A bit of cheek: Ian Grant looks back on 27 years of the Cartoon Archive

The Guardians of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive stepped down in 2019. We’ve asked former chairperson Ian F Grant to tell the story of the Archive’s development and achievements.


A long time before private-public partnerships were in vogue, the Cartoon Archive was established and ran in a unique way. Jim Traue, then ATL chief librarian, was delighted by the idea of a Cartoon Archive when I suggested it to him in 1990, all the more so as I’d managed to bring with it a sizeable sum of money.

The ATL looked after all the library aspects and the NZ Cartoon Archive Trust which I talked notables like Mike Robson, Hugh Rennie, a senior Brierley’s manager, Jenny Gibbs, Gavin Ellis into joining and helping sign up an array of sponsors. This allowed us to employ Susan Foster as our first curator and manager to put flesh on the skeleton and, among other activities, hold memorable David Low and rugby exhibitions.

The partnership worked well until Susan left at the end of 1999, and then I (as executive chair) and Rachel Macfarlane (administrator) stepped in to run the Trust’s day-to-day activities on a part-time basis until 2005 when the ATL took responsibility for staffing, with Pauline Hannah appointed cartoon librarian.

On 1 April 2005, the Trust’s financial assets were transferred to the Alexander Turnbull Endowment Trust, which also received continuing income from books published and exhibitions organised by the newly established Guardians of the NZ Cartoon Archive.

The last meeting of the Guardians of the Cartoon Archive was held on 17 July 2019 and we, the Guardians – Margaret Calder, Rachel Macfarlane, Bob Brockie, and Pauline Hannah – have made a number of recommendations about how our remaining funds might be spent.

Shows a group portrait with Bob Brockie seated in a wheelchair in the middle of the group who are standing.After the final Guardians’ meeting: Margaret Calder, Rachel Macfarlane, Pauline Hannah, Bob Brockie, Oliver Stead, Ian Grant, Hannah Benbow, Chris Szekely (absent: Rick Neville). Photo: Mark Beatty

Now, after 27 years, and 16 exhibitions, 10 books and a large number of other events and initiatives, the Guardians held their final meeting on 17 July. The Alexander Turnbull Library will now have total responsibility for the running and development of the NZ Cartoon Archive.

For me, one of the most satisfying aspects of those 27 years has been the growing acceptance that it is desirable, even necessary, to preserve New Zealand’s rich cartooning heritage. It is now widely accepted that editorial cartoons are a valuable historical source, one largely overlooked in the past. For example, racism towards Māori, Chinese, Indian, and Jewish communities at various times in our history was virtually ignored in general histories until research into cartoons revealed evidence of these commonly held community views.

Recent Cartoon Archive books, cartoon histories of attitudes to Māori and religion in New Zealand, underscore the value of studying cartoons as well as official documents, memoirs and letters to get a more finessed understanding of New Zealand history.

Aside from the work of the Cartoon Archive, it has been encouraging to note the increasing number of masters and doctoral theses that are looking at New Zealand society through the perceptive pens of New Zealand cartoonists.

Of course, no organisation can stand still and ATL staff, who have taken a knowledgeable interest in developments in the comic and graphic novel fields, are ready to now take the NZ Cartoon Archive to the next stage in its evolution.

Key to the success of the NZ Cartoon Archive have been people. Firstly, the three chief librarians since the beginning – Jim Traue, Margaret Calder and Chris Szekely. Three very different people with at least two things in common – a commitment to building the Cartoon Archive and marvellous people to work with. From what one reads about companies and government departments today there might well be a lesson to learn about putting individual egos and ambitions aside in the interests of a shared goal.

Portrait of three people standing with the author.Three ATL chief librarians, Margaret Calder, Chris Szekely and Jim Traue (right) with Ian Grant. Photo: Mark Beatty

All spoke at the special ATL event on 17 July to mark the contribution of the Cartoon Archive Trust and Guardians of the NZ Cartoon Archive over the 27 years since 1992.

Looking back, Jim Traue said:

It was a very unorthodox civil union crafted for the times to hit just the right idelogogical and fiscal buttons in government. Sometimes to advance the public good, a certain amount of deviousness becomes necessary. One partner in the civil union was a charitable trust outside the control of government that brought a very attractive dowry … and she brought into the relationship all her powerful relatives from the cartoon world, while all the Government partner had to do was provide a nice State house on the Turnbull estate for the happy couple, and there was, then, plenty of space in the National Library building.

Then Margaret Calder:

I would like to acknowledge the staff who worked in the Cartoon Archive. First there was Susan Foster who was number one, and she worked with Ian to establish the Archive and she did so while earning her own salary. This was a comparatively new and original thing to do in a government department …. Susan was followed by Rachel, Pauline, Melinda, and now Hannah and they’ve all been extremely good and worked really well with Ian. But the major acknowlegement …. must go to Ian, one of the very few people I know who has very good ideas and actually puts them into practice. …. I know he had extraordinary support very close at home, but he also got support from all the Cartoon Archive librarians ….

Finally Chris Szekely:

In 2007 when I took up the role Ian Grant wasted no time in seeking me out to apprise me of the Archive’s significance. He didn’t quite sell it to me as an unorthodox marriage, but nevertheless it was an easy sell. Clearly the Cartoon Archive plays a valuable role as a research resource. …. And I’d like to pay tribute to the many cartoonists who have contributed their work as a research legacy …. Personal highlights for me over the last 12 years included ….. ‘Next in Line’ in 2013 was very sigificant. Ian had the idea of finding out where the next generation of cartoonists would come from, so there was a partnership with the NZ Listener and a competition was run, funded by the Guardians of the Cartoon Archive and we got a great result. And one of the results was a modest exhibition in the Turnbull Gallery. ‘Ludicrous Likenesses’ in 2017 was another very significant moment for me. It was staged at the Portrait Gallery and marked the Cartoon Archive’s 25th anniversary…..

I would also like to pay tribute to the people who have been directly involved – and there are many more involved in the describing and archiving of the cartoons – in the operation of the Cartoon Archive under the watchful and helpful eye of successive curators of Drawings, Paintings and Prints, Marian Minson and Oliver Stead. So I’d like to pay special tribute to Susan Foster, Rachael Macfarlane, Pauline Hannah, Melinda Johnston and Hannah Benbow. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with all of you.

A Short, Short History of the NZ Cartoon Archive, 1989-2019

1989-91: Ian F. Grant visited cartoon museums and archives in the UK and USA, wrote a report for the Minister of Arts and then, with seeding money available, talked to an enthusiastic Jim Traue at Alexander Turnbull Library about establishing a cartoon archive. It was decided that a partnership between the Turnbull (which would process, index, conserve and archive the collection) and an archive trust (which would raise money to fund day-to-day operations and to publicise the collection) would be the best model to follow.

August 1991: First meeting of NZ Cartoon Archive Trust. Its members were Ian F. Grant (chair), Margaret Calder, Hugh Rennie, Mike Robson, and Tom Scott. (Initial planning had been done by the ‘National Cartoon Collection Committee’, with Ian Grant, Margaret Calder, Mike Robson and Jim Traue.) Other trustees during the period to 2005 were: Mike Drogemuller, Gavin Ellis, Rod Emmerson, Ian Fraser, Jenny Gibbs, Peter O’Hara, Rick Neville, and Clive Lind.

Late 1991: Appointment of Susan Foster as curator/manager

1 April 1992: Launch of the NZ Cartoon Archive at National Library by then prime minister Rt. Hon. Jim Bolger. Later in the year Susan Foster produced the first issue of the Cartoon Archive’s 'Quiplash' newsletter.

Two pictures side by side: on the left, PM Bolger speaking to a group of people from a podium. On the right, the Duke admiring a caricature of himself.L: PM Jim Bolger launches the NZ Cartoon Archive, April 1, 1992. R: Duke of Edinburgh eyes his caricature at the David Low opening in 1995.

December 1992: The first exhibition, ‘A Bit of Cheek’ in December 1992, showed the many sides of Robert David Muldoon. Curated by Susan Foster, it toured the country – Masterton, Hastings, Gisborne, Timaru, Gore, Invercargill, Dunedin, Oamaru, Christchurch, Wanganui, and Auckland – until 1995.

November 1994: The second exhibition, in November 1994, ‘the Daily Smile’ was a tribute to the cartooning career of the 'Dominion’s' Eric Heath and toured a number of North Island centres.

November 1995: The Cartoon Archive’s third exhibition, and one of its most ambitious was ‘David Low: Kiwi Cartoonist on Hitler’s Blacklist’ – cartoons by New Zealand’s most famous cartoonist from the pre-war and Second World War periods. The Susan Foster curated exhibition was launched by the Duke of Edinburgh at the National Library gallery and subsequently toured 11 centres, total attendances reaching 120,000. The exhibition catalogue contained essays by Dr. Colin Seymour-Ure and political scientist John Roberts.

July-August 1996: Lecture tour by Colin Seymour-Ure, David Low biographer.

September-October 1997: Lecture tour by Nicholas Garland, prominent British cartoonist who grew up in New Zealand.

November 1997: Charity Cartoon Auction at Government House, hosted by then-patron Sir Michael Hardie Boys, raised nearly $25,000 for the Archive.

Men, mostly in dark suits, standing along with two women.Charity Auction at Government House, 1997: Mike Drogemuller, Tom Scott, Ian Grant, Sir Michael and Lady Hardie Boys, Ian Fraser, Susan Foster, and Mike Robson.

July 1999: The ‘Guts & Glory’ exhibition was a many-faceted examination of rugby, the country’s national sport. Sir Michael Hardie Boys launched the exhibition, with former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick special guest speaker. The exhibition toured 10 museums and galleries over the next three years. Susan Foster produced a 28 page catalogue with essays by Jock Phillips, Trevor Richards and Sir Terry McLean.

September 1999: Lecture tour by Roger Law, the originator of the ‘Spitting Image’ puppet show.

Black and white photo of Susan Foster standing with a wine glass behind a table where three puppets are seated, including Bill Clinton and Queen Elizabeth II.Susan Foster with 'Spitting Image’ puppets in 1999.

January 2000: Following Susan Foster’s resignation, Ian F. Grant became executive chairman and Rachel Macfarlane joined the Archive.

August 2000: The Archive’s fifth exhibition, ‘Fun & Games’, a New Zealand perspective on the Olympics, 1952-2000, curated by Ian Grant and Rachael Macfarlane, was exhibited in the lower ground floor exhibition space at the National Library.

June 2001: The next exhibition, ’30 from 2000’, with cartoons chosen by Rt Hon Jonathan Hunt, the 'Listener’s' Denis Welch and Turnbull’s Margaret Calder.

June 2001: Cartoonists’ Convention organised by the Cartoon Archive brought together New Zealand’s leading cartoonists plus three prominent Australian practitioners.

Malcolm Evans’ cartoon shows a group of politicians waiting at an upstairs window for the last cartoonist to enter the convention centre so they can blow it up with dynamite.Malcolm Evans’ take on the Cartoonists’ Convention in June 2001.

November 2001: ‘The Other Side of the Ditch’ exhibition, and accompanying book, curated and written by Ian Grant, were launched at the National Library Gallery by Sir Frank Holmes. It was subsequently shown at the Auckland University of Technology.

April 2002: In April 2002, the Cartoon Archive celebrated its 10th anniversary with ‘The Line Up’, an exhibition, launched by patron Dame Silvia Cartwright, featuring the work of 36 prominent cartoonists in the Archive’s burgeoning collection.

May 2002: The first of the Archive’s three ‘commissioned’ exhibitions was ‘The Famous Five: Manawatu’s cartoonists on show’, curated by Ian Grant and Rachel Macfarlane for Massey University and Palmerston North City Council. The exhibition – featuring the work of Malcolm Evans, David Henshaw, Garrick Tremain, Murray Ball and Tom Scott (all with Manawatu associations – opened at Te Manawa Gallery in Palmerston North on 13 May.

March 2003: In 2003, ‘The Other Side of the Ditch’ exhibition was chosen by the Australian government as the centrepiece of celebrations to mark 20 years of the CER agreement (The Australia–New Zealand Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement). The exhibition, at Old Parliament House in Canberra, was opened by Alexander Downer, the Australian foreign minister, on 25 March and was on display for three months.

July 2003: The Cartoon Archive’s 10th exhibition was ‘Harpies & Heroines’, a cartoon history of women’s changing roles in New Zealand. The exhibition, opened by the Hon. Marian Hobbs, was curated by Rachel Macfarlane and Cerridwyn Young and the text in the accompanying book was written by Dale Williams. The exhibition toured five North Island centres. The introductory essay was written by Wellington writer and reviewer Dale Williams.

Black and white photo of four women with one holding the newly launched book.Rachel Macfarlane, Helen Courtney (cartoonist), Dale Williams and Cerridwyn Young at the 2003 launch of ‘Harpies & Heroines’ exhibition and book.

October 29, 2003: 'Public Lives: New Zealand’s Premiers and Prime Ministers 1856-2003', by Ian Grant, combined text, cartoons and caricatures to tell the stories of New Zealand's 36 premiers and prime ministers, was launched at Grand Hall of Parliament on 29 October by former PMs Jim Bolger and Geoffrey Palmer. A ‘Public Lives’ exhibition was mounted in the lower ground floor exhibition space at the National Library.

Shows Jim Bolger and Sir Geoffry Palmer behind a lecture, both are holding the same book up for people to see at the launch event for 'Public Lives'.Former PMs Jim Bolger and Sir Geoffry Palmer at 'Public Lives' launch in 2003.

May 2004: the Cartoon Archive was asked to curate an exhibition for the Museum of Wellington City & Sea and took the opportunity to celebrate the life and work of Nevile Lodge, 'Evening Post' cartoonist for 42 years. It was launched by 'Dominion Post' editor Tim Pankhurst on 25 May, 2004.

October 27, 2005: Final meeting of NZ Cartoon Archive Trust. Function to commemorate the end of the Trust era and welcome the Cartoon Archive’s Alexander Turnbull Library future. Governor-General Dame Silvia Cartwright, the Cartoon Archive’s patron, launched Ian Grant’s 'Between the Lines'. A selection of 50 cartoons from the book went on display in the National Library’s lower ground exhibition area in December.

Portrait of four people standing together at the launch event.'Between the Lines launch’: Author Ian Grant with Peter Cartwright, patron Dame Silvia Cartwright and Rachel Macfarlane, 2005.

October 2005: While the Trust’s assets were handed to the Alexander Turnbull Library Endowment Trust to administer, the Guardians of the NZ Cartoon Archive was established to monitor the Archive’s progress and continue the Trust’s role in promoting NZ editorial cartooning via books, exhibitions and visiting speakers. Ian Grant continued to chair the Guardians as he had the Trust; other members included Bob Brockie, Margaret Calder, Pauline Hannah, Clive Lind, Rod Emmerson, Racl Macfarlane, and Rick Neville. Senior ATL staff attended meetings.

2006: Ian Grant contributed ‘Drawing the Line: A Short History of Editorial Cartooning in New Zealand’ to the 'Turnbull Library Record'.

November 1-15, 2008: The Cartoon Archive assisted Alliance Francaise to organise the international ‘Cartooning for Peace’ symposium in Wellington, curating the exhibition at the Michael Fowler Centre featuring the work of the 14 international and four NZ cartoonists participating, assisting with the two-day conference and hosting a panel discussion at the National Library auditorium.

October 29, 2009: Mark Bryant, British cartoon historian, spoke at a Wellington event organised by the Cartoon Archive.

May 13, 2010: In conjunction with the 'Dominion-Post', the Cartoon Archive presented, in Wellington, a special illustrated lecture ‘What Is This Thing Called Political Cartooning?’ by Alan Moir, the 'Sydney Morning Herald’s' award-winning cartoonist.

October 30, 2010: The Cartoon Archive co-sponsored a discussion, held in association with the exhibition ‘Cautionary Tales: the satirical engravings of William Hogarth’. Ian Grant debated the topic ‘Is the tradition for biting political and social cartooning, pioneered by William Hogarth in the 1700s, alive and well in New Zealand at the beginning of the 21th century’ with Bob Brockie, Grant Buist and Malcolm Evans.

August 11, 2011: The NZ Cartoon Archive was asked to curate an exhibition, ‘Having a Ball’, for the opening of the new NZ Rugby Museum at Te Manawa Museum in Palmerston North. Ian Grant curated the exhibition and wrote the accompanying book. The exhibition and book were celebrated at two functions in the new museum in September-October, with speeches by Sir Brian Lochore and David Kirk.

Four men seated together in front of a large poster for the book 'Having a Ball'.Speakers at the ‘Having a Ball’ book launch in Palmerston North, 2011: Malcolm Hopwood, Chris Szekely, Ian Grant and Sir Brian Lochore.

April 5 2012: To celebrate the Cartoon Archive’s 20th anniversary, Sir Geoffrey Palmer launched the Archive’s first monograph, Sarah Murray’s 'A Cartoon War: The Cartoons of the NZ Free Lance and NZ Observer as Historical Sources, August 1914-November 1918'.

June 20, 2012: Ian Grant gave the Founder’s Lecture at the annual Friends of the Turnbull Library event. His subject: ‘Drawing a Line: 20 Years of Cartoons, Cartoons and Caustic Comment at the NZ Cartoon Archive’.

December 5, 2012: The Young Cartoonists’ Award, sponsored by the Cartoon Archive in conjunction with the 'NZ Listener', was launched at an Auckland function. There were 44 entrants, including a number of women, and there was a high standard in both cartooning/caricaturing skills and political awareness. The judging panel, chaired by Ian Grant, also included Pamela Stirling ('Listener' editor), Tim Pankhurst (Newspaper Publishers’ CEO) and cartoonist Chris Slane.

May 9, 2013: The Young Cartoonists’ Award winners were announced at a function in APN’s Auckland boardroom. The winner was Cory Mathis with Toby Morris and Jeff Bell receiving runners-up cheques.

Cory Mathis, winner of the Young Cartoonist Award (centre) with Melinda Johnston and Ian Grant, 2013.Cory Mathis, winner of the Young Cartoonist Award (centre) with Melinda Johnston and Ian Grant, 2013. Photo: Mark Beatty

October 2013: Melinda Johnston curated an exhibition ‘Next in Line’, with cartoons selected from the Young Cartoonists’ Award entries. It was exhibited in the new Turnbull Gallery and launched, with an associated Pecha Kucha event, on October 1. A series of exhibition-related events during October included a visit from Auckland’s Dylan Horrocks, two children’s workshops by Cory Mathis, and a scholarly colloquium that gave serious consideration to the reasons for a dearth of women cartoonists.

2013: During 2013, Ian Grant wrote the ‘Cartoons and Cartooning’ essay for the Ministry of Culture and Heritage’s Te Ara online 'Encyclopedia of New Zealand'. He also contributed an article ‘Fancy Footwork: The Sporting Metaphor in NZ Political Cartoons’ to the 2013 Turnbull Library Record. In the same issue, Paul Diamond, ATL’s Curator, Māori, contributed ‘A Window into Race Relations c. 1956: Using Cartoons as a Historical Source’ about the depiction of Māori during the 1956 Springbok rugby tour of NZ. Both Melinda Johnston and Ian Grant contributed essays to the 'NZ Political Cartoon Annual 2013', edited by Malcolm Evans: a special profile of Bob Brockie and the Young Cartoonists’ Award respectively.

February 13-15, 2014: The Australian Humour Studies Network Colloquium – ‘Anything Goes’ was held at the National Library from 13-15 February. Ian Grant gave the keynote address at the opening session. Melinda Johnston also spoke, as did Valerie Love (ATL Research Librarian for digital materials). Susan Foster, former Cartoon Archive curator and manager, also presented a paper.

February 21, 2014: Tim Benson, leading UK political cartoon historian, paid a visit to the NZ Cartoon Archive at the Alexander Turnbull Library on Friday 21 February. The author of 'Low and the Dictators' was keen to see original David Low cartoons held in the Cartoon Archive collection.

May 3, 2014: The Cartoon Archive assisted with Auckland University's ‘Cartoons, Comics & Caricatures – Evidence or Ephemera?’ Symposium. Ian Grant, Melinda Johnston (from Germany) and Paul Diamond (ATL Māori curator), along with Alan Moir, from Australia, contributed papers.

February 2015: Lloyd Jones launched cartoonist Bob Brockie’s memoir, 'Brockie: A Memoir in Words, Cartoons and Sketches', published by the Cartoon Archive, at the National Library.

Bob Brockie and Lloyd Jones on stage during the event.Launch of Bob Brockie’s memoir in 2015. Brockie with Lloyd Jones who launched the book. Photo: Mark Beatty

April 2015: Melinda Johnston (Research Librarian, Cartoons) moderated a panel at ComicFest 2015 held at the Wellington City Library.

November 2015: Valerie Love presented at the LIANZA Conference on ‘Pictures speak louder than words: Insights from the Cartoon Archive’.

November 2016: The Cartoon Archive provided assistance to cartoonist and author in the preparation of 'Murdoch: The Cartoons of Sharon Murdoch', with commentary by Melinda Johnston.

February 1, 2017: Hannah Benbow gave a paper at the Australasian Humour Studies Network Symposium in Ballart, New South Wales, entitled ‘Interrogation or Decoration: How are researchers using the New Zealand Cartoon Archive?’

March 9 2017: At the first of several 25th anniversary events, leading British cartoonist Steve Bell gave an illustrated talk, ‘Abusing Power in a Post-Truth World’, to a large National Library audience.

Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell standing behind a lecturn and in front of a screen with a large black and white cartoon on it.Guardian cartoonist Steve Bell during his 25th anniversary lecture in 2017. Photo: Mark Beatty

May 19 2017: Ian Grant accepted the NZ Cartoon Archive’s Outstanding Achievement Award at the Canon Media Awards in Auckland.

August-October 2017: Dr Oliver Stead and Hannah Benbow curated a long-planned caricature exhibition, 'Ludicrous Likenesses: the fine art of caricature' at the Portrait Gallery and the Cartoon Archive contributed to panel discussions and floor talks.

Ian Grant, Hannah Benbow and Oliver Stead standing in front of a framed caricature of Helen Clark.Ian Grant, Hannah Benbow and Oliver Stead at the ‘Ludicrous Likenesses’ caricature exhibition at the Portrait Gallery, 2017. Photo: Mark Beatty

December 12 2017: Scottish cartoonist Terry Anderson spoke at the National Library about the risks run by cartoonists internationally.

September 17, 2018: Ian Grant and Hannah Benbow contributed a chapter, ‘Cartoonists and the 2017 Election’ to Victoria University’s Press’s 'Stardust & Substance: The New Zealand General Election of 2017' launched at Unity Books in Wellington.

September 2018: Louisa Wall MP launched Paul Diamond’s 'Savaged to Suit: Māori and Cartooning in New Zealand', the second Cartoon Archive specialist topic monograph, at the National Library.

Ella Diamond with author Paul Diamond and Louisa Wall M.P., the ‘launcher’, at the launch of ‘Savaged to Suit’, 2018.Ella Diamond with author Paul Diamond and Louisa Wall M.P., the ‘launcher’, at the launch of ‘Savaged to Suit’, 2018. Photo: Mark Beatty

June 21, 2019: Sir Lloyd Geering launched the Cartoon Archive’s third monograph, Dr. Mike Grimshaw’s 'Bishops, Boozers, Brethren & Burkas: A Cartoon History of Religion in New Zealand' at a National Library function where the author gave an illustrated talk ‘Godzone Humour: Cartoons & Religion’.

Sir Lloyd Geering (right) with author Mike Grimshaw (centre) and Ian Grant, publisher.Sir Lloyd Geering (right) with author Mike Grimshaw (centre) and Ian Grant, publisher. Photo: Mark Beatty

July 17, 2019: The Cartoon Archive’s final 'Quiplash' newsletter (the 15th issue) was published and a special ATL function at the National Library celebrated the last 27 years of the NZ Cartoon Archive – and gave a glimpse of the future.

Hannah and Ian standing behind a table covered with different books.During the 17 July event, Ian Grant, with Hannah Benbow, Research Librarian Cartoons, formally presented over 70 books from his collection of cartoon histories and biographies to form a named collection at the ATL, to assist future cartoon researchers. Photo: Mark Beatty

By Ian F. Grant

Ian F. Grant is the former chairperson of the Guardians of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive and has written widely on cartoon history.

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