Hidden treasures from the papers of Isabel Maud Peacocke

While checking the inventory of the papers of New Zealand children’s book author Isabel Maud Peacocke, I saw that one box contained a number of framed prints of ‘unidentified subjects’. Thinking that I could provide researchers with more detail than this, I retrieved the material from the stacks.

Unidentified photograph of a man from the papers of Isabel Maude Peacocke

Photograph from Isabel Maud Peacocke literary papers. MSS & Archives 94/5, Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services

Inside the archive box were four small gilt frames containing photographs of individuals who were probably friends or family of the author. On closer examination, it was clear the photographs could easily be removed from the frames to check the back for details. To my amazement, three of the frames contained additional photographs hidden between the front photograph and the back of the frame. In one frame, behind an early 19th century portrait of a handsome young man, were photographs of a 1930s bride, a fat black cat, a chubby Edwardian baby and a woman caught striding through a park by a street photographer in 1944. Unfortunately, there were no names on the back of any of the photographs, so I now had five `unidentified subjects’ instead of one but was still rather impressed by my discovery.

However, two of the photographs in the other frames were named. So, now researchers will know that we have a photograph of Pamela, who in addition to wishing the author a Happy Christmas, helpfully wrote “it’s me!” on the back of her photograph, and one of Lillian, who carefully dated hers 1937.

Katherine Pawley, Special Collections

Peacocke, Isabel Maud. Literary papers, 1893-1954. MSS & Archives 94/5, Item 14. Special Collections, University of Auckland Libraries and Learning Services.

Note: This was originally posted on 21 November 2011 on the now-retired Special Collections blog.