation with appropriate iwi and pan-iwi representatives.

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 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 Aotearoa 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 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 acquired for the Ephemera collection, the Library considers the total cost of collecting, processing, conserving, and providing access, is one factor considered as part of the appraisal process to determine the value of the items managed in perpetuity as Aotearoa New Zealand documentary heritage.

The Library will be selective in the materials we acquire taking into account the whole cost of acquiring and stewarding the material.

If considered, Collection of Ephemera outside the proactive priorities will be limited to selective and representative sampling only

Collecting priorities

With its focus on collecting Aotearoa New Zealand and Pacific materials, the National Library will prioritise its areas of general collecting and will be selective within these priorities.

Collecting for the Ephemera Collection of the Alexander Turnbull Library will focus on contentious issues, significant events, and popular culture. The Ephemera Collection seeks to represent and reflect a range of perspectives, opinions and voices to further support the collecting activities of the Contemporary Voices and Archives section.

The collecting of ephemera cannot be comprehensive. Representative and selective material is collected to support some degree of research and comparison, and where the amount of material produced may be too large to be comprehensive.

Proactive priorities

Ephemera that reflects and encompasses:

  1. Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse communities including minority or marginalised peoples, migrant and ethnic communities, LGBTQIA+ groups, and people with disabilities.
  2. Pasifika communities in Aotearoa New Zealand and in the Pacific. The Library selectively collects ephemera relating to the Pacific Islands and Pacific Islanders. Priority is given to those countries that Aotearoa New Zealand has had a strong historical involvement and where there has been significant Aotearoa New Zealand activity in the Pacific, documenting the peoples, landscape (both urban and rural), and relations with Aotearoa New Zealand.
  3. Climate change and its impact on environments, society, politics and culture in Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific.

Material will be sought and collected relating to these communities and subjects and may take the form of ephemera produced relating to: performances, small businesses, local initiatives, religious and cultural events and activities, protests, tourism, disasters and crises, human rights, health and social welfare.

The Library will actively seek, through donation or purchase, ephemera that provides a range of perspectives on the identified proactive priorities. These areas are in line with the collecting priorities of the newly established curatorial area Contemporary Voices and Archives.

The Library will also collect ephemera where it falls within rapid response collecting conducted by the Library. Material that is both born digital (in collaboration with Digital Collection Services) and analogue (in collaboration with other Curatorial / Format areas) will be collected in immediate response to events of local, national, and global significance.

Ephemera that is unique or rare may still be considered for collection outside of the annual thematic priorities if it fits within the earlier collection priorities or existing collection. If the Library determines ephemera to be of rare, unique, or significant Aotearoa New Zealand heritage it will be considered for inclusion in the collection after the due evaluation, valuation and approval process.

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.


Audrey Waugh, Assistant Curator, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
Email — audrey.waugh@dia.govt.nz

Dr Ashwinee Pendharkar, Curator Contemporary Voices and Archives, Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand.
Email — ashwinee.pendharkar@dia.govt.nz

Download the Ephemera collecting plan

Ephemera Collections collecting plan (pdf, 190KB)

Last updated 2022


1 — The Encyclopedia of Ephemera: A Guide to the Fragmentary Documents of Everyday Life for the Collector, Curator, and Historian. Ed. Michael Twyman. New York: Routledge, 2000.