Portal to a brighter day: narratives of progress and the Auckland harbour bridge

From 1955 to 1959, Aucklanders watched as a bridge gradually began to take shape across their harbour. The Waitematā, beautiful and usually so serene, was transformed into a stage for one of the largest and most complex construction projects in New Zealand’s history. Those on the quiet North Shore were particularly affected. Where residents of Northcote Point might once have looked over a tranquil harbour scene to the city on the opposite shore, their view now bustled with building activity. For those who lived in close proximity, excitement about the construction might quickly have worn off, but for plenty of Aucklanders, the project’s progress was a matter of ongoing fascination. In 1957, a watchman at the Northcote building site reported that as many as 50 sightseers would clamour to the area during weekends. Much larger numbers visited on the city side.

The most widely observed episode in the bridge’s construction came in November 1958. This was the famous “pick-a-back” operation,…

Going gloveless in New Zealand 1880-1910

In New Zealand in the 1880s, it was customary for women to wear gloves at all times when in public – at least, for Pākehā women of a certain social group. Men also wore gloves in public, but social expectations were somewhat more lax: as “Alice” wrote resentfully in the Otago Witness in 1891, “We dare not, as men do, go gloveless into the streets, although many would be only too delighted to have their hands free.”

For women, glove fashions changed rapidly, and new trends for colours, lengths, and embellishments were published weekly. Clean, tidy gloves were important not only for reasons of fashion but also as a marker of respectability. The author of 'Woman’s World' in the New Zealand Heraldreminded readers: “shoes and gloves are indicative of the character of the wearer, [and so] it is well to bestow a little extra care on them.” Holes, ripped seams, missing buttons, and dirty fingertips indicated a lack of virtue, and women who wore anything less than perfectly neat gloves…

Propaganda and political cartoons from the Russo-Japanese war: Part 2

The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) had far-reaching effects around the world for all the major European powers. Following last week's post about propaganda cartoons from the Russo-Japanese War, we take a look at some more political cartoons published in the New Zealand Graphic that reflect this.

When the war began in February 1904, the Czar and his officials viewed it as an opportunity to divert the Russian people’s attention from their own domestic problems, instead focusing their patriotic loyalty on Czar Nicholas as their ‘Little Father.’ The officials complacently assumed that Russia would achieve easy victory over an insignificant Asian country in a small eastern war. However when the Russian defenders of Port Arthur surrendered to the Japanese in January 1905, things began to go awry.

The significance of the Russo-Japanese War for the rest of the world was that for the first time in modern history an Asian country had defeated a European power. Before the war Great Britain …

Propaganda and political cartoons from the Russo-Japanese war: Part 1

The New Zealand Graphic achieved a satirical milestone in its 8 July 1905 issue when, perhaps for the first time, a New Zealand journal published cartoons from a foreign viewpoint. These were an intriguing series of Japanese propaganda cartoons about the Russo-Japanese War.

The Russo-Japanese war began in February 1904 when the Japanese attacked the Russian naval squadron at Port Arthur, in Liaoning province, China. In March the Japanese army invaded Korea and by May had encircled the Russians in Port Arthur. The Russian army in Manchuria tried to relieve Port Arthur but could not get further than Mukden. In January 1905 the Russian defenders at Port Arthur surrendered. Then in February 1905 the Japanese forced the Russians to retreat from Mukden back into Manchuria. After the naval battle in the Tsushima Strait in May 1905, when the Japanese virtually destroyed the Russian Baltic Fleet, the Russians grudgingly negotiated and signed a peace agreement at the Treaty of Portsmouth.

The p…

James Cook and Joseph Banks: reading over the shoulders of giants

When the Endeavour left Plymouth harbour in August of 1768, it carried in its cabins the collected navigational knowledge of its predecessors in South Sea exploration. The vessel, under the command of Captain James Cook, was to be the site for a pioneering venture: a circumnavigational voyage in pursuit of knowledge terrestrial, oceanic, and celestial. As a voyage of European “discovery”, it would prove revolutionary in several important ways, the success of which rested upon the knowledge acquired by other, earlier expeditions.

Cook’s first voyage (1768-71) represented a joint information-gathering venture between the British Admiralty and the Royal Society. Officially, its purpose was to observe the 1769 transit of Venus from the South Pacific – part of an international effort to establish Earth’s distance from the Sun. The decision to carry this out from Tahiti specifically was relatively last-minute, depending as it did on the island’s first European visit by the Dolphin under Cap…

Auckland Library Heritage Trust Scholarship 2019/2020

Applications for the Auckland Library Heritage Trust research scholarship are now open!

Now in its seventh year, the scholarship is offered by the Auckland Library Heritage Trust to assist with research and the promotion of material held in Sir George Grey Special Collections at Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero | Central City Library and the distributed Heritage Collections across the region.

The breadth of Auckland Libraries' Heritage Collections is reflected in the wide-ranging research topics of previous scholars: from Vanessa York's study of botanical perfumery to Dr Majid Daneshagar's work to create a catalogue of the Middle Eastern manuscripts held in Sir George Grey Special Collections to Aleisha Ward's research into the 1920s jazz scene in Auckland.
As well as rare and historic books Auckland Libraries’ Heritage Collections include maps, archives, manuscripts, photographs, drawings, oral histories, musical recordings and ephemera. The formats are both analogue and born di…

Kīnaki: Ngā reta Māori, an exhibition of nineteenth century letters in te reo Māori

Kīnaki: Ngā reta Māori at the Central City Library from 15 March – 15 May 2019 demonstrates the power of the pen.

Sir George Grey, 1812 - 1898 was many things to many people. The exhibition Kīnaki: Ngā reta Māori contains a sampling of letters from the Sir George Grey Special Collections, that were written to Grey and his contemporaries in te reo Māori. Through the letters, the exhibition explores the complex relationships that existed between Māori and Grey, as well as demonstrating the impact of letter writing during the mid to late nineteenth century.

Kīnaki can be translated as tasty morsel. In the context of this exhibition, it is used to indicate the specially selected taonga, which give a flavour of nineteenth-century correspondence and concerns. Hearing the letters spoken aloud in the library gallery gives an added level of intimacy to these written conversations and reanimates the taonga. Recordings of each of these letters feature not only in the exhibition but on SoundClou…