Music collections and services
Resources for music researchers and musicians
We offer a wide range of resources for music researchers and musicians, including the heritage collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library, reference and interloan material, and the Music Hire service. Our main music collections include the Archive of New Zealalnd Music, a Reference collection and General Lending Collection.
Archive of New Zealand Music
The Archive of New Zealand Music is the world's largest archive of unpublished material relating to New Zealand music and musicians. The Archive contains hundreds of unique collections that document the rich variety of our musical life, including the work of composers, singers, musicians and ensembles, record labels and other music organisations, music educators, broadcasters, musicologists and critics.
New acquisitions include:
- Sillay, Frank, active 1968-2018: Collection relating to National Banjo Pickers' Convention
- Brass Band Association of New Zealand: Collection
- Propeller Lamont Ltd: Recordings
- Knox, Chris, 1952-: Recordings
- Gordon, Stuart John, 1912-1997: Collection
- Teka, Tumanako (Tui) (1937-1985): Scores
New Zealand Music, Sound & Audio-visual collection
The New Zealand Music, Sound & Audiovisual collection contains music published in New Zealand or by New Zealanders overseas. It includes music recordings made from the 1920s through to the present in all genres and styles, thousands of music scores by local composers and songwriters, and numerous music-related videos and DVDs.
Reference collection and General Lending Collection
The Reference collection includes many specialist items such as music encyclopaedias, dictionaries, repertoire guides, bibliographies, thematic catalogues and discographies. It also includes access to a number of music databases, including Oxford Music Online and Répertoire International de Littérature Musicale. You need to come to the Wellington Reading Rooms to use these items.
The General Lending Collection includes around 55,000 scores (including parts), 100,000 sound recordings, books, magazines, DVDs, instrumental tutors and many other items. You can ask your local library to interloan them from us.
Music Hire service
The Library holds the largest collection of musical performance material in New Zealand, all available for hire. We offer over 5,000 orchestral sets, 3,000 choral sets, and 600 band sets. The National Library is also the designated hire agent for composer Douglas Lilburn’s orchestral works.
You’ll find more documentary heritage relating to New Zealand music in other Turnbull Library collections, including the:
The New Zealand Web Archive contains harvests of over 1,200 websites relating to New Zealand music.
Recently harvested websites include:
The Rare Books and Fine Printing collection includes many examples of overseas printed music scores, broadside ballads, and several medieval music manuscripts, including a twelfth-century copy of Boethius’ treatise De Musica and four works by Guido of Arezzo.
Find out about other music services that we provide for researchers and musicians.
Digital collections online
Many items from the Library’s music collections are available to view or listen to online. Some highlights include:
- Over 3,000 open-access music recordings
- Over 600 Creative Commons music recordings
- The first local edition of the national anthem God Defend New Zealand (c. 1879)
- New Zealand sheet music of the 1800s and 1900s (including from World War One)
The National Library has two upright pianos in its Level 1 piano room: Douglas Lilburn’s August Förster, and a Toyo. You’re welcome to use the room to practice other instruments or voice as well.
You can request copies of scores and sound/video recordings from our collections. Please note that where necessary, you will need to obtain copyright approval in writing from the copyright owner before copying can start.
Talk to our staff to see how we can help with making copies and contacting copyright owners.
The Turnbull Library contributes to the administration of the Lilburn Trust, a charitable fund established by Douglas Lilburn that supports New Zealand music projects.
The Library collaborates with the Lilburn Trust in offering:
Our first floor gallery regularly features music-related exhibitions which showcase items from the Turnbull’s heritage collections. Previous exhibitions include:
- An ornament to the town: The band rotunda in New Zealand (2017)
- Zombies on the horizon: Experimental music in Aotearoa (2016)
- Assemblé: The Royal New Zealand Ballet at sixty (2014)
- Revolting! The sound of protest in New Zealand (2013)
In the Vault
From January 2020, the National Library will curate a music playlist and album selection for passengers on long-haul Air New Zealand flights.
Based on the digitally preserved master tapes in the Archive of New Zealand Music’s Viking and Ode collections, and our Treasures in Sound CD co-productions with Atoll Records.
‘In the Vault’ will showcase a wide array of New Zealand and Pacific music.
Our staff are available to help you with any enquiries, including our specialist music librarians:
Feature image: Kiwi Concert Party orchestra entertains troops on Christmas night, 1942 (detail). Ref: DA-02338B-F.