Ngā tino mahi o te tau — A&D team highlights of 2019

The Alexander Turnbull Library Arrangement & Description team’s favourite collections and proudest achievements of the past year. This is the seventh instalment in a long-running series of annual retrospectives. You can view previous blog posts here.

Nicola standing in front of boxes and tables with collection items with staff members working in the background.Nicola behind the scenes in the ‘engine room’ of the A&D workroom. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Nicola’s highlights from 2019

This year has been another busy one for the Arrangement & Description (A&D) team and I am super proud of the work the team has done in making the Library’s collections more discoverable. Personally, I love linking material up with its context, so my highlight would be seeing the Whites Aviation ‘negative registers’ digitised, meaning people can now match a Whites Aviation aerial photograph with its date and the pilot’s route, without having to visit the Library.

Other favourites would be making more of our Name records align with the international standard EAC-CPF; naming people in cartes-de-visite portraits following a cross-Library Facial Recognition Project; and exploring the use of the Transkribus tool in partnership with Archives NZ.

Most recently, having Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision move into the building has been great for extending conversations about our descriptive practices – both commonalities and distinctions.

I would like to thank the team for all of their work, and also: our volunteer Walter Cook who comes in every week to describe photographic collections; members of the Research Access team who work to make the former Library ‘File Prints’ collection more discoverable; our partners in other teams; and our contract staff member Pamela Lovis who has been working on the Flying Nun Records collection.

I would also like to formally welcome Sheena Tawera who has become a valuable team member in her six months with us; and to farewell Winifred Lynch who we will dearly miss after her retirement this month.

We have a whakatauākī created by Ariana “Kia whakarite, kia whakamārama, kia tauhere ki te ao/To arrange, to describe, to connect with the world,” so please enjoy this blog by our team, as we connect you with the precious collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Nā Nicola Frean, Arrangement & Description Leader


Ariana holding a book of printed sheet music.Ariana with a gig poster and scores from the Prince Tui Teka collection. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Prince Tui Teka scores — Ariana Tikao

One of my favourite collections from 2019 is a set of instrumental scores used by Prince Tui Teka's band from its formation in the early 1970s through to the 1980s. Prince Tui Teka (Ngāi Tūhoe) was one of our most iconic Māori showband performers who went on to create his particular brand of comedy and music, which he toured internationally.

The scores are handwritten and housed in eight solid black PVC folders, grouped according to the various instruments in his band. Their repertoire included popular songs such as ‘For the life of me’, ‘Save the last dance’, ‘Il silencio’, ‘My ding a ling’, and Māori waiata such as 'Hoki mai'. One fun fact I learnt while working on this collection was that the tune for Tui Teka’s famous love song ‘E Ipo’ (‘My lover’) was from an Indonesian song ‘Mimpi Sedih’.

The charts are annotated with cues, expression directions, and other comments which gives them a lot of character! Another interesting aspect of the collection is the way that the scores are lined with paper masking tape, making the pages more solid, and possibly prolonging their lives. But they did cause a conservation issue for us, so I sought advice from our conservation team about how to deal with such a lot of tape, which had been on the pages so long that it basically had become part of the item. The conservator treated a couple of the scores which had become fragile but for the others, we had to respect that these scores had a hard working life. This contributes to their appeal.

One of the scores with the music for ‘E Ipo’ is in the Pūkana exhibition in the National Library Gallery until May 2020. I helped to curate this exhibition so it made it extra special to work on this collection and then see one of the items displayed in a section relating to Prince Tui Teka’s contribution to our musical history.

Nā Ariana Tikao, Research Librarian, Māori, Arrangement & Description


Shows three people looking closely at a large black and white photo on a table, Catherine Bisley is wearing white gloves.Catherine Bisley with one of the donors, Anna Riddiford, and Mark Crookston (Associate Chief Librarian). Photo: Mark Beatty, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Earle Riddiford’s mountaineering photographs — Catherine Bisley

One real pleasure of our work is getting to meet the creators or donors of collections. Earlier this year, it was exciting to meet with Mary Cleveland and talk her through the work I’d done arranging and describing her late husband Les Cleveland’s collection. Later on, in November, I met with the family of pioneering New Zealand mountaineer Harold Earle Riddiford (1921-1989), who was known as Earle.

The Riddiford family have donated an important collection that includes correspondence, notes, reports, speeches and lectures, newspaper articles, and photographs relating to the 1951 Garhwal Himalaya and Everest Reconnaissance expeditions and the 1952 British Cho Oyu expedition.

While the bulk of this collection is yet to be described, one of the highlights of my year was describing 42 mounted exhibition prints taken by Riddiford. The first 23 prints were accompanied by an information board that gave the series title 'A New Zealander looks at The South Face of Everest'; these photographs were taken on the 1951 Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition organised by the Himalayan Committee of the Royal Geographical Society and Alpine Club, London. The second set of 19 prints was taken on the 1952 expedition to reconnoitre Cho Oyu.

It is possible to view all 42 of these stunning images in the Library’s reading room. Riddiford was a talented photographer and a meticulous record-keeper with captions on many of the prints recording details such as the time of day the photograph was taken, the atmospheric conditions, the shutter speed, focal length, and aperture.

Link to Riddiford family collection: https://tiaki.natlib.govt.nz/#details=ecatalogue.997870
Link to the series of mounted prints: https://tiaki.natlib.govt.nz/#details=ecatalogue.998953

Nā Catherine Bisley, Librarian, Arrangement & Description


Sascha standing behind a large map that is yellow with age.Sascha with Lucien Coffyn’s map of Papeete. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

1849 Map of Papeete, Tahiti — Sascha Nolden

My highlight from 2019 is a Tahitian manuscript map purchased from Maggs Brothers in London, which I was given the opportunity to describe in Tiaki. I chose this item as it is a format I enjoy working with, and this map is outstanding as one of the earliest unpublished maps from Tahiti held by the Library.

The map of Papeete, Tahiti, dated 31 December 1849 is titled 'Plan de Papeete: Plan terrier du Domaine de l'Etat. Croquis annexe au Memoire Annuel'. Prepared by Lucien Florent Paul Coffyn (1810-1871), the captain and director of the engineers at Papeete, the map is inscribed, signed, and dated as 'Fait sous la direction du Capitaine & Directeur Soussigne Papeete le 31 xbre. 1849 L[ucie]n Coffyn'. As the title suggests, this map was originally prepared to accompany an annual report. Coffyn was stationed at Papeete from 1849 to 1855, after the end of the Tahitian War of Independence, at a time when French rule was consolidated and Queen Pomare IV (1813-1877) had returned from exile.

Recorded on the map are the locations of buildings and other improvements and according to the legend features five property types, comprising buildings purchased by the government (Maisons achetáes par l’Etat), buildings constructed by the government (Constructions faites par l’Etat), land purchased (Terrains achetés), land leased (Terrains loués), and land permanently occupied (Terrains occupés definitivement).

The map is drawn in pencil, ink, and watercolour on a folded sheet of tracing paper measuring 66.7 x 97 cm, and originally arrived in the Library in a tightly folded state and underwent conservation treatment to flatten it in preparation for digitisation and consultation by researchers.

Nā Sascha Nolden, Research Librarian, Arrangement & Description


Susan standing at a desk with various photos on it, she's holding one photograph in her hands which have white gloves on.Susan with some photographs of photographer, model, and author Lorna Rowland. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Lorna Rowland photographs — Susan Skudder

Part of the process of arranging and describing archives is learning about the creator of the collection for context about why and how the archives were created. The reverse is also true – the archives can tell us about their creator. One of the pleasures of arrangement and description is the opportunity to ‘get to know’ the people and organisations that created them, and to feel a connection with them through their archives. Another pleasure is the discovery of archival items that are in some way beautiful, surprising, moving, unusual, or all of the above.

This year I had both those pleasures while housing and describing a collection of photographs that encompasses aspects of the life of a remarkable woman. Lorna Rowland was born in England. As a young woman she lived in the household of painter James Quinn and worked as a model for painters, photographers, and sculptors. She was the model for the sculpture ‘Ex Tenebris Lux’, in the Christchurch Art Gallery

One discovery was a photograph of a young Lorna Rowland made by an unusual colour printing process, a tri-colour carbro print. The intensity of its colours draws the eye. Our Senior Conservator Photographs, Mark Strange, identified it, and he believes it may be the only one in our collection and possibly one of the only portraits made by this process that is held in New Zealand. Unfortunately we don’t know the name of the photographer.

Lorna Rowland met Mabel (Hill) McIndoe through James Quinn and came to New Zealand in 1936 to become a governess for the McIndoe family. She soon re-invented herself as a journalist, taking her own photographs and writing articles for the New Zealand Free Lance, the Dominion, and other papers. Her photographs for a series of articles entitled “Three Islands” provide images of places in New Zealand in the early 1940s, and include a photograph of Roy Traill on Stewart Island and one of Tom Bragg on Tia Island with pōha (kelp bags used for storing tītī, or muttonbirds).

Lorna Rowland was instrumental in establishing herb societies in New Zealand. Some of her photographs document the opening of the herb garden in the Wellington Botanic Garden, a project for which she was the driving force. Exemplifying the few degrees of separation we experience in New Zealand, she worked on that project with Walter Cook, who was then employed at the Botanical Gardens, and who later became a member of the Alexander Turnbull Library staff. While working on this part of the collection I realised I own a book Lorna wrote and Walter illustrated about growing and using herbs! This collection afforded me not only the everyday pleasures of descriptive work, but also the delight of both discovery and connection.

Nā Susan Skudder, Research Librarian, Arrangement & Description


Merryn is shown holding a binder while wearing white gloves, there are also similar looking binders on the table in front of her.Merryn with the original ringbinders from the Melvin Day collection. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Artist Melvin Day’s collection — Merryn McAulay

A favourite for me from 2019 was the collection of Melvin (Pat) Day (1923-2016). Day was an artist, art historian, and director of the National Art Gallery of New Zealand from 1968-1978. His collection contains photographs, papers, and art works spanning his life and career (ref: ATL-Group-00229).

When the collection was donated to the Library in 2017 by the estate of Melvin Day it included twelve ringbinders of research material compiled by his wife, art historian Oroya Day. Each ringbinder was numbered titled “Profile”. They contained clear plastic sleeves of biographical information and ephemera about Melvin Day, organised chronologically. I wanted to preserve the context and arrangement of these profile ringbinders, but in order to ensure their long term preservation, also wanted to remove the material from the ringbinders and plastic sleeves which produce a nasty gas, that can lead to deterioration. I achieved this by re-housing the contents of each plastic sleeve into an archival folder, and putting these folders into boxes. This mimics the structure of the way the collection was created – a box represents a ringbinder, and each folder within it represents a plastic sleeve. Most of the sleeves also had sticky labels adhered to them with valuable metadata that we wanted to retain. The information from the labels was transcribed onto the front of each folder. This was a long and manual process resulting in over 250 folders being used but I am pleased with the way it preserves the structure created by Oroya Day.

A book of essays about Melvin Day is available this month through VUP https://vup.victoria.ac.nz/melvin-day-artist

Nā Merryn McAulay, Librarian, Arrangement & Description


Sheena sitting behind a desk holding a framed black and white photo with white gloves.Sheena with a portrait of an unidentified woman, and an unidentified bride and groom from the Ian Kidman collection. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Ian Kidman’s historical portrait collection — Sheena Tawera

Since joining the Arrangement and Description team in July 2019, my favourite project has been the collection Collected photographs and ephemera by Ian Kidman (1932-2017), which was donated to the Alexander Turnbull Library by his wife, Dame Fiona Kidman in 2018.

The collection comprises 107 black and white original photographic prints, a poster, and an offset print. I had the pleasure of arranging and describing the photographic print material.

Ian Kidman collected a variety of photographs over a long period, mostly purchased from second hand stores around New Zealand. The photographs (circa 1880-1930s) are mainly postcard sized studio portraits of unidentified people. They were taken by a wide range of photographers and photographic studios from across New Zealand.

These photographs are good examples of formal portraiture work undertaken by studio photographers during this period. The images also hold historical research value in that they portray family groups and bridal parties, individual portraits of babies, children and adults, soldiers in uniforms, a school graduation, and sports teams. They reflect the culture, social behaviour, mores and fashions of the era. Of added interest are two photographs of a 1954 train derailment.

On a personal level, the photographs remind me of portraits of my forebears, with an added poignancy in the fact that the individuals are largely unidentified. I hope that through my work as an Arrangement and Description Librarian, by creating records that facilitate discoverability, both their images and their identities may in time be rediscovered by their families and their descendants.

'He kitenga kanohi, he hokinga mahara – to see a face is to stir the recollections of the heart'.

Nā Sheena Tawera, Librarian, Arrangement & Description


Dolores seated at her desk with dual monitors viewing files from the NDHA.Dolores at work describing digital cartoons from the New Zealand Cartoon and Comics Archive. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Digital Cartoons — Dolores Hoy

This year I want to highlight one of my regular tasks in digital Arrangement and Description – the processing of contemporary editorial digital cartoons donated by New Zealand cartoonists to the Turnbull Library. There’s such a variety of styles and views expressed that I always find a cartoon that makes me laugh or learn about an issue I hadn’t known about before.

We acquire the digital cartoons via email or cloud storage platforms such as Dropbox, or sometimes as a one-off donation on physical digital media, such as USB or computer disk. The actions we perform when downloading and ingesting the digital cartoons into the National Digital Heritage Archive (NDHA) are intended to ensure the integrity of their file formats and their preservation over time. To ensure the cartoons can be found by researchers, we describe the image content and historical context for each cartoon in an individual Tiaki record.

I enjoy solving the riddle of how to capture the essence of a pictorial item, which has layers of meaning and image detail, and express that in words as succinctly and efficiently as I can. I also enjoy learning about the work of cartoonists that are new to me. This year we received donations from Emma Louise Cook (see collection record DC-Group-0060 Cook, Emma Louise, 1978-: Cartoons). In addition, the Turnbull Library is expanding the scope of our cartoon collecting to include comics. I’m looking forward to working with such rich and diverse examples of New Zealand cartooning.

Nā Dolores Hoy, Research Librarian Digital Materials, Arrangement & Description


Pamela with some of the ten-inch reels currently being processed, standing in the storage room with many other tapes on shelves behind her.Pamela with some of the ten-inch reels currently being processed. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Adventures with Flying Nun Records cassette tapes — Pamela Lovis

Enhancing the records for 162 audiocassette tapes from the Flying Nun Records collection provided my first introduction to the world of Flying Nun Records. The material from this series has now all been digitised, described and labelled and recently published in Tiaki. See the Audiocassettes Series record and a Facebook story about the cassettes

This is the first of the formats in the Flying Nun collection to be completed, and there’s much more to come.

Getting to this point was a team effort. My job in the process is to carefully check and record all the information on the actual cassette – band names, titles, track listings and durations, dates, and cassette type. Band names like SJF, HDU, S.P.U.D., N.R.A , BSC and LBGP are now familiar and I’m no longer phased, although occasionally surprised, by some of the quirky track titles.

Nā Pamela Lovis, Librarian, Arrangement & Description


Kirsty in front of a large TV monitor displaying a record from Tiaki.Kirsty with a screen showing a record from the Whites Aviation aerial photographs. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Discovering, Getting and Using the collections — Kirsty Cox

Our team creates finding aids which help you discover and connect with the vast collections held in the Alexander Turnbull Library. However, once you have found what you are looking for, you usually want to know two things: how can you access the material, and, how can you use (or re-use) it?

For ‘access’, you can easily request to view or listen to material whether in our reading rooms or online, and you will be informed if permission is required, if a surrogate copy (physical/digital) will be supplied instead of the original, or if there are physical or technical conditions which may affect your access to the material e.g. when audio-visual recordings require copying, negatives require acclimatisation, which takes time. Since 2016 we have done a considerable amount of data clean-up and improved our processes to make sure that these access statements are clear and consistent across all collections.

For ‘use’ however, we still have a large amount of work to do in improving the statements that appear in our records. In the last year you may have noticed one small change in this area – namely the application of the Creative Commons Licence CC-BY 2.0 to the Whites Aviation collection of post-1945 aerial photographs (see our blog post describing this work). To enable this licence required a lot of intensive data clean-up to ensure that it was applied only to the correct records.

This took me personally several weeks of working with the core metadata, and also involved colleagues in Digital New Zealand who helped make sure that these records would have the correct messaging on both Tiaki and the National Library website. We are slowly applying other clear use statements to our collections, but it is a complex process taking into account issues such as copyright, cultural and ethical considerations, and agreements we have with our donors. But through this work we aim to give clear information, so we can make our collections more accessible and easier to use.

Nā Kirsty Cox, Research Librarian Digital Materials, Arrangement & Description


Win seated at her desk in front of a computer entering details of the Ans Westra collection.Win working on enhancing the descriptions for the Ans Westra photographs, based on proofsheets. Photo: Llewelyn Jones, Imaging Services, Alexander Turnbull Library

Highlights of Win’s career in the ATL Photographic Archive

Now that I am retiring at the end of this year, I can think back over my many happy memories of the fascinating projects I have been privileged to work on in the Photographic Archive in the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Major projects include:

David Alexander De Maus (1847-1925), early images taken on glass negative by David Alexander De Maus (1847-1925), with the main emphasis on shipping, particularly around Port Chalmers;

Albert Percy Godber (1875-1949), railway employee and amateur photographer, who took photographs of railways, timber industry, Māori art, and general views throughout New Zealand;

Robert Percy Moore (1881-1948), an amazing collection of panoramic negatives taken throughout New Zealand around the years 1923-1928. Moore was an entrepreneur who made contact with local firms, including laundries, freezing works, gold mining etc.; and individual property owners for farmland and homesteads. He was also commissioned by the New Zealand Tourist and Publicity Department for projects such as royal visits, and tourist scenes such as Milford Sound, the glaciers, and the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.

Last but not least is my latest project, working on images in the Ans Westra collection [some of which are on display in the Pūkana exhibition at the National Library – Ed]. The range of subjects is far reaching, but always there is a main focus on capturing Māori life in New Zealand. She was far more interested in photographing people watching events than in showing where and when they took place. This is the exciting part, a real jigsaw puzzle search which is essential as it is impossible to find an image without words. We hope that people might be able to let us know if they recognise family and friends in the digitised images online so we can update the records with fuller information.

Nā Winifred Lynch, Librarian, Arrangement & Description

By Ariana Tikao

Ariana (Kāi Tahu) is the Research Librarian, Māori, at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

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Liisa December 17th at 10:39PM

Wonderful mahi.

Ruth December 18th at 7:43AM

keep up the good work.....if you are interested I want to get a copy of the Te Mahia School Reunion and Tawapata School which I was pleased to see we can order copies through the National Libarary and heres the good news............just this week I finally found some images of Tawapata school which has been relocated from the shoreline to some farmland further up on the Onenui Station In Mahia.I found it on facebook. Next time I am in New Zealand I will make a special trip to order a copy of the Reunion book which was my first school I attended in the 1960s. thanks again

Ruth December 18th at 7:50AM

one more question...........do you have any original images on file of Tawapata school -Mahia Peninsula in its original form and location

Jocelyn Chalmers December 18th at 8:22AM

Wonderful work everyone - some incredible collections there.

National Library of New Zealand December 19th at 11:58AM

Thanks for your comments, Ruth. The best way to answer your questions would be for you to send them to us via Ask-a-Librarian: https://natlib.govt.nz/questions/new. If you fill out the form, one of our specialist staff will respond to help you get the images and info you need.