Story: Archives

Page 2. Other archives and digital records

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Grey, Hocken and Turnbull

The work of preserving personal archives during the 19th and early 20th centuries was largely undertaken by private collectors, notably George Grey, Thomas Morland Hocken and Alexander Turnbull. Their collections formed the nucleus of the three most significant repositories of non-official archives:

  • the Sir George Grey Special Collections at the Auckland Libraries (established in 1883), which is particularly notable for Māori manuscripts
  • the Hocken Collections at the University of Otago in Dunedin (1910), which holds important early missionary and Pākehā settlement records, business archives and literary papers
  • the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington (1920).

The Alexander Turnbull Library has a national collecting role. Its collections include extensive records of major national organisations and a wide range of personal papers, including those of leading politicians and writers such as Donald McLean, Katherine Mansfield and Frank Sargeson.

Other repositories

Other significant archival collections are in the Auckland War Memorial Museum, the University of Auckland Library, the McMillan Brown Collection at the University of Canterbury and Canterbury Museum in Christchurch.

Notable specialist repositories are Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision (formed in 2014 when the New Zealand Film Archive, the Radio New Zealand Sound Archives and the Television New Zealand archives amalgamated in 2014) and the Oral History and Sound collection at the Alexander Turnbull Library.

Papers and other unofficial records relating to the armed forces are preserved at museums in Waiōuru (army), Devonport (navy) and Wigram (air force).

Family history centres

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church) operates 43 family history centres in New Zealand. Many of the centres are located in small towns and are branches of the Family History Library in the United States. The centres were created so members of the church could perform temple ordinances (for example, baptisms) for deceased ancestors. However, all genealogists can use their facilities to research family history.

All the major churches – Anglican, Baptist, Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian – have formal arrangements for preserving their archives, as do the larger universities and some long-established secondary schools, both public and private.

Smaller repositories – mostly public libraries, museums and historical societies – serve local and specialised needs. Prompted in part by the research required for Treaty of Waitangi negotiations, some Māori tribal authorities have also established their own archives. Most business archives are found in general repositories, but some companies, such as the Bank of New Zealand and Fletcher Challenge, maintained their own publicly accessible archives.

New technology and digital records

The most significant recent development for all archives has been the advent of computers, greatly improving their management and providing better public access to them through digitisation. Most repositories now have computerised catalogues with internet access.

More challenging has been the treatment of born-digital documents. The National Library of New Zealand’s National Digital Heritage Archive, which preserves digital material including entire websites, went live in 2008. Building on this, in 2010 Archives New Zealand secured funding to construct the Government Digital Archive, to house new digital records.


The Archives and Records Association of New Zealand (established in 1976) advocates for archives and publishes a biannual journal, Archifacts. Professional postgraduate education for archivists is provided by Victoria University of Wellington, and at Monash and Charles Sturt universities in Australia.

How to cite this page:

Stuart Strachan, 'Archives - Other archives and digital records', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 June 2024)

Story by Stuart Strachan, published 22 Oct 2014