New Zealand cartoons
About this guide
Use this guide to get an introduction to the Cartoon and Comics Archive collection. Find out:
- why researching cartoons is important
- which formats we collect
- how to search for cartoons on this site
- researching individual cartoonists and their work
- other sources for cartoon research
- how to view cartoons
- how to use cartoons and order copies.
What is the Cartoon and Comics Archive collection?
The New Zealand Cartoon and Comics Archive includes over 60,000 cartoons reflecting New Zealand society and politics. It contains cartoons, caricatures and comics from the 19th century to the present.
The New Zealand Cartoon and Comics Archive is contained within the Alexander Turnbull Library’s Drawings, Paintings and Prints collection.
Because comics and related art forms are also heavily represented in our published collections, we have produced a complementary research guide for Comics and Zines.
Why use cartoons?
“A good cartoon can convey, at a glance, a wealth of information; it can epitomise an idea better than a thousand words; it is remembered when words are forgotten; it is instant enlightenment.” — Sir John Marshall, NZ Prime Minister 1972. John Marshall Memoirs, Vol. One, 1912-1960, 1983.
Recent scholarship has emphasised the ways cartoons offer insights into a given time period, including both wider themes, such as the portrayal of Māori, and more specific events, such as the Christchurch earthquakes.
Cartoons often sum up complex issues in a single striking image and are even collected by many of the politicians they lampoon. Cartoons are also studied by art historians, who can be interested in their graphic qualities, material processes and systems of distribution.
In New Zealand, Ian F. Grant and others have used cartoons to outline the country’s political and social history. See, for instance, Grant’s ‘Between the lines: a cartoon history of New Zealand political and social history 1906-2005’ (2005) and Sarah Murray’s ‘A cartoon war’ (2012).
What formats does the Archive contain?
The Archive includes original cartoon drawings from the 20th and 21st centuries by cartoonists like Nevile Lodge, Eric Heath and Peter Bromhead. It also includes many reproductions and newspaper clippings of 20th-century cartoons.
Since the early 2000s, the Cartoon and Comics Archive has also collected born-digital cartoons, receiving several hundred cartoons each month.
In 2019, the Archive was expanded to include comics and comic art. We also collect manuscripts and other material relating to artists’ lives.
How to search for cartoons in our collections
Below is information about doing a basic cartoon search and also how to search for the work of a specific cartoonist in our collections.
Basic cartoon search
Start a search from the Cartoon and Comics Archive collection page and you’ll restrict your results to this collection.
Otherwise, to search all the collections enter a search term in the main search box, and add the words ‘cartoon’, ‘comic’ or ‘caricature’ to this.
From the results page, you can narrow results down by using filters on the left-hand side of the screen. The filters include ‘Date’, ‘Type’ and ‘Subject’, as well as whether or not they are ‘online’ or ‘physical’ items. Online items are either born-digital or have been digitised, and can be viewed on the website.
Researching individual cartoonists and their work
If you are interested in the work of a specific cartoonist, search the Natioanl Library website using the term ‘cartoon’ and the cartoonist’s name.
Be sure you are using the catalogued version of the cartoonist’s name. For example, you would need to search for Thomas Scott, not Tom Scott. If you’re not sure of their full name, the easiest thing is to start with the cartoonist surname, in our example we would start by searching for Scott.
We record biographical information relating to cartoonists in our catalogues as well. If you are interested in artists biographies, search for their name using the thesaurus module (symbolised by an icon of a head and shoulders) in Tiaki. From this window, you will also be able to view a full link of all the unpublished material we held by and about an artist.
Other sources for research
There are many other good sources for cartoon and comic research. Below we mention a few of these sources.
Papers Past provides many cartoons that are not included in the Cartoon Archive collection.
Newspapers particularly worth consulting include:
Searching for cartoons in Papers Past
Some cartoons on Papers Past have the word ‘cartoon’ in the descriptive caption or heading and you can get results by searching for ‘cartoon’. This kind of search does not produce good results when combined with another search term.
However, you can search the term ‘cartoon’ within particular newspapers or within a particular date range, or search for the name or penname of a cartoonist you are interested in.
The results you get from this search will often only take you to captions, but you can see the cartoon itself by viewing the full page of the newspaper.
A general keyword search may also help you find information contained in some cartoon captions, however writing in the cartoonist’s own hand is not searchable, because this text has not been transcribed in the way articles and headlines have.
How to view cartoons from the New Zealand Cartoon and Comics Archive
You can view digitally born cartoons, and print cartoons that have been digitised on the National Library website.
If you want to see print cartoons that have not been digitised yet, use the ‘Send an enquiry’ button on the the website page of the cartoon you are interested in.
Using cartoons and ordering copies
Cartoons are fantastic resources for teachers, artists and researchers, often providing striking insight into a time or place.
Under the Copyright Act, you can take copies of the Library’s images for your personal use, research, or use in the classroom. If you want to publish a Library image, and it is still in copyright, then you will need to obtain permission from the Library or the artist. You can arrange this as part of the ordering process.
You can order high-resolution colour or black and white copies of items in this collection. For out-of-copyright works, or once you have obtained permission from the copyright holder, we can provide digital copies for reproduction in publications, films and websites, and digital prints suitable for framing.
Cartoons are in copyright if the cartoonist is still living or if they have been deceased for less than 50 years. If you would like to order a cartoon that is in copyright, you can use the Send an enquiry button to get contact details for the cartoonist or copyright holder.
Can't find what you are looking for?
Not all items are individually described online. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, use our ‘Ask a Librarian’ service and we will help you.
Written by Dr Melinda Johnston and Hannah Benbow.
With assistance from:
- Amy Watling
- Jenni Chrisstoffels
- Jay Buzenberg
- Lucy Schrader