Monday, 29 September 2014

Our girls, our boys

For the past few months, the heritage floor, on the second floor of the Central City Library, has hosted a display titled Our Girls -- a tribute to the role of women in the First World War. The content covers the following topics: prohibition and making-do, cartoon depictions of women, the anti-militarists, the fundraising effort, working girls, nurses abroad, and the absence of men.

It has been an interesting exercise to find images to cover such a variety of topics. Women were not always portrayed favourably, especially in the political cartoons of the day. Publications like Freelance and Truth condemned the ‘wowser’ prohibitionists as out to spoil a boy’s fun (men did not escape the condemnation, either) or they depicted women as vain and ignorant. 

Ref: Cartoon from the New Zealand Freelance, 6 March 1915, p.11. 
The caption for the cartoon above reads: 

Shopman: “Yes, Miss, all face powders have gone up in price on account of the war.”

Young lady: “Oh, isn’t war terrible!”

Yet, while women did not fight in the First World War, they did step up. They took over the jobs vacated by the men, and while some agitated against the war itself, others were desperate to serve, for example, the nurses who enrolled in the newly formed New Zealand Army Nursing Service. Women raised funds however they could -- from street appeals to social events -- doing whatever it took to raise money for the war effort.

Ref: A E Watkinson, Women's patriotic work... 8 November 1917,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19171108-35-1
But it was, of course, the men and the boys who saw and endured the action on the battlefields. To commemorate the men, Auckland Libraries launches the website Our Boys, Your Stories at the Auckland Heritage Festival. Our Boys recalls the men and boys who served in the First World War and their lasting legacies.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Ron Clark's colour slides

Sir George Grey Special Collections recently acquired a wonderful collection of colour slides taken by Ron Clark mostly in the nineteen-fifties, sixties and seventies. They are accessible via the Heritage Images database.

Ref: Ron Clark, Oakura Bay, 1950s,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1207-1227
Ref: Ron Clark, Muriel Clark at the wheel of a Humber Hawk, about 1956,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1207-12
Photographs from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are a strong part of the Sir George Grey Special Collections image collection.

The Ron Clark slides span the mid-twentieth century, filling a time period gap in Auckland Libraries' photograph collections. Life in New Zealand is captured in wide-ranging ways. There are scenes showing urban and rural activities, family gatherings and outings, interior shots of homes, churches and hospital wards, beach visits, overseas holidays, public events and building construction sites.

Ref: Ron Clark, Auckland's last tram, December 1956,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1207-881
Ref: Ron Clark, Flooded fields at Twinings, October 1971,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1207-740
Ref: Ron Clark, House at Alton Avenue, Hillcrest, 1960s,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 1207-356

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Radcliffe's scenes

Sir George Grey Special Collections has a large collection of glass plate negatives of scenic views of New Zealand taken by Frederick George Radcliffe.

Ref: F G Radcliffe, Lake Kaniere, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R644
Radcliffe came to New Zealand from England in the early 1890s. Soon afterwards his wife, Kate, and their two daughters, Harriette and Olive, joined him at his farm 'Utopia' near Paparoa, on an inlet of the Kaipara Harbour.

Radcliffe's interest in photography grew and he quickly acquired a reputation as an exceptional scenic photographer. For twenty years he traveled the country taking photographs of small rural towns, large cities, rivers, gardens, buildings, beaches, wharves, forests, lakes and streets. From 1909, with the help of Kate and Olive, he operated a successful postcard business from his home in Whangarei. Radcliffe played the oboe, conducted local orchestras and was an active member of various music-related clubs in his community. He died at Onerahi, Whangarei, in 1923.

Ref: F G Radcliffe, Queen Street, Auckland, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R14
Below are some examples of Radcliffe's photography. These images are accessible via the Auckland Libraries' database Heritage Images. You can purchase copies of prints or digital files of the images from the website or by contacting the photograph collection librarians.

Ref: F G Radcliffe, Picton, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R1110
Ref: F G Radcliffe, Ruamanga Falls, Whangarei, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R1990
Ref: F G Radcliffe, Ohakune East, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R1214
Ref: F G Radcliffe, St Clair's beach, Dunedin, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R455
Ref: F G Radcliffe, New Brighton, Christchurch, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R341
Ref: F G Radcliffe, Waiwera wharf, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 35-R1639

Friday, 19 September 2014

Real Gold and online exhibitions

Sometimes when a customer has navigated their way up two flights of escalators and come across the Sir George Grey Special Collections exhibition room, they might decide to go through another set of glass doors to the reading room for a look around. At this point, they might scan recent acquisitions displayed in a case or walk around the edges of the room looking at the books-about-rare-books on the shelves. Next the person at the reading room desk might walk over and say 'hello' and tell them a bit about the collection. And thankfully, there is always the book Real Gold on hand: making the task of briefly outlining the wonderful, varied and expanding Sir George Grey Special Collections much easier.

Ref: Iain Sharp, Real gold: treasures of Auckland City Libraries,
Auckland: AUP, 2007.
When Real Gold was published in 2007 there was a physical exhibition to coincide with the book launch. In addition, there is an online version of this exhibition which gives detailed information and images of some of the items displayed. Real Gold is available to be purchased from Sir George Grey Special Collections and booksellers nationwide.

Ref: Screen shot of the 'Real Gold' online exhibition home page. 
Like the book Real Gold, Auckland Libraries' online exhibitions are a splendid way of exploring heritage collections. Online exhibitions have a wide reach, do not have a closing date and are a way of revisiting or being introduced to a physical exhibition.

Ref: Screen shot of the 'Antarctica: a tale to tell' online exhibition home page.
Ref: Screen shot of the 'Old Favourites: famous children's books' online exhibition home page.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

From gothic skyscrapers to Hathaway cottages

Dotted around Auckland are a number of residential and commercial buildings designed by Canadian architect Sholto Smith (1881-1936) which are now part of Auckland’s architectural heritage. While researching Auckland’s War Memorial libraries for the Our Boys website, I discovered Smith was noted as the designer of the gorgeous, little Albany War Memorial Library - although there is some controversy over whether it was Smith or his business partner, Thomas Mullions who played the bigger part in the design.

Ref: Jock Phillips and Chris Maclean, Albany War Memorial Library,
about 1986, from
Smith arrived in New Zealand in 1920, when he was 39 years old, and joined the architectural practice of TC Mullions and C. Fleming McDonald.  He became partner after McDonald’s death and together with Mullions went on to design both residential and commercial properties. Among them the Shortland Flats in downtown Auckland which the pair owned as a venture to generate income. The flats have been described as Auckland’s smallest example of the gothic skyscraper style.

Ref: James D. Richardson, Shortland Flats, 1925,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 4-1708 
Another highly visible building is the Lister on the corner of Victoria and Lorne Streets, a design influenced by the Chicago style of modern, simplified architecture dominant in skyscrapers of the early twentieth century. It was named for British surgeon and medical scientist, Sir James Joseph Lister. Interestingly, a letter to the editor of the New Zealand Building Record, dated 15 April 1924, laments the wording on the building as ‘The Lister Bldg’ not ‘Building’: “Who has not gazed with a feeling akin to awe at some recently constructed building and felt with an expression of pride that that building belonged to Auckland; when our eyes have alighted upon the name of the building, and we see emblazoned forth “Lister Bldgs” or some such name. Evidently the architect or designer has run out of lettering…”

Ref: N. M. Dubois, Lister Building (right),  about 1973,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 786-A030-2 

Thursday, 11 September 2014


Recently, an advertisement from a page in a journal, displayed in the current Sir George Grey Special Collections exhibition: World War 1914 -1918, made me look closer. The product is soap and the accompanying illustration is not unusual or incredibly striking. It was the text which made me pause, as it reminded me of scenes in Pat Barker's novel Regeneration. In particular, the lives of a group of munitionettes, who provide an insight into an element of home front life during the First World War.

Ref: The sphere. Vol. 76, no. 995. London: Illustrated Newspapers, 1918.
Munitionettes were British women employed in munitions factories during the First World War. These women worked with hazardous chemicals on a daily basis with minimal protection. Receiving an injury or getting killed by an explosion were always possibilities.

Many munitionettes worked with TNT, which after prolonged exposure, would turn their skin a yellow colour -- leading to the name 'canary girls'. Possibly not the type of woman with "dewy freshness and charm of skin and complexion" described in the advertisement above.

Below is a photograph showing a British shell-filling factory, covering an area of nearly ten acres.

Ref: Auckland Weekly News, 'The war of munitions...',
29 March 1917, AWNS-19170329-43-1

Monday, 8 September 2014

Wordsworth gift

In recent years Auckland bibliophile and historian John Webster has been a generous donor to Sir George Grey Special Collections. Among the items he has gifted to the library is an 1845 edition of 'The poems of William Wordsworth'. The book is in superb condition for its age, but what makes it of particular interest is the hand-written inscription on the second leaf, which reads: “Anna Hosykns from William Wordsworth, Westminster Cloisters, 15th April 1847.”

Ref: Second leaf inscription from 'William Wordsworth, 'The poetical works...' London: Edward Moxon, 1845.'
Sir George Grey Special Collections.
The writing matches other surviving examples from the poet’s pen. Biographies and Wordsworth’s published letters verify that he was acquainted with Anna Hoskyns.

Anna’s maiden name was Ricketts. Born in 1814, she belonged to a family that became part of Wordsworth’s circle in the late 1830s. She was among the group of friends that accompanied the poet and his daughter Dora on a three-day excursion to the Duddon Valley in October 1838. She was his houseguest at Rydal Mount in the Lake District in October 1841 and again in June and July 1842.

Anna is fondly mentioned in a letter that Wordsworth and his wife, Mary, wrote to their close friend Isabella Fenwick on 28 July 1842: “Our love of her encreases every day – and I cannot but feel she has been thoroughly happy with us – Then she is such a useful little thing! She is ready to help with her pen, her dear voice and in every way.”

Ref: Watercolour from 'William Wordsworth. The prelude. Grasmere: The Wordsworth Trust, 2007.'
Sir George Grey Special Collections.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Blistering barnacles! It's Comic Book Month

Sir George Grey Special Collections has a range of books containing cartoons and individual issues of comics. Some of the creators mentioned in Adrian Kinnaird's excellent book on New Zealand comics - From Earth's End - feature in the collection.

Eric Resetar was born in Auckland in 1928 and is one of New Zealand's early comic book author - illustrators. When Resetar was a child he had a great interest in science fiction and enjoyed creating his own stories with drawings. He was 13 years old when a text story he illustrated was published in the one-off production Mighty Comic. Below is the cover of one of Resetar's self-published comics: Adventure. For the month of September there is a case displaying some of Resetar's publications in the reading room at Sir George Grey Special Collections.

Ref: Eric Resetar, Adventure No. 1, 1944. Sir George Grey Special Collections.
Streetwize comics was a Christchurch Community Law Centre project and includes comic strips about getting help from lawyers, the role of social workers and a prize-winning entry called 'Injustice' in a 'tell your story' competition for young people.

Ref: Streetwize comics, 1987. Sir George Grey Special Collections.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Victor Albert Kelsall

While selecting material for the exhibition 'It’ll be over by Christmas: World War 1914-1918', I came across a map showing Zeitoun Camp on the outskirts of Cairo in Egypt. This is where the New Zealand soldiers trained before being shipped off to various locations on the fronts to fight.

Ref: NZ Map 8064, Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries