The photographs are on display in the Special Collections Reading Room, General Library.

Picturing Cultural Collections

A selection of photographs now hanging in the Special Collections Reading Room in the General Library provides a window into the four repositories that make up Cultural Collections. Here are the first photos in this ongoing series, with their backstories.

Chapman Archive aerial

Chapman Archive aerial

This piece of analogue innovation was the brainchild of former Faculty of Arts technician Max Pow. He fashioned the aerial in 1997 from wood and copper wire to capture AM broadcasts of radio recordings for the Chapman Archive. It was used until 2008 when the recordings became digital. Now a display item, it illustrates the technological history of the Archive, which is part of Media Services.

Abseilers installing artwork

Abseilers installing artwork

Installing artworks around the campus is normally done by the University of Auckland Art Collection staff but sometimes other experts need to be roped in. Here abseilers adjust one of three, 4.5m x 5.3m ngatu (tapa) by Dame Robin White and Ruha Fifita which hang in the Science Centre atrium. The largest wall-based works in the Collection, the series is titled Siu I Moana.

Recording tape examples

Recording tape examples

Archivists and technicians in the Archive of Māori and Pacific Sound use this swatch of labelled strips of magnetic recording tape as a quick visual aid. It helps them to identify the kinds of tape they might come across and to recognise the conservation problems associated with some of the material in the Archive.

Insect-damaged photograph

Insect-damaged photograph

Archival material created and stored in tropical environments is at particular risk of insect damage. While this creates unwanted conservation issues, and a sense of disgust, there is also a strange beauty to the delicate lace-like structure of what remains. This well-chewed example is from a 1920s passport application from Vanuatu now in the Western Pacific Archives in Special Collections.

Architectural drawings await flattening

Architectural drawings await flattening

These newly-accessioned architectural drawings were stored in rolls for decades by the architect, which has left crumpled and torn edges and instilled a strong `rolling memory’ in the paper. Before full processing can begin, they will be carefully unrolled, placed in archival-quality folders and weighted down. It may take several years for them to relax enough to be safely handled in the Special Collections Architecture Archive.

Inscribed rare book

Inscribed rare book

The beauty of rare books as material objects with visible layers of history prompted the Art Collection curators to take photographs of some they saw being processed nearby. An early owner of this 1790 Dublin edition of Thomas Sheridan’s Complete dictionary of the English language, wrote the date 1793 on its top edge and, inside, `Chas W/M [?] Alister, Belfast May 1793.’ The volume is in Special Collections.

Curious to discover more?

Alitia Lynch, Lara Thomas, Marie O’Connell, Katherine Pawley, Sarah Cox and Jo Birks,
Cultural Collections

2 Comments

  • Mark Hangartner commented on 03/06/2020 Reply

    It would be good to have a video when the rolls are laid out.

    • Libraries and Learning Services commented on 04/06/2020 Reply

      Kia ora Mark, We plan to create videos highlighting aspects of Special Collections work, so we’ll add your suggestion to the ideas list. In the meantime feel free to contact Special Collections directly to discuss the unrolling process we use. You can email us at: specialcollections@auckland.ac.nz

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