Showing posts from 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 Layla – The Thousand and One Nights . Their Chief in a low but distinct voice uttered the two words, “Open Sesame”.  Ref: Plates from Stories from the Arabian nights / retold by Laurence Housman; with drawings by Edmund Dulac. New York: Hodder and Stoughton, 1907, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, IL: 1907 DULA. 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.

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 Fo

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 : Ref: excerpt from the New Zealand Herald, 31 July 1926, page 18.  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.

The Shakespeare Beadle bust: origin and history

The 2016 Heritage Collections exhibition, Shakespeare in his time showcased rare Shakespearian treasures alongside specially selected items from Sir George Grey Special Collections relevant to the world that Shakespeare lived and worked in. Featured in the exhibition was 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 ProfessorPaul 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. Image: Paul Beadle, Bust of Shakespeare, Bronze, 1970. Records from the Auckland City Council archives tell us that in 1967 £500 was left as a bequest from Florence Walker for the creation of a statue of Shakespeare “similar to that at Stratford-upon-Avon.” Councillors at

Researcher in residence 2016/2017

Calling all researchers! April marks the opening of applications for the fourth year of our Researcher in Residence scholarship .  Ref: John A Lee, Scrapbook, 1960s/70s, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-C1902. The Auckland Library Heritage Trust , in association with Auckland Council , is offering a research scholarship for the Sir George Grey Special Collections at the Central City Library. Ref: Reed Dumas collection, 1844, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 7-C1943.

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. Ref: Clifton Firth,  Showing a man using a Lands and Survey Department theodolite, 1920s, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 34-LAN-1. Ref: Clifton Firth,  Showing hands running a survey line to a survey peg, 1920s, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 34-LAN-2. Ref: Clifton Firth,  Showing a Lands and Survey Department theodolite, 1920s, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 34-LAN-5.