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Kai Tiaki: Nursing in New Zealand

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Nursing has a long and varied history around the world. Nurses offer essential skills and experience that help to supplement the work of doctors and physicians when it comes to the care for the sick or injured. The profession that we recognise today is not the way it has always been - there have been great changes in the practices, qualifications and expectations associated with nursing. As healthcare in general improved in the 19th and 20th centuries, the demands on nurses grew. This blog post will explore some of the changes in nursing throughout these time periods and will include early forms of nursing, state-registered nurses, the impact of WWI and WWII. Using images from the Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, we can get a sense of the expectations these nurses had to live up to, where they worked and even what they wore.

In mid-19th century New Zealand, the sick or injured were nursed by family members or members of their community. There was no formal training available, …

Learning through organised play in Auckland

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Fun & Games is a free exhibition of games, books, photographs, archives and more drawn from Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections around the region. It opened on 11 December 2019 and runs to 1 March 2020 at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library.

The exhibition features several items showing young children playing at Auckland kindergartens. Kindergartens were started in 1837 by German educationalist Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852). Since their establishment in Aotearoa New Zealand during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, they have become a central part of daily life for many families and important cornerstones of the communities they serve. As well as a commitment to free play in Aotearoa, kindergartens and other types of childcare services for pre-school children reflect a tradition of organised play. By the 1920s for example, the Auckland Star noted that organised play took place daily at kindergartens in Myers Park and Victoria Park. Action songs and stori…

Sixty Years of Wedding Bouquets

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Summer in New Zealand also means wedding season, and who doesn’t love a good wedding? A chance to don your fanciest dress, celebrate your loved ones and kick up your heels. We all know that weddings can be a simple affair or as elaborate as the mind can imagine, but one feature that usually makes an appearance is the bridal bouquet.

I was browsing the ‘recently added’ section of Kura one day and I stumbled across this stunning image which depicts a portrait of a bride and groom dating to the 1920s. They are standing side by side, the groom in his sharp black suit with his hands behind his back; his new bride to his left. There is confetti on the ground in front of them. The brides dress is a long sleeve, ankle length satin gown with a subtle damask pattern throughout. She has paired it with an ankle-length Juliet cap veil and satin court shoes. To top it all off, she is adorned head to toe in flowers.

She has two floral headpieces of orange blossom on either side of her veil, one smal…

Fun & games exhibition

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Fun & games is a free exhibition of games, books, photos, manuscripts, and more drawn from Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections around the region. It opens on 11 December and runs to 1 March 2020 at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library.


What games did your great-great-grandparents play? What are your favourite games to play today? Children of every time, place, and culture have loved to play. Some games endure across the generations and are handed down through families, while others emerge and transform, or are forgotten as technology, society, and childhood change. They in turn help shape our culture and communities and the stories of Tāmaki Makaurau.






Come into the gallery on Level 2, remember some old games and learn about some new ones. Use the blackboard to leave us a note about games you like. Read the colourful quotes on the walls and an instruction book for board games from 1786, see some 19th century knights on horseback with a royal connection, learn about the h…

Urban renewal and town planning in Auckland and Wellington – then and now

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During the late nineteenth century, uncontrolled urban development in Auckland resulted in cramped inner-city houses built along narrow streets and lanes. These small houses were usually serviced by cesspits or insanitary drains and sewers, and often had backyard middens. Even in the early twentieth century, large blocks of such substandard housing remained in the central city not far from Queen Street.

However, since the 1870s, city officials had been urging that modern cities needed to be planned and developed in a more orderly, tidy, sanitary and visually attractive way. Responding to current town planning ideas, in 1911, the New Zealand Graphic began a new social crusade. It informed its shocked middle-class readers that working-class housing fit only for demolition festered as close at hand as mid-city Federal and Cook Streets, and in upper-city Alexandra Street. And there were other poor housing areas at the western ends of Victoria and Wellesley Streets too. Below are some of t…