Thursday, 28 April 2016

Telling tales: The Arabian Nights

The theme for school holidays events this April is storytelling – the perfect excuse to look at one of the all-time greatest hits of children’s literature, the Arabian Nights, known in Arabic as Alf Layla wa LaylaThe Thousand and One Nights.

Their Chief in a low but distinct voice uttered the two words, “Open Sesame”. 


Storytelling is one of the repeated themes of the Nights, with the collection well-known for its ‘stories within a story’ framing device. In most full editions the Nights begin with the tale of the jealous king Shahriyar, who is a serial killer of wives – marrying daily and executing his brides the next morning. Into this deadly situation steps Scheherazade, the vizier’s daughter and an expert storyteller.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

New Zealand Prisoners of War in Italy during the Second World War

Recently a customer called into the Central Auckland Research Centre looking for a photograph of his uncle published in the Auckland Weekly News in 1943.  He said the photograph was the first indication to his family that his uncle was no longer a prisoner of war. A search of the Heritage Images database produced no results, which is not uncommon as many of the images from the Auckland Weekly News have a caption but few of the people are named. There is, however, ongoing work to rectify this. 

When the Italian Armistice was announced on 8 September 1943, Colin Tayler was a prisoner of war at Campo PG 107, about 9 kilometres north of Schio in Northern Italy.  Over the next three weeks he and his travelling companions, Privates D R Muir, R Kendrick, I Penhall and E Barnett, travelled approximately 566 kilometres south: by train to Pescara on the Adriatic coast, before walking some distance and catching another train as far as they could go.  They met allied soldiers north of Foggia and were sent to the New Zealand base at Taranto, before crossing the Mediterranean to the New Zealand base at Maadi, Egypt. The evening post reported that Tayler, Kendrick and Barnett arrived in Wellington on the 6 January 1944, and Penhall on 10 February 1944.

We found an image of Private Colin L Tayler and his travelling companions, taken at Taranto on the National Library of New Zealand website:

Monday, 18 April 2016

Whau flicks: New Lynn’s Delta Theatre 1926-1986

When the Delta Theatre opened in July 1926 the grand opening was advertised in the Saturday edition of New Zealand Herald:


In The History of New Lynn, it was claimed, unusually for the time, that the architect of the Delta Theatre was a woman. However, contemporary newspaper reports on the ‘Leaky Picture House’ vary as to whether Miss Mitchell was the building contractor or the architect. The theatre was closed in 1928 because of subsidence and reopened in 1929, the Auckland Star reported upon its reopening on the 21 May 1929.

Ref: Delta Theatre, 1930, New Lynn Print Collection, West Auckland Research Centre, Auckland Libraries.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

The Shakespeare Beadle bust: origin and history

The current exhibition, ‘Shakespeare in his time’, on now until June 19th, showcases rare Shakespearian treasures alongside specially selected items from our Sir George Grey Special Collections which explore the world that Shakespeare lived and worked in.


Featured in the exhibition is the well-known Shakespeare Beadle bust, created three centuries later than any other piece. Usually residing on Level 2 of the Central City Library it shows Shakespeare contemplating the world which he holds in his hands. This bronze bust was created by Professor Paul Beadle through a commission from the Auckland City Council. The plaque below this sculpture, however, doesn’t tell us about its complicated, and mostly unknown, history.

Ref: Paul Beadle, Bust of Shakespeare, Bronze, 1970.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Photo selection: early 20th century surveying in New Zealand

To acknowledge International Map Year we’ve selected some of our heritage photos of surveyors at work in New Zealand in the 1920s. Surveying is the process of measuring three-dimensional position of points and the distances and angles between them. As well as being the basis of many maps, it also is used to establish boundaries of land ownership.

Renowned Auckland photographer Clifton Firth documented surveyors from the Department of Lands and Survey in the field, the office, as well as the equipment they used.