Showing posts from October, 2012

Sir Ernest Rutherford

It was sixty-six years ago this month that Nobel prize winner Ernest (Ern) Rutherford (1871-1937), the "father of nucelar physics" passed away. He was interred in Westminster Abbey, surrounded by the ashes of scientists such as Sir Isaac Newton. Rutherford was 66 when he died.  Following his death an obituary in the New York Times said, "It is given to but few men to achieve immortality, still less to achieve Olympian rank, during their own lifetime. Lord Rutherford achieved both.”

Despite his intellectual achievements, Rutherford, or Ern as he was called, was said to be a humble man. Physically, he was large, and quite the talker. He had a tendency to spill his tea on his waistcoat, to which wife, Mary, would proclaim, “Ern, you’re dribbling.” Mary had marched with the suffragettes in London and not surprisingly, Ern was a huge supporter of women studying the sciences.  His very first research assistant, Harriet Brookes, assisted him in the discovery of radon while at …

New UNESCO Memory of the World NZ listing

As discussed in an earlier post (20 June 2012), the UNESCO Memory of the World project was launched ten years ago. It aims to recognise & create awareness, provide access and ultimately help contribute towards the preservation of culturally significant documentary heritage from around the world. Cultural institutions are encouraged to nominate material for the internationally recognised register.

Two new registrations have been added to the UESCO Memory of the World New Zealand register for documentary heritage. This includes the Māori Land Court Minute Books and 'Patu!', a documentary recording the 1981 Springbok Tour of New Zealand. Both items tell the stories of two important periods of New Zealand history and are important sources of research for Treaty of Waitangi claimants, Māori, historians and a wide range of other users.

Digitised mug shot goes viral

A digitised mug shot of a petty criminal with more than a passing resemblance to David Beckham has gone viral and become an internet sensation.

The of photograph of Daniel Joseph Tohill (incorrectly identified as Lohill) was included in the New Zealand Police Museum: Suspicious Looking online exhibition (covering the period1886 to 1908) and has received half a million admiring hits since it was posted a month ago. Comments include "They said he was a model inmate", "Looks like he was ... one smooth criminal", and "if looking handsome is a crime ... then guilty".

Tohill was born in Ravensbourne, Dunedin, in 1881. According to newspaper clippings, he was charged with stealing two ferrets in Christchurch on 16 June 1906, and also for a theft from a Nelson railway station shed in September 1907.

On 2 March 1908, the labourer and railway porter was charged - and the now infamous mug shot was taken - for allegedly stealing a bicycle and a fur necklet in Napier.…

World Day for Audio Visual Heritage

The 27 October was declared by UNESCO as the World Day for Audio Visual (AV) Heritage. The intention behind this was to raise awareness about the significance of AV documents and the need to safeguard them for current and future generations. With the technological changes that have occurred during the 20th and 21st centuries, AV documents, such as films, radio and television programmes, audio and video recordings, contain the primary records of these periods and will do for the foreseeable future.

The theme for 2012 is "Audiovisual heritage memory? the clock is ticking".With this in mind, Archives & Records Association of New Zealand (ARANZ) have organised a special screening of the long-lost film 'Upstream' by the Irish-American film maker John Ford (1894-1973). The screening of this silent movie was held on the 25 October at the New Zealand Film Archive and was accompanied by pianist Nick Giles-Palmer.

Waitangi Treaty Grounds museum planned

The Waitangi National Trust is endeavouring to raise $10 million to build a new museum at the Waitangi Treaty Grounds in the Bay of Islands. It also wants to increase its digital presence and to help more schoolchildren visit the treaty grounds.

The Waitangi Treaty Grounds does not receive any government funding and is reliant on rent from land that it owns and ticket sales to overseas visitors. However, the trust is already planning to build the new museum, with a completion date of 2015, so that the opening can coincide with the the 175th anniversary of the signing.

The museum will showcase taonga connected with Treaty signatories. The long-term dream is to house - even on loan - the original Treaty, which is held in the collections of Archives New Zealand in Wellington. Find out more.

Political book found in Charleston Library Society vaults

Earlier this year, a relatively rare 270 year old book was been found in the vaults of an American library society in Southern Carolina, USA.

The 1743 book about political parties is entitled 'Dissertation Upon Parties' and was written by Henry St. John Lord Bolingbroke. The book is was one of 800 volumes, that the diplomat John Mackenzie donated to the College of Charleston in the 1700s and has his name embossed on it.

Around 15 copies of the original Bolingbroke book are thought to have survived in mainly academic libraries around the world.

Mackenzie's library was temporarily housed at the Charleston Library Society until a library was built at the college. In 1778, a fire destroyed much of the society's collection and only 77 titles from the Mackenzie collection were thought to have survived.

The book was found during a long term project to catalogue the Charleston Library Society holdings. It has been returned after all this time to the college. Find out more ab…

Pigeon power

Technological break throughs now enable us to take aerial images using aerial drones but back in the day, pigeons were all the rage ..

In 1907, Julius Neubronner (1852-1932), a German apothecary, invented an unusual method using carrier pigeons to capture aerial images. By creating a lightweight miniature camera and harness and training the pigeons to carry the contraption, Neubronner was able to produce aerial images.

Newspaper family trees

Did you know that newspapers can have family trees? Newspapers, like family dynasties, are founded, form alliances, grow to maturity and ultimately either fail or flourish.

One example is the South Auckland Courier, the ancestor of the present-day Eastern Courier, Manukau Courier and Papakura Courier titles. This was originally founded in 1939, ceased during the war, and resumed publication in 1946. Over the following decades, it absorbed or gave birth to a number of different local titles. It also changed its name frequently. This is its family tree:

Most of the titles listed here are held by South Auckland Research Centre. If we don't have it, we can tell you where to find it.

Author: Bruce Ringer, South Auckland Research Centre

The Churchill Archive

The Churchill Archive held at Churchill College, University of Cambridge in the UK has been digitised. The archive contains nearly a million documents ranging from personal letters and comments about his speeches to official exchanges and more private matters such as his love of brandy.

The digital archive published by Bloomsbury, can be accessed remotely, although there is an annual subscription fee for this service and this is currently only available to institutions.

"Fairness to all"

We all love a stirring milestone, and this one is up there with the best of them. The 30th September marked fifty years since New Zealand set up its own office of the Ombudsman – the first country outside of Scandinavia to do so.

Loosely translated, the word Ombudsman means “grievance person”. That's just what they are - the “go to” people if you’ve got a gripe with your school’s board of trustees, the ECQ, IRD, the ACC or any government department. 

Go local – southern style: Franklin newspapers then and now

The Auckland Heritage Festival 2012 might be over and the 'Black and White and Read All Over' newspaper tool kit published but we still have interesting heritage newspaper related stories to tell ....

In the early years of the last century, almost every New Zealand town supported its own newspapers, each with a strong local flavour and full of local information. The small towns of Franklin, to the south of the Auckland urban area, were no exception.

Franklin’s oldest newspaper was founded in Pukekohe in 1912. It was known as the Pukekohe & Waiuku Times until 1919, the Franklin & Pukekohe Times until 1921, and then simply as the Franklin Times until 1971, when it was absorbed into the South Auckland Courier family (the title was later briefly resurrected).

Further to the west, Waiuku’s first newspaper, the Waiuku Advocate was founded in 1914. This became the Waiuku News in 1915, which continued publication locally until 1964.

A number of other Franklin titles have sinc…

Preserving ancient manuscripts in the Sinai

For 17 centuries, the Greek Orthodox Christian monks at the Sacred and Imperial Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount of Sinai (St. Catherine’s for short)  have protected a treasure trove of ancient manuscripts, second only in significance to the Vatican’s huge collection in Rome.

The monastery is located in the middle of the Sinai Desert and is a United Nations-designated World Heritage Site. Most of the library’s texts at the monastery are religious, but other writings are also represented, such as a 9th century copy of Homer’s “Iliad,” complete with grammar and vocabulary notes. 
Of great importance, is the monastery's collection of palimpsests. These are erased texts, which lie obscured beneath more 'contemporary' text (this is relative in such an ancient place). Text such as these came about because animal-skin was an expensive commodity and was often 'recycled' by scraping off previous text. The monastery holds at least 130 palimpsests, all from medieval times.…

'Savaged! The Cartoon Colony' exhibition

The new exhibition at the Turnbull Gallery is 'Savaged! The Cartoon Colony', which runs from 1st October to 24th November, at the National Library of New Zealand Te Puna o Mātauranga O Aotearoa in Wellington.

The exhibition celebrates the NZ Cartoon Archive’s 20th anniversary by showing 20 of the cartoons acquired by the Alexander Turnbull Library before 1992.

Created between 1769 and 1907, the illustrations bear strong similarities to current political cartoons, despite reflecting century-old cultures.

On show are cartoons about emigration, settlement and colonial activities, politics and culture. Some of the cartoons portray racial characterisation of the time, which make uncomfortable viewing today. Several cartoons are by famous artists such as Augustus Earle, Charles Heaphy and Gustavus Ferdinand von Tempsky.

On a similar note, the Sir George Grey Special Collections at Central City Library held an exhibition entitled 'Joking Aside' earlier this year, which heavi…

God defend New Zealand

The poet Thomas Bracken (1841-98) was born in Ireland and orphaned at a young age. He was sent to Australia to live with an uncle, near Melbourne. He was initially apprenticed to a pharmacist but later worked as a station hand and shearer. His first volume of verse appeared in 1867, and there was a steady output from his pen until his final years.

Listen to the Real Gold podcast on Auckland Libraries Soundcloud.

Bracken moved to Dunedin in 1869, and concentrated on journalism, working at the SaturdayAdvertiser. In the edition of 1 July 1876, he published a five-stanza poem of his own composition entitled ‘National Hymn’ and announced a contest with a prize of ten guineas for the person who composed the best musical setting to accompany his words. The judges were trio of reputable Melbourne-based German-born musicians: Herr Zelman, Herr Siede and Herr Zeplin. They unanimously chose an entry submitted by John Joseph Woods, head teacher at St Patrick’s Catholic School in the town of Lawre…

WW100 centenary commemorations

Plans are already underway for the World War I centenary commemorations, which will run from 2014-2018.
The New Zealand WW100 website, a hub for the commemorations, includes a wealth of information about the formal projects and activities planned by the New Zealand Government, such as the National War Memorial Park in Wellington. It also includes details on how the public and institutions can get involved. 

English Heritage virtual tour

English Heritage have created a visually powerful virtual tour entitled 'Early Photographic Print Collection' using Historypin.

The tour includes some of the oldest photographic images in the English Heritage archives. These images were made from glass plate negatives (an early photographic technique) in the 19th and early 20th century.

Images were selected by English Heritage staff using various criteria including: the emotional response created by an image and the aesthetic & visually striking nature of an image.

Check out the other featured tours and collections on Historypin. If you haven't already done so, make sure you experience 'Time Travel in Sir John Logan Campbell's shoes' (go to the tours tab). This Auckland Libraries tour was curated using the rich heritage collections from around the region, to celebrate the 2012 Auckland Heritage Festival.

The Garima Gospels

The 11th September marked the Ethiopian New Year celebrations, so it seemed timely to have a post about the discovery of some very rare Ethiopian gospels. First reported in 1950 by the British art historian Beatrice Playne, the Garima Gospels may be the world’s earliest illustrated Christian manuscript.

The gospels, written probably on goat skin, were found and are still located at a remote Ethiopian monastery (Abba Garima Monastery). The Garima Gospels were previously assumed to date from about 1100 AD, but radiocarbon dating conducted at the Oxford University Research Laboratory for Archaeology suggests a date between 330 and 650 AD.

Even if the manuscripts are dated to 600 AD, which might be more accurate on stylistic grounds, this would still make them amongst the earliest surviving illustrated Christian manuscripts. The oldest known dated manuscripts are the Rabbula Gospels in Syria, completed in 586 AD and now housed in the Laurentian Library in Florence. Find out more.


'New' fangled machine at Birkenhead Library


Birkenhead Library's new 'photocopier' has been installed just in time for the Heritage Festival.
Birkenhead Library has got ye olde Albion press (made in c1863) up & running and invites people to come and have a go.

Typeset your name!

Indent paper!

 Make a bookmark!

All welcome. Sessions times at Birkenhead Library are as follows:
Sunday 7th October from 2pm-3pmWednesday 10th October from 3pm-4pmSunday 14th October from 2pm-3pm.
With many thanks to Graham Judd of GTO Printers, Birkenhead, who has lent the press to the library.  You can find out more about letterpress by visiting his blog.
For those interested, Andy English's blog is also well worth a read. The blog gives fascinating insight into the life and work of a professional wood engraver & bookplate creator using an Albion press for his creative endeavours.

Dickens exhibition & celebrations

2012 marks the bicentenary of the birth of Dickens and a year of international celebrations are underway.

A Dickens themed exhibition opens on the 21 September at the de Beer Gallery, Special Collections, University of Otago. Entitled 'Celebrating Charles Dickens, 1812-1870: A Man of His Age', the exhibition runs until 13 December.

First and second edition works will be on display, including images by artists who collaborated closely with Dickens. Themes from the reign of Queen Victoria have also included in the exhibition in order to contextualise Dickens' life and works. Themes include: the City of London; the Poor and Dispossessed; Punch; the Great Exhibition; and the Crimean War.

At Auckland Libraries there is a wide variety of Dickens related heritage materials including: a letter about Dickens, who was a popular topic at the time (GL B71.1 (Grey Letters), a scrapbook (MS 269), Dickens' papers (MS 77-97) and books about and by Dickens.

Anniversary of opera in NZ

One hundred and fifty years ago, New Zealand enjoyed its first professional opera performance at Dunedin’s Royal Princess Theatre – the country’s first purpose-built theatre. Dunedin had become home to the newly rich who were in need of some 'refined' culture, a sentiment echoed by those tired of the “limited sources of entertainment” offered by grog-shops and other equally seedy places on the Otago goldfields.


Vegemite, love it or hate it but it certainly has an enduring iconic status in Australia and in New Zealand.

Vegemite was invented in Melbourne in 1922 by food chemist Cyril P Callister (1893-1949), who was employed by Australian food manufacturer Fred Walker and Co. The brief given to Callister was to produce a product similar to British Marmite. Callister went on to create Vegemite using spent brewer's yeast and a secret recipe that he perfected by testing samples on his family.

Vegemite was not initially very successful. It wasn't until WWII, when Vegemite was given to soldiers in their rations (because Marmite was unavailable), that it captured the Australian market and the hearts of its citizens. Subsequent research into the health benefits of Vegemite (it is a rich source of B vitamins) have only added to its popularity.

In the 1990s, Jamie Callister, started to research his grandfather Cyril's creation. He was given access to Kraft's archives and interviewed fami…

When sugar was good for you ...


Once upon a time, sugar was good for you .... and Chelsea Archives at Birkenhead Library has the marketing-advertising-promo material to prove it!

It’s embedded in the many small publications contained in the archives - such as company newsletters, industry-related periodicals, series, centenary celebrations and that sort of thing. Today they might be considered corporate zines. 
Examples include: 'Chelsea News', 'Sugar for New Zealand', 'New Zealand Sugar', 'CSR Newsletter', 'Australian Sugar', 'Sugar: Nature’s Bounty', 'Notes on Sugar in New Zealand' and the 'World'. 
These publications contain splendours galore. Such as the many attempts to explain the triumph of sugar refinement and its industrial production using copious graphs, maps, diagrams .. the more the merrier! What I particularly like is the advertising. Perhaps it’s the colours, they did them differently back then. Or that the message …