Special Collections Twenty at 20: Prescription for the future

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 17.

Dr Alexander H. Kirker’s prescription records available in 2031

Researchers wanting to know what medicines an Auckland inner-city general practitioner prescribed for his patients in the middle decades of the 20th century have an invaluable resource in Dr Alexander H. Kirker’s prescription notes. This collection has approximately 17,000 individual scripts. However, researchers will have to be patient: the first volume becomes available in 2031, while the final set will be released in 2067.

Each page of the notebook has four carbon-copy scripts written by Dr Kirker in his distinctive hand, dated and with the patient’s name and sometimes their address. Therein lies the problem. To protect patient confidentiality, it was a condition of donation to Special Collections that the records would be withheld for 100 years from the date of creation, which spans 1930-1967.1 It is likely that patients seen by Dr Kirker in the post-war years are still alive. Several collections held by us have similar embargoes, typically for medical or business records.

Symonds Street “doctors’ houses”

While processing the collection I thought the name Kirker sounded familiar. I remembered entering details of Dr Kirker’s home and consulting rooms in the finding aid for the Draffin architectural drawings and client files. Well-known architect Malcolm Draffin designed premises for both Dr Kirker and Dr Eily Elaine Gurr in the mid-1930s at 84 and 86 Symonds Street. The distinctive premises, covered in ivy, are now heritage-listed buildings. Marguerite Hill from Auckland Council’s Heritage Unit notes that Symonds Street was a logical location for doctors’ consulting rooms given its proximity to the hospital.2


Doctors’ houses, 84 and 86 Symonds Street

Future proofing

There’s pleasure in preserving items like Dr Kirker’s notebooks knowing full well that I probably won’t be working here when the first researchers access them. Moreover, there’s fulfilment in the present walking past the doctors’ houses on Symonds Street knowing the prescriptions written on the premises are preserved a few hundred metres down the road in our collections.


Final set of notes, available to view in 2067.

Discover more

To view the “doctors’ houses” architectural materials, contact Special Collections.

Ian Brailsford, Special Collections


1 Alexander Kirker prescription books. MSS & Archives 2022/06. Dr Kirker served in the Royal New Zealand Medical Corps during the Second World War, finally returning home in 1950,2 which helps to explain the significant gap in the prescription books during the 1940s.

2 Marguerite Hill (2020). Doctors’ Houses, 84-86 Symonds Street, Auckland Central. Heritage et al: Auckland Libraries.

Feature image: Prescription notebook from July 1930. Names have been removed from the image.