Special Collections Twenty at 20: Unexpected photographs

To mark this year’s 20th anniversary of Special Collections, the curators have selected some intriguing items for the Twenty at 20 series. Here is number 14.

Photographs of 1939 Young Māori Conference

Working in Special Collections, we are often asked about what makes a book ‘special’. One answer is that someone has added extra content to it after publication that could be of interest to researchers.

That certainly applies to a possibly unique copy of the Report on Young Maori Conference held at Auckland University College, May 22-26, 1939, which contains nine conference-related photographs pasted on additional, interleaved pages. It also has 30 extra pages of newspaper clippings about the proceedings.1

The presence of this supplementary material is explained by an entry in one of the Library’s accession registers that shows the copy was donated by the Conference Organising Committee in August 1939.2


Image: Sir Āpirana Ngata (centre) and other Conference attendees.  

The conference was arranged by Sir Āpirana Ngata, who was Conference President, Auckland University College Economics Professor Horace Belshaw, and others. It brought together at least 34 young men, and 14 leaders in a guiding role – including Sir Āpirana, Te Puea Hērangi, Pei Te Hurinui Jones and Paraire Paikea – to discuss a range of issues affecting Māori communities, including education and the community, housing, health, employment, and economic conditions.3 Government officials and other University members also contributed.

Concluding the conference, Sir Āpirana said, “I am going home [….] to tell my people that, so far as young leaders are concerned, they have nothing to worry about. I will be able to sleep sounder in the knowledge that for another generation at least, there are leaders to carry on.”4

Extra dimension

The unexpected photographs help bring the Conference to life and give an extra dimension to the Report, which was produced without text illustrations. The photos show participants during round-table discussions, in small gatherings in the grounds, and in large groups in front of the ClockTower Building.5 Some photos also include wāhine Māori not listed in the Report.

This item is a reminder that while a book may be held in many places, a particular copy can differ in significant ways that lends additional research value and ensures its preservation in Special Collections.

Discover more

Jo Birks, Special Collections


1 Young Māori Leaders Conference, & Auckland University College. (1939). Report on Young Maori Conference held at Auckland University College, May 22-26, 1939. Auckland, N.Z.: Auckland University College. NZGC Outsize 572.995 Y68r. A second enhanced copy in Special Collections has Prof. Belshaw’s signature, two photos, clippings, and loose typescript copies of a section of the report.
2 Accession Register, University of Auckland Library History Collection, MSS & Archives E-10, 2/1/4, p.3.
3 Report on Young Maori Conference…, pp.1-11.
4 Report on Young Maori Conference…, p.39.
5 Two photographs appeared in newspapers at the time.

Feature image: Young Māori Conference group outside the ClockTower Building, May 1939. Front row includes Te Puea Hērangi (5th from left), Sir Āpirana Ngata (4th from right) and Prof. Horace Belshaw (3rd from right).


  • John Morrow commented on 28/09/2022

    Hi Jo; great photograph and a really interesting item. Is there any thought that the illustrated programme be put online?
    It would be very interesting to see the other photographs and get a sense of the programme. It’s saddening to recall that some of the delegates in this photograph would not have survived the war.

    • Libraries and Learning Services commented on 29/09/2022

      Kia ora,
      Thank you for your comments and query about digitisation. We are looking into this and will post an update as soon as possible.
      In the meantime, we have added a link under Discover more to a copy digitized by Massey University Library.
      Ngā mihi.

Comments are closed