Showing posts from February, 2014

The picture books of Robyn Kahukiwa

Central Auckland Research Centre is currently displaying work by award-winning picture book writer and illustrator Robyn Kahukiwa.

Kahukiwa illustrated her first children’s book in 1981 - 'The Kuia and the Spider: Te Kuia Me Te Pungawerewere', a collaborative project with writer Patricia Grace, which won the Children’s Picture Book of the Year.

She also worked with Joy Cowley on 'Grandma’s stick' and 'Hatupatu and the birdwoman' before writing her own picture books, often drawing on Māori myths and legends which she also includes in contemporary settings.

It's time to accessorise!

It is said that accessories make an outfit, well that is just as true for men as it is for a woman. Have a wander through the accessories that people used to wear in the photos below, drawn from the heritage collections at Auckland Libraries.

Some things like bow ties and belts don't look much different from today but you don't see many people wearing bows that large in their hair, as sported by the ladies and children in the first decade of the 20th century!

Bow ties:

Piha Radar Station

The Piha Radar Station was constructed during WW2 by the NZ Air Force. Located at the end of Log Race Road in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, it was part of a network of radar stations along New Zealand's coast. The purpose of this site was to use radio wave transmission aerials and receiving equipment to detect any signs of attack from enemy aircrafts or vessels.

The site was closed permanently in the 1950s and the buildings and other structures removed. However, there are remains that can still be seen, including the concrete pads where the aerial tower once stood.

This site has been added to the schedule of significant historic heritage places in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan. Submissions for this plan close at the end of the month.

Auckland Zoo

The first public zoo in NZ was opened by the Wellington City Council in 1906, near Newtown Park. The initial occupant was a solitary lion but by the mid 1920s, the zoo housed over 600 animals. The inaugral zoo in Auckland was opened by a local council again and was located at Western Springs in 1922. The animals came from John Boyd's private zoos around the country, which had recently closed down at the time.

Compared with today's standards, conditions in both zoos were pretty awful. Auckland Zoo was prone to flooding and had exceedingly tenacious rats who quickly returned whenever they were evicted - not surprisingly, since the zoo was opposite the city dump!

Take a virtual tour around Auckland zoo through the heritage collections at Auckland Libraries. From the scary to the cuddly and from furry 'Plunket' babies to elephant rides, the zoo had it all, even back in the early days!

Pha Mill

Piha Mill was operational from 1910 until 1921 and was one of the largest mills in the region before the timber industry began to decline.Although the mill was situated within the boundaries of the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, a village grew up around it to accommodate the workers. Facilities such as mill accommodation, cookhouse, store and a school were also established.

Kauri trees were felled and transported to the mill using a combination of bullock teams, driving dams and timber chutes. After the wood had been cut, it was laboriously moved from Karekare by tramway, driven to Windy Beach by wagon and then taken by coastal tramway to Whatipu Wharf before finally being shipped out. Ironically timber from the mill was for the most part used to build railways.

The weird & wonderful

From the heritage collections at Auckland Libraries, here is a visual tour through the weird and wonderful.You never know what you might find ... from strange fancy dress choices and the splendour of the natural world to animals with abnormalities and miniature furniture. Its a virtual cabinet of curiosity!


Valentines Day

Love is in the air ... and Valentine's Day is upon us. To get you in the mood, here is a selection of love themed images from the heritage collections at Auckland Libraries.


Love letters:

Reading photographs

The latest blog post from Walter Cook at the advent of his retirement from The National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga O Aotearoa is a fascinating read. He divulges the 'tricks of the trade' used to date photographs.

I was so interested in this idea, that I decided to test out his 'taxonomy of fashion', which is based on women's fashion and hairstyle trends of the day. I used these dated headings as a framework to search for complementary photos in the Sir George Grey Special Collections, using the Auckland Libraries Heritage Images database. You can see from what I found below, that it was quite a success! In a few cases where we don't know the exact date the photograph was taken, the taxonomy can be used as another tool in helping us to pin this down the date to a narrower time period.

So enjoy and thanks to the National Library for the inspiration and what turned out to be a very fun exercise!

The full crinoline, 1856 to 1865. Characterised by a …

The Ken Abercrombie Collection

This blog post looks at the Abercrombie family’s outings during the 1930s and 1940s. The memories of this West Auckland family were documented by Ken Abercrombie through 4 photo albums of exquisite hand-coloured family snaps. These albums are held at the West Auckland Research Centre and you can view the first album online. A significant and attractive feature of the albums is that the majority of the prints have been hand-coloured and captioned by the photographer.

Ken Abercrombie (b.1916) was a keen photographer, first becoming interested as a 16 year old boy when his parents gave him a camera – a ‘Balovo’, a German make.

At this time the Abercrombie family were living in Blockhouse Bay where Ken’s father, Roy had started a carrying business. The photo below shows his International truck.

Tui Glen - camp, amusement park and great picnic spot

Tui Glen, a 7 acre scenic spot in Henderson by the Oratia Stream, was landscaped and planted by the Brookes for their family summer holidays. Given its close distance to Auckland, the Brookes quickly realised that Tui Glen would be an attractive destination for picnickers and campers.

Tui Glen was NZ's first registered motor camp. When it opened in the 1920s, only guests who had come by car or motorbike could be accommodated.

The camp ground had modified ships cabins, which people could rent. This how the term 'cabins', which is used to refer to holiday park accommodation, supposedly came about. Other cottages were built during the 1920s to 1960s.

As well as being a camp ground and a great spot for a picnic, Tui Glen was also an amusement park. On offer was swimming, boating, various other sports, a playground, donkey rides, shared games and dances. It was popular with family day trippers and campers until encroaching urbanisation and changes in leisure trends led to the …

The mills at Riverhead

Located on the western banks of the Ranitopuni River, below the Riverhead Bridge, is an old mill site. Initially a timber mill, the mill was powered by water (1845-1856). Subsequently, the Waitemata Flour Mill was built on the same site in 1855/1856 and was operated by J. Brigham (until 1859). J. Lamb took over the site after Brigham and ran it until around 1888. The mill was vacant for 2 years before the Riverhead Paper Mill opened and ran until its closure in 1923.

The paper mill company that took over the site had examined several old flour mill sites before choosing the former Lambs Mill. The site was particularly attractive because of the plentiful freshwater supply and access to cheap harbour transport. Before opening, the mill under went major reconstruction. It was entirely steam powered, with coal brought up the harbour and unloaded at a special wharf at the site. The local community flourished as new workers cottages and service industries were established.


Ah summer .. long days of sunshine, trips to the beach and of course, the all important picnic. Summer wouldn't be summer without at least a few picnics. Despite the sand in your food and the insects buzzing around, eating food outside never fails to bring a sense of excitement to a meal. From simple sandwiches to grand affairs, picnics are always popular with everyone, whatever their age.

Take a look through these heritage images from the Auckland Libraries collections and see how people went picknicking in the past!