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Story: Archives

In 1957, prompted by a fire which had destroyed many government records, the government passed laws to set up the National Archives to better preserve government information. Now called Archives New Zealand, it is the largest archive in the country. Many other organisations also have archives containing records that are crucial to understanding New Zealand’s history.

Story by Stuart Strachan
Main image: Wellington City Archives

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Archives contain documents and other records that are kept permanently for future reference. They are often used for historical research.

Government archives

Archives New Zealand, Te Rua Mahara o te Kāwanatanga, is the largest archive in New Zealand. It includes records of Parliament, government departments and courts. Formerly the National Archives (until 2000), it is based in Wellington, and has branches in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Local councils usually have their own archives.

Other archives

There are many other archives, both large and small, around New Zealand. Three of the most significant are:

  • the Sir George Grey Special Collections at the Auckland Libraries
  • the Hocken Collections at the University of Otago in Dunedin
  • the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington.

Some archives collect specific kinds of material, such as the Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision, which specialises in audiovisual archives. Many organisations such as churches, universities, schools, Māori tribal authorities and large businesses have their own archives.

Digital records

Since computers became widely used, many records have been ‘born-digital’. Collecting and preserving these electronic records has been a challenge for archives. The National Digital Heritage Archive, part of the National Library of New Zealand, has been gathering digital records, including entire websites, since 2008.

Archivists

Archivists can train at Victoria University of Wellington, or in Australia. The Archives and Records Association of New Zealand was started in 1976.

How to cite this page:

Stuart Strachan, 'Archives', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/archives (accessed 19 October 2017)

Story by Stuart Strachan, published 22 Oct 2014