What you told us about Papers Past

What do these 3 articles from Papers Past have in common? Well, 1,063 is the number of people who responded to our recent survey on Papers Past.

3 images from Papers Past with the number 1063 in them.

Thank you for completing the survey

Were you one of them? My thanks if you were. We’re grateful to everyone who completed the survey and who encouraged others to fill it out. It has provided us with a clear sense of what’s important to you, what you would like to see digitised, and where you think we should concentrate our efforts. There were also many suggestions about specific titles that you would like to see digitised, and we have recorded these in our giant ever-expanding register.

Government publications

The most popular government publication (from the five we suggested) was the NZ Gazette, followed by the Provincial Gazettes.

Bar graph of Papers Past survey results about government publications.
In the survey, we asked people to rank five government publications for digitisation. This graph shows that the New Zealand Gazette was the most popular choice, followed by the Provincial Gazettes, Appendices to the Journal of the House of Representatives from 1950, the Journals of the Legislative Council and lastly the Journals of the provincial councils.


A number of people suggested Hansard (the Parliamentary Debates) would be a good thing to digitise. In fact, these are already available online. Volumes from 1854 to 1987 are hosted on the HathiTrust Digital Library and you can find links to the more recent volumes on Parliament's Historical Hansard page.

The Police Gazettes

The Police Gazettes were also a popular suggestion – these were digitised by Archives NZ and are available via Archway, as well as Ancestry. We are hoping that these will also be available on Papers Past and full text searchable by July 2019. In the meantime, there is some helpful information on how to access them on Archives NZ’s Facebook page.

Magazines and journals

The most highly ranked magazine from the ten we listed was the Listener, followed by the School Journal, then the New Zealand Woman’s Weekly. The two agricultural journals, New Zealand Farmer and the Journal of Agriculture were also popular, fourth and fifth overall.

Bar graph of Papers Past survey results about magazines and journals.
This graph shows the magazines that people responding to the survey most wanted to see on Papers Past. In order of desirability, the Listener came first, followed by the School Journal, New Zealand Women’s Weekly, New Zealand Farmer, Journal of Agriculture, Forest and Bird, Art in New Zealand, Radio Record, Triad, and finally Rip It Up.

Journal of the Polynesian Society, NZ Journal of History, Broadsheet and Landfall

A number of other magazines were popular suggestions, such as the Journal of the Polynesian Society, Landfall, Mana Magazine and the NZ Journal of History.

Luckily the University of Auckland Library has already digitised the JPS in partnership with the Polynesian Society. They’ve also digitised the NZ Journal of History and also recently made Broadsheet available — go the University of Auckland Library Digital Services team! The first twenty years of Landfall have also recently gone online, courtesy of the Otago University Press.

Newspapers and copyright

It was very, very, very, very, clear (71% clear) that if we had to choose, we should focus on expanding the range of digitised newspapers. Many of the comments also expressed a wish for more papers to be digitised from the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

While we would like to, we are constrained by the current copyright legislation, and it is surprising how long copyright can last. When looking at one title, I found a gentleman who’d been the owner and editor of a paper from 1915 to 1923, and continued working with his sons on it for many years. He died at 101 in 1971 and therefore his work will be in copyright until the end of 2021.

So at the moment, the end date for the newspapers section on Papers Past remains at 1950. You will have noticed, I hope, that the Otago Daily Times and the Evening Star are now digitised to 1942, and we will be doing more in the coming year – thank you Allied Press.

We’ve recently signed agreements with NZME, Stuff (aka Fairfax), the Gisborne Herald Company and National Media which will allow us to digitise more of their titles up to 1945 or 1950. It's been great being able to work with these companies to do this and you should start to see these come online over the next few years.

OCR correction

A number of you asked that we develop a way of correcting the OCR errors, “as Trove does”. Hopefully, you will all be pleased to hear that we are working on a pilot for this. Sometime over the next year, this should be ready for you to help test it.


Our last question was about you, our users. Nearly 50 percent of you primarily used Papers Past for family history, and over 30 percent of you were using it for professional or academic research.

Next steps

We’re working out the digitisation plan for 2018–2019, and hope to be able to make this available soon. We’ll also be following up with the publishers of the titles you ranked highly, to see if they are interested in working with us.

In the meantime, keep emailing us at paperspast@natlib.govt.nz with suggestions for material you’d like to see digitised. We take your suggestions into account when we decide what to digitise, even if it might be some years before we’re able to act on them.

By Melanie Lovell-Smith

Melanie is a Digtisation Advisor at the Library working on the selection and digitisation side for the Papers Past website.

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nancy mclaughlin August 22nd at 4:23PM

Thankyou for your report, Melanie :)

Dorothy Gaunt August 22nd at 8:05PM

Thank you for undertaking this survey and for letting us know the results. Just keep on keeping on!!! You're doing a great thing.