Lights of the City

Monday, December 21st, 2020 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post researched and written by Curator of Photographs Anna Petersen

Fig. 1 Lights of Dunedin, c.2000. John R. Lamb 35mm slide, P2017-033-055.

Illumination is a topical subject in Dunedin at present as the City Council continues to roll out the new LED lights, designed to cut down on energy consumption and enhance our night sky.  As we also enter the season of light, it seems a good time to make a quick survey of what the Hocken Photographs Collection has to offer as evidence of the different technologies used to light our way over the years and decorate the main business district.

Fig 2. Princes Street, Dunedin, 1861. F.A. Coxhead reprint of Meluish photograph, Box-116-003.

Looking back at the earliest images of our streets, dated between 1860-1861, it is not hard to imagine that in the beginning it must have been very dark and quite hazardous on a cloudy or moonless night. Some hotels might have had candle lanterns over the doorways, but for the most part, there were no street lights.  Even in the daytime, the first roads were dangerously uneven, with potholes and drainage ditches.[1]  A photograph of the main street taken c.1861 reveals how the road basically doubled as the footpath.

The early 1860s saw a period of rapid expansion, however, made possible through the formation of Dunedin Gas Light and Coke Company in mid-1862 and new-found civic revenue from the gold rush.[2]

Fig. 3 Princes Street, 1867. W. Burton photograph, Album 076, P1910-009-002.

By September 1863, pipes from the new gasworks in South Dunedin fed 150 gas lamps along Princes, George and Stuart streets, beside purpose-built footpaths.[3] This development made Dunedin the first settlement in New Zealand to have central city street lighting.

Fig. 4 Octagon, 1867. W. Burton photograph, Album 076, P1910-009-016.

Yet, of course, Dunedin was still a very small place in the great scheme of things and new technological advances continued overseas.  Thomas Edison patented the first commercially viable electric light bulb in 1878 and even as Dunedin’s public gas lights were being extended to the suburbs of Caversham, Mornington, Roslyn and St Kilda in 1882, major businesses like the Roslyn Woollen Mills were beginning to adopt electric lights on their premises.[4]  An Otago Daily Times (ODT) newspaper report about this advance at the Mill in 1885 noted the different quality of light that electricity generated.  ‘The first thing that attracted attention was the steadiness and brilliancy of the light as compared with the old system of lighting with kerosene lamps, which has been in vogue for the five years during which the mills have been working night and day.’[5]

By the turn of the century, electric light bulbs had become an important form of decoration and source of illumination, emitted through shop and office windows in the downtown area.  Evidently, when the Duke and Duchess of York visited in 1901, ‘there was scarcely a shop or office [on Princes Street] that did not help to swell the general brightness of the street in the evening.’[6]  The Council briefly set up a dynamo driven by a traction engine to power light bulbs decorating the Town Hall and welcome arches in the Octagon, making it ‘a scene of great beauty’.[7]

Fig. 5 Balmoral Arch, Dunedin, 1901. C.C. Armstrong photograph, P2001-027-003. Note the light bulbs above the arrowslit windows and along the castellations.

As evidence mounted to suggest electricity was the way of the future, the idea of funding the replacement of the public gas lights nevertheless met with some resistance.  In one heated letter to the editor of the ODT, J. Watt, a gas engineer in Balclutha, wrote ‘… We have been told times without number that great things have been done in America and elsewhere.  We don’t want to know what has been done in America or anywhere else… Electric light may be the coming light, but I think those who are likely to use it are entitled to know what it will cost before it does come, and not to be asked to assist in buying a pig in a poke…’.[8] Mr Watt had done the sums for operating 16, 20 or 25 lights at 70 candle-power (i.e. roughly 880 lumens).  He calculated the expense comparing other places in New Zealand like Gore, Patea and Stratford, where electric lights had been operating for some years at a rate of seven pence a unit, and found the gas lights in Balclutha operated at not much more than a fourth of the cost.

Concerns were also raised by citizens about the safety of electrical cables, yet there was no halting the global trend towards the adoption of electricity and ten arc lights were erected in Custom Square and along Princes Street as far as the Octagon at the end of 1904.  

Fig. 6 Dunedin Exchange, 1904-1905. Photographer unknown, P1990-015/49-274. Note the arc light in the foreground on the left.

These electric bulbs, suspended from sinuous iron frameworks, connected to the electric tramlines laid down in the area a year beforehand.  There was little fanfare at the time, but in a brief, untitled ODT article, the reporter described how ‘The effect was a beautiful one, and when these lights are at the maximum of 2000 candle-power each there will be no more brightly-lighted thoroughfare in New Zealand than Princes and George streets.  As it was, even the white lights from the incandescent gas lamps along the streets appeared last evening but a pale, sickly yellow in comparison.’[9]  The promise of more power came from plans to connect the lights to a hydro-electric station at Waipori, which happened in 1907.

Fig. 7 Octagon, Dunedin, 1913. S.T. Paterson glass plate negative, P2005-014/1-077.

All of the photographic evidence of the street lights in Dunedin up until this point had been taken during the day.  Photography itself is dependent on there being sufficient light and it was not until the 1890s that art photographers overseas began experimenting with capturing street scenes at night with the aid of artificial light.[10]  We know that members of the Dunedin Photographic Society used flash bulbs for photographs of interiors in 1894, but photographers generally seem to have been slow to address the subject of night scenes here.  Figure 8 is one of the earliest examples that we have.  This view of decorations on the Town Hall was probably taken in May 1920, when the building was lit up for the reception of Edward, Prince of Wales.  Thanks to the Waipori Power Station, Dunedin evidently provided ‘staggering illuminations, which completely eclipsed those of Christchurch.’[11]

Fig. 8 Town Hall at night, [May 1920?] Photographer unknown, P2015-011/4-030.

The new technologies for photographing colour (i.e. refracted light) that emerged in the twentieth century would similarly lag behind advances in coloured electric lighting.  The first neon lights appeared in Dunedin in the 1920s.  Jim Sullivan has described how the Arthur Barnett ‘Can’t stop’ sign of the man on a horse was created in 1930 and David Murray has written about the Barton’s signage in one of his blog posts.[12]  While there were photomechanical ways of producing colour used in the manufacture of postcards of Dunedin from the early 1900s, and hand colouring was always an option, it was not until the development of Kodak’s first Kodachrome film in 1935 that people could really get into colour photography.  Even then, it remained an expensive pursuit until about the 1970s.  A 35mm slide taken by the much-celebrated George Chance records the decorations for another royal occasion – the Queen’s visit in 1954.

Fig. 9 Dunedin Chief Post Office decorated for the Royal Visit, 1954. George Chance slide, P1991-023/19-4618.

Turning finally to evidence of developments over the last 50 years, the Franz Barta studio collection of commercial negatives, includes two images of the Octagon Theatre in 1965 by night and another of unlit neon signs in the vicinity during the daytime.

Fig. 10 Octagon Theatre, 1965. Franz Barta film negative, P1997-156/09-292.
Fig. 11 Galbraith’s Building, 1962. Franz Barta film negative, P1997-156/09-034.

A few years on, engineer Edward Dwyer made his own private study of lighting in the central city c.1967-1970. These photographs were taken during the period before weekend trading began, when locals would go shopping on Friday night. 

Fig. 12 Exchange and Princes Street, 7am, July 1967. Ed Dwyer photograph, P2017-013/3-004. Note the Kingston lanterns on spun concrete poles that were new in 1964. Where they appeared as pairs (as in the bottom of this photograph), they provided approximately 35,000 lumens per 100 feet. (See P1997-156/03-009 for lumen specifications.)
Fig. 13 Princes Street on a Friday night, 8pm, c.1967-1969. Ed Dwyer photograph, P2017-013/3-005.

With two contrasting shots of the same area taken in the dark of early morning and evening (figures 12 and 13), one begins to see negative effects of light pollution, which has become more of a concern in recent times. 

On a more positive note, another of Ed Dwyer’s photographs (figure 14), taken at dusk on George Street during Festival Week in 1970, records the Christmas candle decorations that delighted children growing up in the 1970s and captures something of the upbeat mood described in the lyrics of the popular song, ‘Downtown’, by Petula Clark (1964):

[Pre-Chorus]
Just listen to the music of the traffic in the city
Linger on the sidewalk where the neon signs are pretty
How can you lose?
The lights are much brighter there
You can forget all your troubles, forget all your cares

[Chorus]
So go downtown
Things will be great when you’re downtown
No finer place for sure, downtown
Everything’s waiting for you

Fig. 14 Friday night shopping, Festival Week, Dunedin, January 1970. Ed Dwyer photograph, P2017-013/1-001.

Most recently, a collection of 35mm slides taken by the late John R. Lamb and dating from the start of the new millenium, focus on neon signs and floodlit buildings around Dunedin.  Clearly, by the beginning of the 21st century the city no longer needed the event of a royal visit to highlight its significant architectural heritage and express civic pride in light. The use of dramatic colour on the Town Hall continues to this day. 

Fig. 15 Dunedin Town Hall, c.2000. John R. Lamb 35mm slide, P2017-033-049.

Even a brief overview of Hocken photographs focusing on lighting technology and its use in the heart of Dunedin over the last 150 years, illustrates the efforts made and resources spent over the generations to develop a safe, attractive and prosperous urban environment, and provides evidence of the enduring joy and wonder that light can bring.


[1] ‘Street lighting’, Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand https://teara.govt.nz/en/streets-and-lighting/page-5 (accessed 12/6/2019).

[2] Karen Astwood, IPENZ Engineering Heritage Report, Dunedin Gasworks, 2014, pp.5-7.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] ‘The Electric Light at the Mosgiel Factory’, Otago Daily Times, 3 October 1885.

[6] ‘Decorations and Illuminations’, Otago Witness, 3 July 1901.

[7] Ibid.

[8] For example, see ‘Gas v. Electricity’, Otago Daily Times (ODT), 11 August 1904.

[9] ODT 8 November 1904.

[10] Michel Frizot, A New History of Photography, 1998, p.285.

[11] ‘The Illuminations at Dunedin’, The Mercury 20 May 1920.  See also ‘The Illuminations on the Town Hall, Dunedin’, Otago Witness, 1 June 1920.

[12] Jim Sullivan, ‘Time to get Can’t Stop restarted’, Otago Daily Times, 29 January 2019, https://www.pressreader.com/new-zealand/otago-daily-times/20190129/281788515283549 (accessed 22 January 2020) and David Murray, ‘Bartons Buildings (Stafford House)’, https://builtindunedin.com/2013/08/14/bartons-buildings/ (accessed 22 January 2020).

Hot Shots from the ‘60s

Image

Post researched and written by Curator of Photographs Anna Petersen

Fig 1 Johnny Devlin at the Empire Ballroom, London, 1965-1966, P2004-044/2-082.

The Geoff Adams collection of slides, prints and negatives in the Hocken Photographs Collection stand out for their colourful, rather racy nature. 

Predominantly portraits of actors, artists, singers, TV broadcasters, dancers and sportsmen, they were all taken in London during the mid-1960s and tell of those swinging times when television had just come in and the Avengers, Twiggy and the Beatles ruled the airwaves.  The eyes of the women are heavy with black mascara and the men wear tight-fitting tops – why there are even two shots of Clive Revill and Raquel Welch, greatest sex bomb of them all.


Fig. 2 Terry Callahan, 1966, P2004-044/2-045.
Fig. 3 Bridget Armstrong, 1964-1967, P2004-044/2-039.
Fig. 4 Paddy Frost in Battersea Park, 1964-1967, P2004-044/2-035
Fig. 5 Noel Trevarthan, 1966, P2004-044/2-080.
Fig. 6 Clive Revill and Raquel Welch on the set of Fathom, 1966. P2004-044/2-025

As the world ground to a halt with Covid lockdown, I took the opportunity to contact Geoff and ask him more about these photographs, which date from one of the busiest periods of his working life.

Geoff was living the dream of many young journalists at the time.  He first won a USA State Department journalism scholarship offered by the US Embassy in Wellington, which took him to the States for three months on an all-expenses paid tour of many of its main cities.  ‘That tour covered the two party conventions held before the LBJ-Goldwater presidential election, the World’s Fair in New York and the murder of civil rights workers in the Mississippi.’[i] 

From America, Geoff moved to London (and was joined by his wife, Helen and young family) to take up a three-year placement as solo resident correspondent in London for New Zealand Associated Press (NZAP).  Those three years, between 1964-1967, ‘included a few brief visits to Ireland, Scotland, France and Belgium for news stories or conference reporting, and also a fortnight’s tour of Russia (the latter ‘with Vladimir, my KGB escort, was very eerie but exciting’).[ii] 

The NZAP (not to be confused with the NZPA or New Zealand Press Association, which until 2011 offered a news service to all newspapers in New Zealand), was a consortium of the NZ Herald (Auckland), Evening Post (Wellington), The Press (Christchurch), and the Otago Daily Times (Dunedin).  While the NZPA dealt with hard news and the newspapers Geoff served wanted feature stories and photographs, ‘the two did occasionally compete’. [iii]

Geoff recalls how he enjoyed moments in his office at 107 Fleet St of racing with his secretary to get films developed and fine prints made within an hour at a studio close to his office in Ludgate Circus, and then cabling the stories to New Zealand ‘to meet the late edition for publication by lunch the next day’.[iv]

This was the period when papers were making the switch to colour and, though Geoff only carried a ‘rough and ready’ camera, there were times when his efforts made it to the front page or created a double-page spread in the centre of the New Zealand Weekly News, a big magazine (long defunct) that was started by the NZ Herald.

Fig. 7 ‘The New Johnny Devlin’, New Zealand Weekly News, 30 January 1967, pp.18-19.
Fig. 8 ‘Trooping the Colour’, New Zealand Weekly News, 27 July 1966, pp. 36-37.

Portraits in the Geoff Adams collection include such British celebrities as Diana Rigg, Patrick McGoohan, Noel Coward, Lynn Redgrave, Dudley Moore and Malcolm Muggeridge, but the newspapers and readers Geoff served were especially crying out for illustrated articles about New Zealanders who were making a splash overseas.  They could not get enough of Kiri Te Kanawa in particular, who went to study at the London Opera Centre in 1966. 

Fig. 9 Kiri on arrival in London, 1966, P2004-044/1-002.

Having a life-long interest himself in music, Geoff well remembers capturing Dame Kiri on the balcony of New Zealand House, together with Inia Te Wiata, who was a close friend of his.  Whenever Geoff visited New Zealand House and could hear Inia banging or singing as he worked in the basement on the carved pouihi (for eventual display in the foyer of New Zealand House), he would go down for a chat and they would often have lunch together at a pub over the road.

Fig. 10 Inia Te Wiata, 1965-1966, P2004-044/1-004.
Fig. 11 Pou Ariha [detail], 1965-1966, P2004-044/2-075.

While it was the journalist’s job to hunt out and pursue newsworthy stories by contacting agents of the more famous and arranging interviews, sometimes it was the journalists themselves who were called to provide much wanted publicity.  For example, Geoff was invited along with other Commonwealth journalists in 1966 to the opening of the new Playboy Club on Park Lane.  There he discovered 23-year-old bunny, Colleen Turner, all the way from Auckland.

Fig. 12 Colleen Turner, 1966, P2004-044/2-048.

The art-related slides include valuable records of artists, Melvin Day, Ted Bullmore and John and Warwick Hutton at work in their studios, as well as a series relating to the production of the first New Zealand decimal coins at the Royal Mint in 1967. 

Fig. 13 John Hutton and his son, Warwick, 1964-1967, P2004-044/2-112.

These latter document the whole process from the translation of James Berry’s designs to plaster models, to the making of the dies and striking the 165 million new coins.[v]

Fig. 14 Royal Mint, London, 1967, P2004-044/2-119
Fig. 13 Royal Mint, London, 1967, P2004-044/2-137
Fig. 16 Royal Mint, London, 1967, P2004-044/2-146.

Geoff subsequently brought his talents back home to Dunedin and spent the rest of his career working for the Otago Daily Times, first as deputy editor for 11 years and then as editor from 1988-1997.  His collection of 171 prints, 124 film negatives and 196 slides from the 1960s form a distinct body of work, available under the reference number P2004-044, but also represent just part of the strong association that the Hocken holds with our major local newspaper, the Otago Daily Times.


[i] Email correspondence, 9 April 2020.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Telephone conversation, 8 April 2020. 

[v] ‘New Zealand adopts decimal currency’.  URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/nz-adopts-decimal-currency,(Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 3-Aug-2017.  https://www.royalmint.com/discover/uk-coins/making-the-coins-in-your-pocket/, (viewed 15 April 2020).

Out of the box: the Blackie family collection

Thursday, January 11th, 2018 | Hocken Collections | 12 Comments

Post researched and written by Ali Clarke, Hocken Collections Assistant

An undated photograph of the Blackie family farmhouse near Kaitangata. The farm was named Pendreich. MS-4443/149.

In the Blackie family farmhouse, beside the Matau branch of the Clutha River, near Kaitangata, was a large table. Into a drawer in that table went all sorts of pieces of paper, from tickets and receipts to letters and notebooks. Over more than a century and three generations, the oldest items were pushed to the back of the drawer as new items were added; a collection of fascinating items detailing the life of the farm, the family and the district accumulated.

Those papers form one part of a wonderful collection of Blackie family papers and photographs, donated to the Hocken by Judith Robinson over the past few years. We have recently completed full arrangement and description of the collection, which is now listed on our online catalogue, Hākena (reference ARC-0329).

The Blackie family, originally from Dundee, began its connection with Otago in 1848, when James Blackie arrived in Dunedin on the ‘Philip Laing’ as first school master of the Otago Free Church colony. He started a school in Dunedin, but became ill with tuberculosis; he went to Sydney late in 1850 and died there early in 1851. He had bought land for a farm near Kaitangata and, after various legal complications, his brother Davidson Blackie, plus wife Margaret Pandrich and four children, migrated to take up the land, arriving at Kaitangata in 1860. Three generations of Blackies ran the farm, while some family members branched out. Davidson Blackie’s son James was an early student of the University of Otago and the first graduate of the local Theological Hall – he served as a Presbyterian minister in Cromwell and Lumsden and large surrounding districts until his early death. His widow, Jeanetta Blackie, was first principal of the Presbyterian Women’s Training Institute (later known as Deaconess College), and one of his daughters, Agnes Blackie, was a long-serving physics lecturer at the university. Davidson’s son Alexander worked on the family farm, talking a couple of years off in the late 1870s for an extensive world tour. Alexander’s daughter Nell was a physical education teacher and inspector, while his daughter Rhoda completed a home science degree and had a long career at Southland Technical College. Nell and Rhoda both retired back to the farm, where they lived with their brother Davidson and sister Pansie. Another part of the family was in North Otago. Margaret Blackie (Rev. James and Alexander’s sister) married William Dewar; they farmed near Maheno and had a large family. Two of their sons, Alexander and Davidson, were killed in World War I.

The collection is wonderfully rich and it is only possible to highlight a few of its treasures here. There are many letters between family members and friends in New Zealand and Scotland, and also cousins in the USA, describing life in those places. There is an unusually full set of papers relating to Davidson and Margaret Blackie and children’s migration from Dundee to Otago, including their tickets, and some older items they brought with them (music, old family ledgers, school books). There are many accounts and receipts for farms and households. The papers of individual family members vary according to their work and interests. Among the items relating to the University of Otago are Rev. James Blackie’s 1870s student notebooks, Rhoda Blackie’s 1910s home science essays and Agnes Blackie’s reminiscences of her life as a student and then lecturer of physics from the 1910s to the 1950s. There are many items relating to World War I, including letters from various family members and friends on active service. A large collection of photographs ranges from 1840s and 1850s daguerreotypes to twentieth century studio portraits and informal snapshots.

We are very grateful to Judith Robinson, whose late husband Keith Robinson was a grandson of Rev. James and Jeanetta Blackie, for the donation of this collection.

Among the oldest items in the collection are these three manuscript books of music. One is named Alex Laing; there are dates in the 1810s next to some tunes. They include many traditional Scottish tunes – below is a close-up of another page from the one named Alex Laing. At first we wondered if they were for the bagpipes, but now suspect they may be for the violin. We welcome any further thoughts on that! MS-4456/180.

A receipt for two heifers, purchased by James Blackie in Dunedin in 1849, and another for two cows, a calf and a chestnut mare, which John Salmond was to take charge of for Blackie the following year. The ailing Blackie travelled to Sydney, but died there a few months later. MS-4456/126.

This is one of several letters written by Rev. Thomas Burns, religious leader of the Otago colony, to the Blackie family in Scotland about the estate of James Blackie. There is also a power of attorney for Burns to manage the estate. MS-4456/125.

A ticket for the Blackie family’s voyage from Liverpool to Auckland in 1859. They travelled from Dundee to Glasgow by train, then by steamer to Liverpool, on the ‘Shooting Star’ to Auckland, then by coastal ship to Dunedin. MS-4456/184.

During his trip to Australia, North America, Asia and Europe in 1878-1879, Alexander Blackie kept a journal. This page shows his impressions of Gallipoli: ‘This is not a large place by any means but from the amount of interest & remarks made about it both during the Crimean & Turko Russian War it is evidently a place of considerable Importance Possibly from its situation on the straits & the difficulty of forcing a passage it it once was in the hands of Russia’. MS-4456/111.

The first page of James Blackie’s notebook for zoology lectures at the University of Otago in 1879. MS-4465/006.

Some receipts relating to Rev. James Blackie’s death and funeral, 1897. He had travelled to Dunedin for medical treatment. MS-4443/082.

While there are many World War I letters in the collection, this is something rarer: letters from the South African War. James McDonald was a ploughman for the Blackies. He headed to war as a bugler with New Zealand’s 5th contingent to South Africa, writing home to his employer, Alexander Blackie. MS-4456/074.

Davidson Blackie was one of several family members to serve in World War I – these are his identification tags. He was ‘a reluctant soldier’, noted Judith Robinson; ‘When we cleared out the house in 1982/3 after cousin Rhoda died, we found his army pack, just as he left it on returning home – dirty sox, half used (cake) toothpaste etc., programmes for shipboard concerts etc’. MS-4462/047.

Perhaps the oldest photograph in the collection is this daguerrotype, dating from around the 1840s or 1850s. It is thought to be of Alexander Blackie (1788-1874), father of James and Davidson Blackie, and his second wife, Mary Henderson. MS-4443/217.

Another 1840s-1850s daguerrotype, of an unidentified man, has a beautiful case. MS-4443/212.

Agnes Blackie with her first car, ‘Matilda’, purchased in 1930. MS-4443/126.

A Fireside Family Favourite

Sunday, October 1st, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

Blog post researched and written by Emma Scott, Hocken Collections Assistant.

V.1:no.1 (1898:January 1) page 1

Two weeks ago we were kindly donated “The Home Circle: an Instructive & Entertaining Magazine for the Family  & Fireside”. This was the first time any of the Publications Collections Assistants had seen this particular periodical before, so it was a very special discovery.

The Home Circle was published fortnightly in Oamaru and distributed throughout the Oamaru district. The first issue was published on January 1st 1898 and included an introduction explaining that the purpose of The Home Circle was to “help foster the home life” of it’s readers as they are “convinced that the home is the seat of national strength and vitality”. The Home Circle contains “articles on Social Questions, a Column for the Ladies, a Children’s Page, “Quaint Talks” by John Blunt, Short Stories (original and selected), Records of Local Doing, Notes and Comments on matters of passing interest”. The magazine was distributed gratis for the first three months it was published in the hope that readers would be interested enough to subscribe to it at the end of March. The publication must have continued, as we hold v.1:no.1 (1898:January 1) to v.2:no.8 (1899:April 27).

The “Ladies’ Column” features such topics as; personal appearance: “the untidy member of the family who utterly disregards her personal appearance is a great trial to her friends” (v.1:no.1 1898 January 1, page 8), how to keep children away from home: “when the children run in from outdoor play on little errands of their own, don’t fail to seize on any possible excuse for detaining them in the house” (v.1:no.20 1898 November 3, page 236), unattractive homes: “One often sees a man coming home tired and depressed from his day’s work, hoping to find a little comfort and cheering at home… When he is greeted instead with a dirty house and a cold hearth, or when a sudden fit of tidiness had prompted his wife to begin to scrub out rooms late in the afternoon, then he may feel strongly tempted to put on his hat again and take the shortest cut to the public-house” (v.2:no.6 1899 March 30, page 68) and what men like in women: “they like women whose lives and faces are always full of the sunshine of a contented mind and a cheerful disposition” (v.2:no.3 1899 February 9, page 32).

V.1:no.20 (1898:November 3) page 236

“Quaint talks by John Blunt” is another regular column with the subtitle: “A plain blunt man, I only speak right on; I tell you that which you yourselves do know”. John Blunt is a “straight forward sort of chap” who “calls a spade a spade”. Some of his musings include: “I would not give a fig for a man who is not punctual to his engagements, and who never makes up his mind to a certain course till the opportunity is lost. Those who hang back, hesitate, and tremble, – who never are on hand for a journey, a trade, a sweetheart, or anything else are poor sloths” (v.1:no.7 1898 April 28, page 79).

The “Bits of Humour” section on the back page includes jokes very reminiscent of the jokes contained in Christmas crackers, and just like on Christmas day, you can easily picture a family reading them out at the dinner table. One part of the humour column which caught my eye is called “An Interesting Love-Letter”, see attached image:

V.1:no.9 (1898:May 26) page 108

Local news and advertisements are scattered throughout the journal, including advertisements for W M’Donald on Exe Street (for dyes and woollen wearing apparel), B Mollison & Co. on Thames St (for boots and shoes), C. Martin on Thames St (photographer) and J.H. Cunningham on Tyne Street (for plain and ornamental printing).

 V.1:no.1 (1898 January 1) page 12

If you are interested in looking at the Home Circle or any of our other fascinating publications, archives or pictorial collections come along to the Hocken Collections! We are open from 10am to 5pm Monday to Saturday.

Roy Colbert

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | No Comments

By Amanda Mills, Hocken Liaison Librarian, Curator Music and AV

It is with great sadness that we acknowledge the passing of Roy Colbert.

Colbert’s contribution to the local music scenes in Dunedin can not be understated – his 2nd hand music store ‘Records Records’ (formerly located in the Terrace Houses in Stuart Street) was the place many discovered new and different sounds, often recommended by the man himself. His mentoring of and friendship with Dunedin musicians was legendary, his influence so strong that Chris Knox called him ‘The Godfather’ of the Dunedin Sound. Colbert was also a very fine writer on all topics, especially sport and music, and his stories about local and international artists were told with honesty, humour, goodwill, and (more often than not) his tongue firmly in cheek.

Roy Colbert was a supporter of Hocken’s recorded music collections from its establishment in the 1970s when we began purchasing items from Records Records. Most recently in April this year a small number of rare NZ 45rpm discs were purchased from Roy.

Roy Colbert’s legacy looms large in Dunedin music, his kind and gregarious nature will not be forgotten, and he will be greatly missed.

Why preserving the original matters

Friday, April 7th, 2017 | Anna Blackman | 4 Comments

Post compiled by Dr Anna Petersen, Curator of Photographs

Now that such high quality digital copies of historic photographs are possible, people sometimes question why preserving the original matters.  There are actually many reasons that can be given to justify this core business at the Hocken but this blog post will just touch on a few in relation to one specific item, P2014-001, in the Photographs Collection.

What would prove the annual highlight of donations for 2014 arrived just after New Year, when a lady walked in holding an old Christmas card box containing a family heirloom.  Mrs Joan Miskimmin had been given the contents by her father, P.D.J. Cockerill, and decided to gift it to the Hocken for safekeeping.

Once the photograph had been carefully removed from the wrapping and traces of red glitter blown away, the portrait of a young man with a small child on his knee looked familiar.  The Hocken already had a copy print of the photograph on file and the image had been published over the years in a number of books, always identified as the well-known whaler and pioneer Dunedin businessman, John Jones.  The donor knew by then, however, that this information was incorrect.

Fig. 1 John Jones, copy print, S11-315.

Thanks to maritime historian Ian Farquhar, someone had thought to question this attribution and hunted down the original.  John Jones was born in 1808 or 1809, married Sarah Sizemore in 1828 and together they had eleven children.  This would have made John in his early 30s when Daguerre first patented the daguerreotype and Talbot developed the calotype process in 1840.  Though it is often difficult to define people’s age, things didn’t seem to quite add up so Ian invited Associate Professor Erika Wolf from the University of Otago to accompany him to the owner’s home and advise on the probable date by looking at the photograph itself.

Fortunately, the history of photography encompasses the rapid development and use of many different materials and technical processes and using her knowledge, Erika could quickly determine the portrait as an ambrotype.  Ambrotypes belong to the small category employing non-paper supports and are photographs on glass as opposed to daguerreotypes on polished metal, ferrotypes (commonly known as tintypes) on lacquered iron, and opaltypes on translucent white glass.  Like daguerreotypes, ambrotypes were often put into elaborate pinchpeck frames and cased for protection but can still be easily told apart when looking at the original by the fact that daguerreotypes have a mirrored appearance, turning from positive to negative when viewed from different angles.

Ambrotypes became popular around the world in the 1850s, so even though there is nothing on the artefact to say whether or not it was produced in New Zealand, enough information could be gleaned by looking at the original to rule out the initial identification.  The portrait is now thought to be of John Jones’s eldest son, John Richard Jones (1832-1911), and his eldest daughter, Mary Louise Sarah, who was born in August 1856.

Fig. 2 John Richard Jones and Mary Louise Sarah, ambrotype, c.1858.  Hocken Photographs Collection, P2014-001.

The Hocken Photographs Collection includes examples of all the early forms of nineteenth century photography.  Every year, classes of students at the University of Otago and Otago Polytechnic come to visit and learn to discern the differences by looking at the originals, Hocken staff routinely use this knowledge to help catalogue items and members of the public, including artists and photographers, request to see the real objects which have survived the years and can only be fully appreciated at first hand.  A small selection of early photographs on non-paper supports are shown below.

Fig. 3 Mother and daughter, hand-tinted daguerreotype, Whitelaw family collection, 1840-1850s. Hocken Photographs Collection, P1997-120-001.

 

Fig. 4 William Mathew Hodgkins, ambrotype, 1853 (removed from frame).  Hocken Photographs Collection, P1984-017. (Inscription on the back of the frame: ‘Photograph taken while in London the spring of 1853, at any rate before he went to Paris. The hair is not fouled, It is dressed in the fashion of the day.’)

 

Fig. 5 Three young men, ferrotype, Whitelaw family collection, 1860s-1870s.  Hocken Photographs collection, P1997-120-002. (According to historian Bill Dacker, hats were quite a feature of society in Lawrence around this time).

Fig. 6 Ellen Brook and her two daughters, Esther and Jane, opaltype, c.1895.  Hocken Photographs Collection, P1991-026. (They are dressed in mourning clothes after the death of their husband/father in a quarry during the building of the Otago Central Railway near Naseby.)

 

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:  http://www.newzealandzinereview.org.nz/. 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 serials.hocken@otago.ac.nz or phone us on 03 479 4372.

References:

AudioCulture – the noisy library of NZ music. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.audioculture.co.nz/

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 | Critic.co.nz. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.critic.co.nz/culture/article/1501/incredibly-hot-sex-with-hideous-people—bryce-gal

New Zealand Zine Review. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2016, from http://www.newzealandzinereview.org.nz/

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 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zine

Zines. (n.d.). Retrieved May 03, 2016, from http://www.wcl.govt.nz/popular/zines.html

 

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.

Recent purchases for the Ephemera Collection

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 | Hocken Collections | No Comments

Post by Katherine Milburn, Liaison Librarian – Ephemera

Staff at the Hocken are constantly on the search for new material to add to the collections. We rely on the generosity of donors and greatly value the contributions they make. Some other avenues used to hunt down relevant items include searching second hand stores, bidding at local and national auction houses and via online auction sites such as Trade Me and eBay. We are grateful to all those who alert us to material that may be of possible interest.

Purposeful collecting of ephemera began in the mid-1960s and although there are some older items in the collection, there is much earlier material that we would love to be able to add. The ephemera collection includes a wide variety of printed items from programmes, tickets, menus, leaflets, to posters and packaging. The collection focuses particularly on Otago and Southland material but does include items with a national scope too.

 

Here are pictured some items for local businesses, some of which are now defunct, that were recently found and purchased via Trade Me. They include a Huia Cream cap (the Hocken Collections occupy the former Otago Co-operative Dairy Company Limited building where Huia products were manufactured); a Manda Ice cream sticker (a company that was founded in Invercargill); a box for F. Wilkinson’s Emulsion of Cod Liver Oil (a chemist in Caversham, Dunedin); a hat box for D.I.C. (the Drapery and General Importing Company of New Zealand Ltd was established in Dunedin in 1884); and a Coulls Somerville Wilkie Ltd packaging sample book that features wonderful examples of packaging for a variety of local firms such as Hudsons and D.W. Johnston & Sons Ltd and is dated from c.1950s. Other recent purchases include a small sheet of stickers featuring the iconic brand for the New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board, and a striking poster for the 1975 Labour Party election campaign.

All of these items reflect aspects of New Zealand society and culture at the time they were manufactured and used; they are now valuable resource material that is available to all Hocken researchers.