Thursday, 27 November 2014

St. James Theatre

Queen Street’s St. James Theatre has been in the news recently, with the announcement by its new owner of plans for restoration, in conjunction with the development of an adjacent 39 story residential tower.

The Category 1 listed building was opened in July 1928, with a performance of the London Musical Comedy ‘Archie’. The images below are the cover and the centre pages of the programme from that evening: 

Ref: New Zealand Ephemera - 'Archie' - A Musical Comedy In Two Acts. Gala opening performance of the St James Theatre, July 5 1928. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. 

Ref: New Zealand Ephemera - 'Archie' - A Musical Comedy In Two Acts. Gala opening performance of the St James Theatre, July 5 1928. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Contemporary Pacific Collecting

Kia ora, Talofa lava, Kia Orana, Malo e lelei, Fakaalofa lahi atu, Bula vinaka, Namaste, Malo ni, Halo ola keta, Mauri, Fakatalofa atu and warm Pacific greetings.

As many previous posts in this blog and our History Pin site have shown Auckland Libraries is very active documenting Pacific history.


A key role in documenting history is contemporary collecting. We have an active and targeted collecting program around Pacific events like the Pacifica Living Arts Festival. If you attended you would have seen our librarians walking around, taking photographs and talking to people. This content then gets added to Local History Online, which is a combined collection of local history indexes to images, community newspapers and oral histories. We are in the process of adding audio visual content as well as images, which we’re really excited about.


Thursday, 20 November 2014

Eleven maps

Below are eleven of my favourite digitised maps from Sir George Grey Special Collections. There are over 8000 maps in Sir George Grey Special Collections and about 1600 have been digitised. 

Ref: New Zealand lighthouse chart, 1900, Sir George Grey Special Collections, 
Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 516
A pictorial map showing where lighthouses are situated around the New Zealand coast.

Ref: Campbell's beach estate, 1908, Sir George Grey Special Collections, 
Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 6564
This map can be classified as real estate advertising. It shows allotments 
for sale in Campbell's Bay on Auckland's North Shore. 

Ref: 15 freehold allotments, 1865, Sir George Grey Special Collections,
Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 4475-5
The map above, with careful illustrations of trees and houses, is from the nineteenth
century and shows allotments for sale off Queen Street, Auckland.

Ref: George Treacy Stevens, Auckland, 1886,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 374
A bird's-eye-view map of Auckland, showing the wharves, Parnell, 
Symonds Street cemetery and Herne Bay.

Ref: Plan of Kawiti's pā at Ruapekapeka by Mr Nops, assisted by Mr Groves, 1846,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 4626 
A primary document from the New Zealand Wars, this is one of several hand drawn plans of the complex defensive pā at Ruapekapeka, built by Ngāpuhi leader Te Ruki Kawiti.
The pā had underground shelters protected by fortifications.

Ref; Otago Harbour surveyed by Captain J L Stokes... 1855,
Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, NZ Map 861
The map above is a nineteenth century hydrographic chart of Otago harbour. 
As recently as 1969 one or two charts created by Stokes and his officers were still in use.


Thursday, 13 November 2014

Mount Tongariro erupts

New Zealand History’s website has a wonderful timeline which informs us that on this day, November the thirteenth, in 1896 Mount Tongariro ‘erupted spectacularly’. This initial eruption started a series which continued on for almost a year and it makes fascinating reading browsing the contemporary accounts on Papers Past. Te Ara have a picture of Tongariro erupting that they have dated as likely from this time.



Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Remembrance on Armistice Day


Today, November the eleventh, is the anniversary of Armistice Day, which commemorates the signing of the armistice between Germany and the Allies to end fighting on the Western Front of World War One.

The Auckland Weekly News Photographic Supplement contains many images relating to Armistice Day beginning with the singing of the armistice in 1918. The selection of photographs below show how Armistice Day was remembered by earlier generations around New Zealand and the Pacific:


Friday, 7 November 2014

Hippie architecture: geomantic ideas and vibes

                    “I was astonished by the inventive beauty of the hippie architecture,” film-maker Dan Salmon said, to the New Zealand herald, after researching New Zealand’s back-to-landers for his documentary Dirty bloody hippies.

 “Some of the houses, pulled together from hand-milled timber and demolition materials were absolutely mad, others were sensibly warm and cozy, with steep-pitched roofing and attic bedrooms echoing our early pioneer cottages.”

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

The Pigeon Post of Great Barrier Island


The Great Barrier Island Pigeon Post was the first in the world to use pigeons to deliver mail using postage stamps, although they were “unofficial” stamps. The Great Barrier Island pigeon post service was started after the sinking of the SS Wairarapa in October 1894.  This ship ran aground on the remote north side of Great Barrier Island.


About 121 lives were lost. News of the disaster didn't reach Auckland until two or three days later. It highlighted the need for better communication with the island. The first message of the pigeongram service was carried by one of Mr Parkin’s pigeons, on May 14th 1897. You can read the full page article in the Auckland Weekly News here.



Te Ara has neat colour images of some of the pigeongram postage stamps.

In Tales from Great Barrier Island, Helen Jordan Luff states that the pigeongrams were written on fine, light paper called “flimsies”. Most pigeongrams were asking for supplies. Some personal notes were sent by this means, and miners on the island staked their gold claims through the service.


In September 1900, on Great Barrier Island, Charles Osborne’s arm was shattered in an accident with a rifle. A pigeongram was sent from Charles Werner’s Pigeongram Agency at Okupu, asking for help. A doctor and nurse arrived on the island in time to save Osborne’s life. This is a copy of that pigeongram: 


In 1908 the service was ended when an undersea cable from Port Charles on Coromandel to Port Fitzroy, began to be used to transmit telegraph messages.



See more of the Auckland Weekly News article on the laying of the cable here.

The service was revived briefly in the 1990s. A special release of pigeons from Great Barrier Island was planned for the 1997 centennial commemoration of the pigeon post service.  New Zealand Post also produced a commemorative miniature sheet of  Pigeon Post stamps the same year.

Read more about the wreck of the SS Wairarapa, and the unique stories about the Great Barrier Island pigeon post service, in the following sources:

Author: Carolyn Skelton, North Auckland & West Auckland Research Centres