Betts portable terrestrial globe

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Karen Craw – Maps Curator

As well as sheet maps, charts and Atlases of New Zealand, Australia, Antarctica the Pacific and the wider world, the Hocken Maps Collection contains a wide variety of cartographic resources and reference materials. This portable terrestrial globe produced by George Philip & Son, London and Liverpool, is an example of such a resource.

Betts Globe

Betts’s portable Terrestrial Globe compiled from the latest and best authorities. British Empire coloured red London, George Philip & Son, [188-?] Donated by the Otago Education Board. Hocken Library: Maps: Rolled; 100 1880 a

John Betts publisher

John Betts (fl. 1844-1875) was a London publisher specialising in low cost educational products which were large enough for children to observe features easily. This particular style of collapsible globe was patented by Betts in the 1850’s. The firm was taken over by George Philip & Son around 1880. Regular updating kept the globe in production well into the 1920’s.

An 1850’s version of the portable globe produced by Betts was 12.5 cm in diameter and had 8 hand lithographed paper gores. Cotton cords held between the gores and backing paper extended through the poles were pulled on a thread and fastened with a bead at the top to form an inflated globe. A facsimile version of this globe made in the same way as Betts original globe is still available to purchase from a British Globe maker.

 George Philip and Son map publisher

George Philip (1800-1882) cartographer and map publisher, was born at Huntly, Aberdeenshire, Scotland into a Calvinist family. Two of the sons became ministers and the teaching of the local minister instilled in George the value of education for everyone.

He began his career working for a bookseller in Liverpool and later set up his own business. He placed orders with well-known cartographers for maps on copper plates which he had printed and hand-coloured. The bulk of his production was for the commercial, and particularly the educational market.

The firm supplied atlases and textbooks for many overseas countries in several languages, beginning with an atlas for Australian schools in 1865 and for New Zealand in 1869. The firm also published many maps of New Zealand.

George Philip and Son was sold in 1988 to the Octopus Publishing Co, part of Reed International Group of Companies, London.

The Hocken Collections globe is produced by George Philip and Son. Packed in a wooden box, it can be inflated by a metal umbrella type mechanism. It was intended to be a low cost portable education device for classroom teaching, easily transported and loaned to schools. The gores are made of silk. Wear and tear of the silk has meant that examples in good condition are very rare.




Rotorua Māori Choir

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | 4 Comments

Post researched and written by Amanda Mills – Liaison Librarian Audio-Visual and Music


August was inaugural Māori music month, a celebration of Māori music around the country of all genres. The first music recorded in New Zealand was indeed Māori, when Ana Hato and Deane Waretini were recorded singing a number of songs, including Hine e Hine, and Waiata Poi. This was in February 1927 at Tūnohopu meeting house, in Ohinemutu, Rotorua, and their accompanists included the nascent Rotorua Māori Choir. While their story is the stuff of musical history, less has been written about the Rotorua Māori Choir, and their seminal recordings of 1930.

The Rotorua Māori Choir had been in existence for at least two decades, having been formed in the early 1900s by Frederick Bennett, an Anglican Clergyman. Before making their famous recordings, the choir had been part of New Zealand’s first feature film, George Tarr’s Hinemoa, from 1914. In 1929, the choir’s lawyer (a Mr. Simpson) suggested to Arthur Eady (of Arthur A. Eady Publishing) that the choir be recorded. This suggestion was taken to Columbia Gramophone Company, who agreed, and a contract was signed by three choir members – Geoffrey Rogers, Tame Petane, and Rotohiko Haupapa. In 1930, a group from the label (including musical director Gil Dech, managing director W.A. Donner, and engineer Reg Southey) came to New Zealand to record the choir, and this took three months – a significant commitment of finances and resources. Dech, who had been to New Zealand before, became closely acquainted with the music by listening to the songs sung to him repeatedly by the choir before the recording started, though his introduction to the some of the music originally occurred when he accompanied and conducted the recording sessions of Scottish tenor Ernest McKinlay, who recorded Māori songs in Sydney in 1928.

By all accounts, the recording sessions with the Rotorua Māori Choir were long and often hard, as choir members had day jobs, and the recording sessions often lasted until the early hours of the morning. Dech was keen to have the choir harmonise naturally, but often wrote harmony parts and taught them to the group – Reg Southey confirming “he trained them to sing as a group – most of them were used to singing solo.” There were soloists, however: bass baritone Rotohiko Haupapa, soprano Te Mauri Meihana, contralto Mere Amohau, and tenor Tiawhi Ratete.

As with Ana Hato and Deane Waretini before them, the Rotorua Māori Choir recorded at the Tūnohopu meeting house at Ohinemutu, Rotorua. To create a better environment to record in, shawls and carpets were hung from the roof to dampen the echo, and a production/control room was assembled in the porch. Southey recalled that the recording sessions were to record Māori singing and song, which they “felt was unique and should be put on record for all time. So many visitors… came to New Zealand, heard these singers and asked where they could buy recordings. They weren’t available… we wanted to correct that.” The recordings were cut directly to fragile wax discs (two recordings were cut, and the best one chosen for use), and sent to Australia, where copper master records were cut. Over thirty songs were recorded (in what Mervyn Mclean called “the European melodic idiom”): folk songs, love songs, and farewell and welcome songs, as well as two English hymns in Te Reo: Au e Iho, and Karaunatia. Originally issued on 10” shellac 78rpm discs, in 1961, all but three of the songs were taped from the master discs and pressed to LP, bringing the Rotorua Māori Choir to further recognition.

Digitised recording of Warutia Putiputi Pai

To illustrate the talents of the Rotorua Māori Choir, we have digitised some of our original 78rpm discs. One of the best examples of their vocal abilities is Warutia Putiputi Pai, a Māori love ditty, where the range of the choir members, and the style of the musical director is evident. The disc is in remarkably good condition for being 86 years old, though there are ‘pops’ due to the nature and slight deterioration of the format.


Armstrong, A. (1961). Records: Still popular after thirty years. Te Ao Hou, 36 (September), p. 63-64.

Mclean, M. (1996). Maori Music. Auckland: University of Auckland Press.

[Unknown author]. (1964). Pioneer returns. New Zealand Listener, 20 March. p.10.





Going past Papers Past: a mass of mastheads

Friday, August 12th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | 2 Comments

Post by Kari Wilson-Allan, Library Assistant – Reference

Papers Past is undoubtedly a valuable and convenient resource for historical research.  It is easy, however, in using it, to overlook other avenues of journalistic endeavour.

While working on a response to a recent reference enquiry, I came across a reel of microfilm in the stack containing all manner of titles, some of which I had never previously encountered.  A large number of these were of local origin, and covered matters social, political, intellectual, commercial, spiritual and more.

The Dunedin triumvirate available online (Otago Daily Times, Otago Witness and Evening Star) shine a light on the city’s goings-on, but to rely on these three is to neglect a wider range of perspectives and possibilities for enquiry.

Regrettably, the film holds only a single issue of many of the titles, and some rolled off the presses for only the briefest of spells, yet they reveal a lively and varied past.

The selection of mastheads below all feature on the reel; search any of the titles on Library Search | Ketu to request the film.

Other early Dunedin papers of which we hold larger runs include the paper most commonly known as the Otago Workman (otherwise the Beacon or Forbury News, later the Otago Liberal), the Echo, the Globe and the Southern Mercury.

01 Port Chalmers watch 02 Sandfly 03 NZ Liberator 04 Magnolia 05 Penny Post 06 Hot springs guide 07 Guardian 08 Morning herald 09 Illustrated news 10 NZ Life

Unboxing (mostly) Flying Nun

Monday, May 30th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Amanda Mills, Music and AV Liaison Librarian

One of the most fun things we get to do at the Hocken is open new material, so in celebration of Music Month, we thought we would share some of our new popular music acquisitions with an unboxing video. Most of the discs are from Flying Nun artists in the 1990s, though the Chris Knox compilation on cassette (on the Thokei Tones label) is a brand new release and the Ladyhawke discs (released on Modular) date to around 2007-2008. The Flying Nun discs were mostly sourced from overseas vendors, as some of these titles are hard to come by, and finding them locally (or nationally) can often be a challenge. These recordings are a great addition to our vinyl (and other format) holdings, especially as many of them showcase Dunedin musicians.

These titles include:

King Loser – Caul of the outlaw

Chris Knox – KnoxTraxFine

Ladyhawke – Back of the van

Love’s Ugly Children – Cakehole

Martin Phillipps and The Chills – Sunburnt

Straitjacket Fits – Melt

Various Artists – Abbasalutely


You may ask, what are the next steps in the process of putting them in our collections?

Flying Nun albums unboxed

Flying Nun albums unboxed

The discs are placed into inert polyethylene bags to protect the sleeves, metadata about the recording is input into the publications database (Library Search Ketu), and then items are barcoded and labelled before being shelved into our specially made LP cabinets. They are then available for University of Otago staff, students, and the general public to come and listen to.

vinyl cabinets

LP storage cabinets

We acquire New Zealand music of all genres, time periods, and (most) formats constantly, and this is only a snapshot of the material that is added to the music collections on a weekly basis. All published music can be searched for via the University of Otago publications database, Library Search|Ketu.  For more information on the music collections at the Hocken, please see our music guide.

album spines

Albums all safely stored in the cabinets

Musos, anarchists, poets, feminists, artists and activists: a look at the Hocken zines collection

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Emma Scott, Library Assistant – Periodicals

Tucked away within our publications collection are approximately 149 zines spanning from the 1970s to the present day. For those of you who haven’t come across a zine before, zines are self published publications that are on a variety of different topics. Many of the zines in our collection were created by cutting and pasting text, images, photographs and drawings and sticking them on master sheets which are then photocopied and put together as a zine. Creating a zine is a labour of love as they take a substantial amount of time and effort to produce and the funds involved in the making of a zine are seldom recuperated.

Caveat Emptor An Anarchist Fanzine issue 2 (1998) pages 5-6

Caveat Emptor An Anarchist Fanzine issue 2 (1998) pages 5-6

Looking through the list of zines in our collection it is surprising to discover just how varied zines can be. The zines most people are familiar with are the punk rock and rock music zines. While we do have plenty of those, we also have zines on many other subjects including: feminism, government resistance, art, death, horror tales, poetry, science fiction poetry, erotic poetry, sexual harassment of women, anarchism, human rights, paper dolls, New Zealand literature, colonisation and politics just to name a few. Some zines cover multiple topics as they have many contributors.

PMt issue 2 ([1986]) cover

PMt issue 2 ([1986]) cover

Zines can be difficult to catalogue as they are often missing title and date information. Zines also differ greatly in size and format, becoming an artwork in themselves. Fortunately we are able to call upon the services of the University of Otago Library Bindery who can create customised acid free enclosures for these items.

A zine a day as winter goes away covers of 2011 July 3, 7, 10 and 20

A zine a day as winter goes away covers of 2011 July 3, 7, 10 and 20

With May being New Zealand Music Month, it is worth bringing attention to an excellent zine in our collection called Ha Ha Ha: from the city that offers nothing. Ha Ha Ha is a Hamilton music zine that started in 1983, it isn’t focused entirely on Hamilton music, it includes information about bands from all over New Zealand. Issue no.5  features an interview with Bruce Russell from the Dunedin Expressway label called “Expressway to your skull” and includes reviews of Vehicle – The Clean, Sour – S.P.U.D. and Bunny liver – Sferic Experiment all of which we hold in our music collection. If you are a punk fan issue 4 might interest you with an article on New Zealand punk from 1977 – 1982 which includes a list of albums and singles worth listening to and a brief description of each band mentioned.

Ha Ha Ha issue no.5 cover

Ha Ha Ha issue no.5 cover

Another New Zealand zine of particular interest is : Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People by Bryce Galloway.  Issue no.15,  The Fear of Fatherhood Issue is an excellent read as Bryce recounts his experience of the ante-natal classes that he is attending with his “de-facto wife”. He prepares his readers for the change of tone: “If you’re a regular visitor to Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People, you will have noticed by now, the consolidation of an autobiographical style. So, babies. This is the big thing in my life at present, so I gotta go there, as unhip as that makes me”. His writing is honest and refreshing as he describes a class where the midwife is describing the birthing process: “Images less sterile than statistical data are crowding my head, I fold my arms, I cross my legs. I think about fainting and I’m not sure whether it is because I believe I’m prone, or because I truly am being overcome by these sideways images of birthing”.

Incredibly hot sex with hideous people no.15 (2003 Spring) cover

Incredibly hot sex with hideous people no.15 (2003 Spring) cover

By being self published, zines provide us with uncensored and often quite personal insights into peoples experiences, events, and lifestyles. All of us have something that we are interested in and or are passionate about, but not all of us go to the effort of creating our own publication. We hope that zines continue to be created as they provide us with invaluable information about the history and culture of this country.

If you are interested in finding out more about New Zealand zines, it is well worth checking out an excellent blog called the New Zealand Zine Review: Some of the zines featured in the blog are held in our collection if you would like to have a look at them in the flesh.

Do you create a zine yourself, or perhaps you have a zine you would like to donate? In which case we would love to hear from you as we are always interested in expanding our collection of zines. You can send us an email at or phone us on 03 479 4372.


AudioCulture – the noisy library of NZ music. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from

Caveat Emptor: An Anarchist Fanzine, (2), 5-6. (1988)

Galloway, B. (2003). Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People, (15), 1-18.

Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People – Bryce Galloway | Culture | (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from—bryce-gal

New Zealand Zine Review. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from

PMt, (2), 1-23. (1986?).

  1. (2011). ‘a Zine a Day as Winter Goes Away’

S, A. (n.d.). Ha Ha Ha: From the City That Offers Nothing, (4), 8-19.

S, A. (n.d.). Ha Ha Ha: From the City That Offers Nothing, (5), 9-12.

Zine. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from

Zines. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2016, from


Shellal Mosaic : Fragments of Middle Eastern History at the Hocken

Friday, April 22nd, 2016 | Anna Blackman | 3 Comments

Post researched and written by Dr Anna Petersen, Assistant Curator of Photographs.

Housed in the Hocken Photographs Collection is an album compiled by a World War I soldier, Francis Leddingham McFarlane (1888-1948) from Dunedin, who occupied a short-lived but significant place in the long history of the Shellal Mosaic.

Sapper McFarlane of the New Zealand Wireless Troop was serving in Palestine in April 1917, when fellow ANZAC soldiers near Shellal stumbled across pieces of this sixth century mosaic.  The chance discovery was made during the second battle of Gaza on the floor of a captured Turkish machine gun outpost, located on a small hill overlooking the cross roads of what would once have been the main road between Egypt and Jerusalem.[i]

The soldiers reported their find to Senior Chaplain, Rev. W. Maitland Woods, who had a keen interest in archaeology and made a habit of entertaining the troops with stories about the Holy Lands where they were based.[ii]  Rev. Maitland sought professional advice from curators at the Cairo Museum and gained permission to organise a group of volunteers to uncover and remove the remains.[iii]  Sapper McFarlane was given the job of drawing what they uncovered (fig. 1).[iv]

Figure 1. The sketcher at work. P1993-024-012c

Album 213 includes three photographs showing sections of the Shellal Mosaic in situ (figs 2, 3 and 4), as well as a photograph of the sketcher at work and his completed drawing of the whole carpet-style design (fig. 5).

S16-070c P1993_024_012a

Figure 2. Mosaic floor discovered at Shellel. P1993-024-012a

S16-070h P1993_024_013a

Figure 3. Inscription and portion of border. P1993-024-013a

S16-070i P1993_024_013b

Figure 4. One of the circular designs. P1993-024-013b

A colour lithograph of McFarlane’s drawing was subsequently published in Cairo but, like the photograph, does not do full justice to the subtle hues.  An example of the lithograph can also be found at the Hocken, housed in the Ephemera Collection (fig.6).


Figure 5. Photograph of drawing of mosaic fragments. P1993-024-011a. Figure 6. Lithograph of mosaic found at Shellal, South Palestine on 23rd April 1917. Hocken Posters collection acc no. 816608.

The full significance of Sapper McFarlane’s drawing is explained in a booklet, written by A.D. Trendall and published by the Australian War Memorial Museum in 1942, some decades after the mosaic was handed over to the Australian government in 1918. Trendall relates how a second drawing, made by Captain M.S. Briggs six weeks later, reveals that during the interim, portions of the mosaic went missing.  Other soldiers probably took away pieces of the peacock and border in the lower right corner in particular as souvenirs and these proved impossible to recover.  Fortunately 8,000 tesserae survived from the top inscription written in Greek; enough to learn that the mosaic once decorated a church dating to A.D.561-2 and honoured a bishop and a priest called George.  Anyone wanting to learn the whole story plus an analysis of the imagery, technique and style, can read Trentham’s booklet, a later edition of which is housed with the album at the Hocken.

Frank McFarlane went on to serve as a war artist in the Middle East and continued to paint and draw after returning to civilian life. Other photographs in album 213 (all now available online via Hakena) help document McFarlane’s time during World War I in Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq).  These include a view of the Arch of Ctesiphon near Baghdad (fig. 7) and a soldier operating a pack set wireless in the field (fig. 8).  A sketchbook in the Hocken Pictorial Collections dates to the 1930s when McFarlane worked as a postmaster at Lawrence in Central Otago.  It includes pencil portraits of local people in Lawrence and remnants of the gold-mining days.

Figure 7. Arch of Ctesiphon near Baghdad. P1993-024-005a

S16-076f P1993_024_022b

Figure 8. Pack set wireless in the field, Mesopotamia. P1993-024-022b

Frank McFarlane married Bessie King and together they had two daughters who became professional painters with work also represented at the Hocken that reflects a shared interest in vestiges of the past.  Their paintings are not currently available online for copyright reasons but Heather McFarlane (1925-2011) married New Zealand diplomat, Sir Laurie Francis and a loose photograph in the back of album 213 shows her viewing the Shellal Mosaic on display at the Australian War Memorial Museum in 1965.  A drawing by Shona McFarlane-Highett (1929-2001) entitled ‘Dunedin-Palmyra’ (1965) depicts a quarter of the city that was once inhabited by Assyrians. A photograph in the Dunedin Public Library Collection at the Hocken (P1990-015/49-264) shows a similar row of houses, presumably named after the Syrian city of Palmyra and since demolished.

S16-037e P1990_015_49_0264

Figure 9 Palmyra before demolition, 1971. P1990-015-49-0264

These days the Shellal Mosaic is internationally recognised as one of the finest sixth-century mosaics in existence and as we prepare to welcome more Syrian refugees to the city, it may be a comfort for them to know that the Hocken also preserves some memories and material of relevance to that part of the world.


[i] A.D. Trendall, The Shellel Mosaic and Other Classical Antiquities in the Australian War Memorial Canberra, Canberra, 1964, p.9.

[ii] General Sir Harry Chauvel, ‘Foreword’ in The Shellel Mosaic and Other Classical Antiquities in the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, 1964.

[iii] Trendall, p.9.

[iv] Ibid.

Sticky Problems in the Archives

Monday, March 7th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments


Sellotape 4

Post researched and written by Debbie Gale, Arrangement and Description Archivist.

Since its introduction in the 1930s, sellotape has been popular for attaching and mending paper and other material.  It is a common sight in archives to see first-hand just how much harm this ‘quick fix’ can do in the long term.

This family heirloom below, the memoirs of Catherine Hester Ralfe dated 1896 (our reference 87-072), is testament to just how damaging the irreversible effects of sellotape can be:

Sellotape 1

As is apparent, rips and tears on the first page have been repaired with sticky tape and its lasting effects are neither successful nor aesthetic.  It is a perfect example of how the compounds comprising sellotape and paper have interacted with each other over time.

Sellotape is comprised of a clear film on top, called the carrier, which is traditionally cellophane. Cellophane is regenerated cellulose. The bottom layer, the sticky part, is traditionally rubber-based adhesive, made so that it bonds with what it touches when pressure is applied.

The rubber adhesive is a long polymer chain, just like the cellulose that makes up paper. Over time, as the paper and the adhesive stay stuck together the two types of polymers will begin to interact and attach to each other in a process called ‘cross-linking’.

As this process continues, the adhesive mass will yellow, get very sticky and oily, and more difficult to remove from the paper.  In this oily condition the adhesive mass can penetrate the paper entirely and move into adjacent sheets. This staining is almost always impossible to remove:

Sellotape 2

Later on the tape also becomes less effective as an adhesive and eventually the carrier falls off:

Sellotape 3

It is clear from the photocopy of these memoirs produced in the 1970s, that the sticky tape repair work had been undertaken before that time.  It is interesting to note just how the condition of the original memoirs has continued to deteriorate since then.  It was in a far better condition in the 1970s than it is in the present day.

Sellotape 5

However tempting it may be, don’t try repairs to your valuable family papers using sticky tape.  If you are interested in getting repair work undertaken by a qualified conservator, a list of contacts can be found in the Directory of New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Material


Ergener, Sibel (2012) Sellotape: Why it’s bad to put on paper, and removal [online].[Accessed 10th February 2016].

Smith, Merrily A. et al. (1983) Pressure-Sensitive Tape and Techniques for its Removal from Paper [online].  [Accessed 11th February 2016]

On the cover

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post by Dr Ali Clarke, Library Assistant – Reference

We’re always pleased to see images from our collections featuring on the cover of new books! Each year we put together a list of published items – from books to theses, blogs to journals, television series to exhibitions – which have made use of Hocken resources. Some of them relate to research carried out on our archives or publications, others have used our pictorial collections, and some have done both. So far we have tracked down over 200 items published in 2015 for our list, including 69 books. The variety of topics covered is remarkable, as demonstrated by the few examples featured here.

S15-533a MS_0975_234


The very handsome 4-volume set of James K. Baxter’s complete prose, edited by John Weir, involved lots of digging through Baxter’s archives, which are held here. The cover of the first volume features an amusing photo of Baxter with his coat on backwards in Cathedral Square, Christchurch in 1948, sourced from his archives. Another particularly handsome book that has drawn heavily on the Hocken Collections is John Wilson’s New Zealand mountaineering: a history in photographs. including many from our holdings of the New Zealand Alpine Club’s archives. Among them is the great cover shot of Syd Brookes and Bernie McLelland descending North Peak in the Arrowsmith Range in 1939, from an album compiled by Stan Conway.


We can’t claim the splendid cover picture for Simon Nathan’s biography James Hector: explorer, scientist leader – that comes from the Alexander Turnbull Library – but he has made very good use of Hector’s papers, held at the Hocken. Hector’s notebooks are notoriously difficult to read, thanks to faint pencil combined with illegible handwriting, but some of the sketches in them make very effective illustrations in the book. Simon has also done splendid work transcribing various Hector letters in recent years, making them accessible to others.


Hector’s sketches of Parengarenga Harbour and his Maori campanion, January 1866


Another 2015 book which brings previously unpublished work to light is New country, a collection of plays and stories by James Courage, with an introduction by Christopher Burke. Some have been previously published, but one comes straight from Courage’s papers at the Hocken. The book also features some fascinating photographs from Courage’s papers. Genre Books, the publisher, also made good use of Hocken material in a 2014 book, Chris Brickell’s Southern men: gay lives in pictures. This includes numerous photographs from the archives of David Wildey, held in the Hocken largely thanks to Chris. On the cover is one of Wildey’s photographs, recording a visit to Waimairi Beach, Christchurch in 1960.


Lest we leave you with the impression that all material from our collection is about recreation and enjoyment, another cover from 2014 shows a sober purpose. Presbyterian Support Otago’s report Out in the cold: a survey of low income private rental housing in Dunedin features one of our old photographs of the crowded suburbs of southern Dunedin. The Hocken really does have material for all sorts of purposes.

Unforgettable. In every way.

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Post researched and written by Amanda Mills, Liaison Librarian – Music and Audio Visual

In Hocken’s 78rpm disc collection there is an anomaly: over 100 American pop standards by US artists. For a collection of New Zealand material, this is a significant exception to our collection development policy, and more than just an example of a popular genre. There is little to explain why these discs are in the music collection, but our records state they were donated by Mr Grant Fleury in the late 1990s, and were (according to staff recollection) part of an estate collection.

So, why would a collection of New Zealand material include these items? One potential reason for keeping these discs, is that they are all NZ pressings of international labels, including Columbia Records, Decca Records, His Masters Voice, and Capitol Records. However, there are between 50 and 100 of these recordings, so this collection is more than just an example of local label pressings. Some of the titles are jazz, pop, and rock’n’roll classics that shaped popular music in the 20th Century, coming at the end of the 78rpm era. Titles include:

Ella Fitzgerald: Happy Talk. A track from the very popular musical “South Pacific”, Ella Fitzgerald recorded the song with Gordon Jenkins and his orchestra in 1950, and this led to them recording an album soon after.

photo 2 78

Fats Domino, Blueberry Hill

Fats Domino: Blueberry Hill and Ain’t That a Shame. Both are significant rock ‘n’ roll classics – Domino’s 1956 recording of Blueberry Hill became the standard version of the song, while his 1955 recording of Ain’t That a Shame gained US  fame after being re-recorded by Pat Boone. However, Domino’s version became more popular.

photo 1 78

Fats Domino, Ain’t That A Shame

Nat King Cole: Unforgettable b/w Mona Lisa. Unforgettable was recorded in 1951, with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra, and with Riddle’s arrangement. Cole remade it in 1956, and it was remade again  in the 1990s as a beyond-the-grave duet with his daughter Natalie. It is backed with an equally popular song, Mona Lisa, which won the 1950 Academy Award for best original song from the film “Captain Carey.”

photo 3 78

Nat King Cole, Mona Lisa

Having these recordings in the collection presents a conundrum – are they a one off exception to the collection development policy of collecting material by New Zealand artists? Or, was there a valid reason for adding international music into the 78rpm disc collection, when there was no apparent local link in terms of composer, or performer?  They are an interesting addition to the collections of early popular music, and their influence is felt widely throughout local New Zealand music of the same time.

Ouch! Acid Burns in the Archives

Friday, January 29th, 2016 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

We often see the effects of acidification of paper on archival collections. Here is a particularly graphic example found in an old school notebook from the papers of the economist Allan George Barnard Fisher (1895-1976).


Inside cover and first page


Inserted note has masked part of the first page and prevented acid migration

The cover of the volume is acidic board, and over the years the acid has migrated from the cover to the first page. A note inserted over part of the page has slowed the acid migration in that area, causing the paper underneath to be less damaged and lighter in colour. The subsequent pages in the volume have remained lighter.

From the late 19th century most paper was made from wood pulp. Wood pulp paper has what conservators call “inherent vice” and most will degrade over time becoming more brown and brittle. We now frequently see 20th century papers that are in much more discoloured and fragile condition compared to papers from the 19th century. Earlier papers were usually made from cotton fibres which do not age in the same way.

Acidification of paper happens when lignin (a fibrous component of wood) breaks down over time. As the lignin breaks down acids are produced that weaken the cellulose fibres of the paper, and make it yellow or brown and brittle. Like many chemical reactions, the acidification process is speeded up by heat, humidity and light. Leave a fresh newspaper outside in a sunny spot for a few days and see the effect of the sun, dew and daytime warmth for yourself!

Because of the almost universal use of wood pulp based papers across the world for much of the 20th century we are often presented with preservation conundrums like the A.G.B. Fisher volume pictured above. The staining could be removed by a professional conservator but the paper will remain weak and conservation treatment is expensive so we rarely have archives treated for this kind of damage. Our strategies for preserving paper are to improve storage conditions and reduce physical handling.

The conditions we store the collections in at the Hocken help slow the rate of deterioration. Air conditioning systems ensure the air in the storage areas remains at a constant temperature and humidity and dust is filtered from the air. Light is excluded by packaging in sturdy acid free folders and boxes, and lights are only turned on when staff need to work in the storage areas. The folders and boxes also provide physical protection to brittle paper, preventing bumps and tears caused by handling.

At home you can help slow the deterioration of your books and family papers by storing them out of direct sunlight, in a dry and clean place. Garages, sheds and basements are not good places for storing older historical material as they tend to be damp, dusty and light and temperature is uncontrolled.

Put historical papers and photos in clean new file folders and boxes. Don’t attempt repairs to tears with any kind of sticky tape, don’t have documents laminated as this causes irreversible damage.

Don’t put book cases directly against outside walls, leave a gap for air circulation between the book case and the wall or preferably put the book case against an internal wall.

The National Preservation Office at the National Library of NZ provides more detailed advice on the care of collections from their website.


Anna Blackman

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