Eureka discoveries and infinite possibilities

Over 10,000 Aotearoa New Zealand art books, journals and artist files are held in the Angela Morton Art History Collection at Takapuna Library. This is one of the most comprehensive publicly accessible reference collections of art books in the country. It’s free to browse seven days a week in the Angela Morton Room on Level 1, where the celebrated E. Mervyn Taylor ceramic mural Te Ika-a-Māui is on display, and where visits to the Frank Sargeson House literary museum can be arranged.

Founded in 1985 with a bequest from the family of the late Angela Morton, a North Shore resident devoted to Aotearoa NZ art, the collection has grown into a well-resourced art library for students, researchers and hobbyists. There are around 1800 items on painting, plus a vast range of specialist books on fine and applied arts including photography, film, sculpture, weaving, carving, pottery, printmaking and jewellery.

Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections Manager, Jane Wild, said “I’m often finding items in the Angela Morton Collection that are really important source material for researching New Zealand art – which might be the only publicly available copies, such as The National Grid journal of typography.” The National Grid: a peripheral publication for graphic design was established in 2006 by Luke Wood and Jonty Valentine.

The collection holds other rare copies of Aotearoa NZ art journals and magazines such as Fabricate, Probe, LOG Illustrated and Oculus: postgraduate journal for visual arts research. There are full runs of Art New Zealand and Art News New Zealand, Onfilm Magazine, The Bulletin of New Zealand Art History, The Journal of New Zealand Art History, the newly established ATE Journal of Māori Art and the country’s first art journal Art in New Zealand which ran from 1928-1946.

There are over 1100 artist files in the collection containing reviews, interviews and exhibition catalogues relating to Aotearoa NZ and Pasifika artists. This is one of the contributing collections to the Find NZ Artists database, which helps users locate information on over 18,000 artist files throughout the country. You can search the Angela Morton Collection’s artist files here.

Art auction catalogues also feature in the collection including those from Art + Object, Bowerbank Ninow and Mossgreen-Webb’s.

The Angela Morton Room hosts regular displays and exhibitions such as the "Three Faces of Frank" which brought together for the first time bronze busts made of Frank Sargeson by sculptors Terry Stringer, Alison Duff and Anthony Stones. This exhibition runs until 31 October 2019. From 1 November there will there an exhibition of the collection’s rare books. Some have print runs as small as five copies, and many are the only publicly available copies in Auckland such as the New Zealand altruism review, June 2009 by Et al, a photocopied handwritten text. Others with unusual production values include Singing in the Lifeboat: the art of Jane Zusters which comes in a hand-sewn canvas folder painted by the artist.

Several artworks on permanent display in the Angela Morton Room include a 2.5 metre long Waka Taua carved by inmates of Paremoremo and Ngawha Prisons, with a Puhi Ariki created by master weaver Erika Muna Lee. There are lithographs by John Pule and Betty Curnow, and large pots by Chester Nealie and Nicholas Brandon. Tracey Tawhiao painted the patterns featured along the Room’s glass walls.

In the foreword to Ex Libris: Regarding Three Libraries Jane Wild has described specialist libraries as places where the serendipity of browsing can lead to “eureka discoveries and infinite possibilities.” The Angela Morton Room has been purpose-built to provide just such a welcoming environment for everyone wanting to browse an extensive collection of Aotearoa NZ art books, journals and artist files for research and pleasure.

Author: Leanne, Research North

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