The Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts Collection as a National Taonga
I shall begin fancifully, even romantically. One cold, but clear winter evening in August 1969, I was faced south on Bracken's Lookout, in Dunedin. Great curtains of throbbing light —green, red and white were transforming across the whole of the southern sky. It was a magical sight, the first and only time I have ever seen the Aurora Australis, and after watching for an hour or so we returned home full of the wonder of it. I did not look north that night, but had I done so in my mind's eye I might have seen another set of lights in the night sky the reflected glories of the archives and manuscripts based in Wellington; for 1968-1969 was a magical year for me in other ways, not least amongst them my discovery of the world of archives and manuscripts during my first real adult job, that of humble library assistant in the Hocken Library. After appointment I had gravitated almost immediately towards the archives and manuscripts collections and began cutting my teeth with an arrangement and description of the Downie Stewart papers. By the beginning of 1970, I was installed as the Hocken Library's first Curator of Manuscripts.
Everybody has their own map or maps of their country, and unless you are a cartographer, they are generally nothing like those to be found in an atlas. Chief amongst my own maps is one depicting the archives and manuscript resources of New Zealand. In 1969 the North Island on this map of mine was almost entirely represented by the centre of Wellington, which contained along a short axis the National Archives, the Turnbull Library, and the General Assembly Library, which collectively easily comprised the greatest assemblage of archives and manuscripts in the country. Auckland at that time scarcely featured on this map, though, through Michael Hitchings who had served an early apprenticeship under her, I had some awareness of the work and reputation of the redoubtable Enid Evans at the Auckland Institute and Museum Library. The Turnbull Library was very much on our horizon in those days. Michael Hitchings, the Hocken Librarian, had not long previously been
Assistant Chief Librarian of the Turnbull Library, and was full of Turnbull lore, not least in connection with the manuscripts collection. And then we had occasional visitors from the Turnbull Library itself — Graham Bagnall and his assistants Sheila Williams and Ray Grover, working on the retrospective National Bibliography. I do not remember Margaret Scott, then Manuscripts Librarian at Turnbull or her first assistant Peter Crisp, ever visiting, but in later years came June Starke and Sharon Dell. Of more moment was the publication by the Alexander Turnbull Library in two parts of the Union Catalogue of New Zealand and Pacific Manuscripts in New Zealand Libraries, the first of notifications from libraries other than the Alexander Turnbull Library in November 1968, and the second of Turnbull Library notifications in November 1969. So we at Hocken were very conscious of the Turnbull Library and its collections, and to put it frankly somewhat envious of its resources. We were, I remember Michael Hitchings once saying, Turnbull's 'country cousins'. With some trepidation, it is my task this evening, as a country cousin, to provide a general appreciation of the Turnbull Library's Manuscript Collection and its place in the scheme of things and from, since I have been asked to give it, a viewpoint which presumably is not readily available to someone working within the institution and who would in fact be much more familiar with the collection's detailed contents than I am.
Where to start? First, it needs to be said at the outset, and I hope it is not heresy to this audience, that easily the greatest accumulation of archives in this country are the records of the New Zealand Government to be found in the National Archives, which had its beginnings in the National Historical Collection established in 1909 under the control of the Director of the Dominion Museum. Their size alone, approaching 30,000 linear metres, ensures them this place, and the comprehensiveness and range of their content from 1840, matching the involvement of government in almost every aspect of New Zealand life, right up to the present day, simply reinforces this judgement. Indeed the holdings of the National Archives are a huge, almost self-contained universe, which can in the manner of national archives everywhere be totally absorbing, indeed dangerously so, to those who work within them, and even to users who may find themselves completely lost in* a kind of limitiess inner space. Besides National Archives huge holdings we have to reckon also those of the Registrar-General and of the Lands and Deeds registries up and down the country. Yet even though researchers ignore the holdings of National Archives at their peril, they do suffer from one telling defect —they are essentially the compilation of a single agency—the New Zealand Government made from a single perspective, however fractured, reflecting the relationship of those who govern and those who are governed.
The contents of our repositories of manuscripts and private archives, on the other hand, have a much more varied provenance. Their collecting policies are essentially promiscuous; and within the limits of these policies, collections are built up as the opportunity offers. Consequentiy they do not reflect a single perspective, but instead display a kind of hybrid vigour, which gives them an intellectual excitement and usefulness out of all proportion to their much smaller size Turnbull's five and a half thousand linear metres or Hocken's three and a half thousand, shorn of its holdings of government archives. And it is doubtful if the combined holdings of private archives in all other repositories would exceed a further three thousand metres.
Having got National Archives out of the way and homed in on nonofficial archives and manuscripts, what is there that is distinctive about the Turnbull Library's manuscripts collection? The first thing that is striking is that Turnbull Library's collection does not stand on its own and indeed is a relative newcomer amongst existing manuscript collections. Of the three great nineteenth century collectors, whose activities led to the formation of substantial manuscript collections Sir George Grey, Thomas Morland Hocken, and Alexander Horsburgh Turnbull, Turnbull was by far the youngest. Twenty-four years separate the births of Grey and Hocken in 1812 and 1836 respectively, and a further thirty-two were to elapse before the birth of Turnbull in 1868, who died comparatively young at the age of 50 in 1918; he could well have lived another twenty or so years had his health been better. His early death partly disguises the fact that he was a relatively late starter. And had he had to make his money first, as Hocken had to, before beginning his collection, then it is probable that he would have had hardly any time for collecting at all. I do not know how Sir George Grey made his money but apart from preserving his own papers, his chief New Zealand interest was collecting Maori folklore, a task at which
he was conspicuously successful, and the fruits of which are now the crowning glory of the Grey Collection at the Auckland Public Library. Dr Hocken had a much wider interest in New Zealand manuscripts, and one which I suspect, because of his more established historical interests and wide contacts with many of the leading figures of the nineteenth century, he initially enjoyed more success than Turnbull during the 1890 s and the first decade of the twentieth century. Amongst his most notable acquisitions were the papers of Edward Shortland, of the Canterbury Association, of Captain William Cargill, and most famously of Samuel Marsden and the C.M.S. Mission. By the time Hocken was in full spate, Turnbull had only just begun, but the twin advantages of inherited wealth and the leisure that this gave him, combined with an energetic interest, soon had their effect. In particular, Turnbull seems to have had success in purchasing from London dealers, whereas Hocken's preferred mode was direct solicitation, either for
donation or for copying. Both shared the same interest in manuscripts relative to early years of European contact with the Maori, but Turnbull also had the means to extend his to include Pacific voyaging. It is difficult from Eric McCormick's biography of Alexander Turnbull to trace the development of his interest in manuscripts —the evidence is far too scanty even for McCormick. There are hints here and there. His first really important acquisition was a contemporary copy of Hick's Endeavour Log, 1768-1770, in 1900, and in 1905 he was able to purchase a Colenso diary and other papers. In 1909 he purchased six volumes of F. E. Maning letters for £llO and an E. G. Wakefield diary for £10; two letters of J. S. Polack rated 2 guineas. The years 1913 and 1914 were also good Kettle's diary was obtained for £35 from Kettle's daughter to the chagrin of the Hocken Library which could not raise the wind, Strutt's New Zealand diary, and letters of Domett
to Browning. Topping the list, in terms of outlay, was his purchase of the illustrated diaries of William Bambridge, one of Bishop Selwyn's assistants, in five volumes, 1841-1848, for the princely sum of £SOO, easily eclipsing his purchase of Captain Samuel Wallis' Log 1766-1768, for £250 in 1912. This is only scratching the surface. Turnbull's interest extended to early Australian manuscripts described by Sharon Dell in her article, 'Turnbull's Tuckerbag', in the Turnbull Library Record (May 1977). We badly need a published catalogue of Turnbull's own manuscript acquisitions so that the extent of his endeavours and success can be accurately determined. What is certain, however, is that in extent, the manuscript collections of both Hocken and Turnbull were in modern terms very small, and it is doubtful if when they transferred their collections to public ownership, in 1910 and 1918 respectively, that either of them would have taken up much more than two bays of modern shelving, though of course their quality was very high. But compared to the size of the book collections the manuscripts would have been minute.
Having witnessed the fate of both the Grey and Hocken Collections left to the care of a public library and university respectively, Turnbull opted very sensibly at the time to leave his to the Crown, or more accurately, 'To His Majesty the King', to constitute a reference library in the City of Wellington and to be kept together, prophetically as it turned out, 'as the nucleus of a New Zealand National Collection'. And after his death the Crown did indeed for a while live up to its obligations, appointing Johannes Andersen and three 'lady assistants' to catalogue the contents of the Library so it could be available for public use. Thereafter, it is somewhat easier to follow the fortunes of the manuscripts collection, through the published annual reports of the Library, in those of the Department of Internal Affairs. It would be tedious and not terribly useful to give you an accession by accession account of the next twenty or so years. However, several themes emerge
which were important for the later development and standing of the Library's manuscript collection. The first of these themes was that, though Government may have wavered in its commitment to the Library, particularly in the first years of the 19305, popular support and interest in the Library never died. This was reflected in the amazing number of readers and visitors which the Library had, even in those days, including classes of school children, training college students and even on occasion a party of visiting Japanese naval ratings. But the support was also reflected in the steady stream of gifts to the Library from a wide range of sources the papers of the Mair family which featured over many years, papers of S. Percy Smith, the manuscript of Lee and Kendall's 1820 Maori grammar, the diary of the surveyor, J. H. Baker, etc. Unlike the Hocken and Grey Collections which entered on a period of fallowness after their presentation, the Turnbull Library never ceased to acquire manuscripts.
Secondly during this period the Library secured two transforming donations which substantially laid the foundations for the collection's later pre-eminence the papers of the Mantells, father Gideon and son W. B. D., in 1927, and the papers of Sir Donald McLean, in all their massive completeness spanning the years, 1842-1876. These were collections on quite a different scale to those received hitherto, to be measured in feet rather than in number of items. More importantly their range and depth had the capacity to sustain extended research from more than one direction.
A third theme, and one which came as a surprise to me was the amount of copying by the Library of archives and manuscripts held elsewhere, so that they would be available to researchers using the Library. Although Dr Hocken, with his wife's help, had engaged in a good deal of copying of sources in private hands, my strong impression was that Alexander Turnbull did not do so. A true collector, probably more so than Hocken who had a strong touch of the historian, Alexander Turnbull preferred the original article. Copying, therefore, was a new departure for the Turnbull Library to have taken, either by requisitioning copies or making the copies itself. The programme, for that was what it became, of obtaining copies began at least as early as 1920, as there is mention in the Library's 1921 annual report, of obtaining by photostat copies of Meryon letters relative to New Zealand from the British Museum. The 1923 report records the copying of letters of Samuel Revans and John Wade. But the real business of copying began with the dispatch by the Church Missionary Society in 1934 of several hundred letters and journals to the Library. These covered the period 1830-1865 and the missionaries concerned included Morgan, Hadfield, Puckey, Ashwell, Baker, Spencer, and Ronaldson. Simultaneously copies were being made of Pharazyn, Capt F. Moore, and Samuel Stephen's papers. The CMS copying project was completed
in 1938. As the labour would have been great, it would have been of interest to know how it was achieved perhaps it was a local counterpart to the very famous contemporary American projects of the time. The point of this programme is that, as in the case of the Mantell and McLean donations, it filled a major gap in the Library's holdings and began a tradition of obtaining copies which has continued to the present day, immeasurably strengthening the Library's resources. The fourth theme of these years is, reading between the lines, that the Library began to experience increasing difficulty in controlling and providing access to its manuscript collections. The main preoccupation of the Library, naturally enough, was to catalogue the collection of books. A great deal was achieved but the cataloguers, with new accessions and necessary recataloguing, throughout the whole of the period were perpetually 20,000 volumes behind the goal of having all publications fully catalogued. A frequent cause of complaint was the time taken up by the many visitors to the Library. As there was at that time no single person specifically responsible for the manuscript collection, it is reasonably certain that work with manuscripts would tend to take a back seat. Certainly the long-heralded catalogue of manuscripts never seemed to approach publication. It was not until 1946 that a full time manuscripts librarian was appointed.
Finally there was a time, a moment in history, when the National Historical Collection and the Turnbull Library came together and the opportunity for a total archive in the modern Canadian mould presented itself. The fifth annual meeting of the Board of Science and Art in 1920, endorsed the transfer of the National Historical Collection, hitherto under the wing of the Dominion Museum, to the Alexander Turnbull Library. It was not to remain there as in 1926 control of it passed to Dr G. H. Scholefield, Parliamentary Librarian and from that date Controller of the Dominion Archives. In retrospect this was no bad thing, either for the Turnbull Library or for our nascent National Archives. It was potentially much more than the Turnbull Library could have handled, and the Library could have hung on to the National Historical Collection only either at the expense of its own growth or that of an emerging National Archives. In any case to have retained it could have changed the whole balance and character of the Library, and not necessarily for the better. In the event National Archives did not begin to prosper until it slipped the leash of General Assembly Library control and achieved its own separate identity after World War 11. Further, I would argue that the lack of identification, with government administration and government archives, has enabled the Library to project an image of impartiality and independence which has been very valuable to the Library in attracting deposits and donations in a country as small as New Zealand. It is hard to imagine the Federation of Labour, for instance, easily placing its archives in
our National Archives; but the Turnbull Library? Well, that is another matter. In short then, those inter-war years were crucial in providing the platform for the future development of the Manuscripts Collection. It had a record of growth and achievement which had made it the centre of New Zealand's manuscript world, and which it was to build upon to good effect along the same lines over the next thirty years to roughly 1970, though by that date some other libraries had emerged from their long slumber and there were in addition new entrants to the field. Some important dates are:
1947. Donation of some Katherine Mansfield letters, the first originals in any New Zealand library, and fascinatingly a manuscript of Frank Sargeson's A Man and his Wife. It would indeed be interesting to know the circumstances of its acquisition, as New Zealand letters had yet to achieve scholarly respectability. The Mansfield letters were a different matter, as Katherine herself was a cross-over figure with an established English reputation despite her New Zealand origins. 1952. Finalisation of New Zealand's participation in the Australian Joint Copying Project, initiated by the State Library of New South Wales and the National Library of Australia, and which was to be responsible for making available in New Zealand an immense amount of manuscripts and archives, both official and private, without the need to view the originals in the United Kingdom. Not only the Turnbull Library, but other libraries and the National Archives, have benefitted from the project. The first films arrived in 1956.
1955. The copying and deposit in the Library of minutes and other records of the Maori Land Court on microfilm, an initiative of the Department of Maori Affairs. 1956. Adoption of a common code of practice by New Zealand libraries for entries to be sent for a Union Catalogue of Manuscripts to be housed in the Turnbull Library. 1957. The purchase of major collections of Katherine Mansfield papers, 51 volumes and 480 letters, at auction in London and from Middleton Murry's estate, providing the real foundation for the Mansfield industry in New Zealand.
1962. CMS and Melanesian Mission Society (MMS) records on microfilm arrive. NZ Maori Purposes Fund Board papers (containing substantial Apirana Ngata material) presented to the Library. 1968-1969. Publication of the Union Catalogue of Manuscripts in New Zealand Libraries. This for the first time allows a glimpse of how the Turnbull Library's total holdings may be measured, and some comments on their general character in comparison with those in other libraries. For the Turnbull Library over 2,000 entries are provided as at November 1969. Because of the system of cataloguing adopted,
according to format, the number of individual collections is really somewhat less even allowing for differing provenance. The Mantell papers, embracing both father and son, has 44 entries, S. Percy Smith 17, Gilbert Mair 6, William Gilbert Mair 7, and the Mair family 1. Approximately 20 percent of the entries represent copies of originals in private possession or in other libraries. Particularly important in this respect is the contribution of microfilm from the Australian Joint Copying Project and, just beginning, of the Pacific Manuscripts Bureau, based in the Research School of Pacific Studies at the Australian National University established in 1968. A noticeable feature of the collection at this time is a very well established strength in Maori material papers of Elsdon Best, S. Percy Smith, NZ Maori Purposes Fund Board and the Polynesian Society.
Three comparative lacks are quite noticeable: 1. The papers of modern politicians the last Prime Minister significantly represented being Seddon. 2. Katherine Mansfield apart, New Zealand literary figures feature rather slightly —Mulgan, Satchell and Fairburn plus a few oddments of Baxter, Hall etc.
3. Archives of private organisations of New Zealand provenance, whether of business or of incorporated societies, are notably absent particularly so in contrast with later years, and those who feature show comparatively small holdings. The vast majority of entries, at least 80 percent, are under the names of individuals. Finally an examination of the Turnbull notifications reveals that geographically, particularly for the period after the consolidation of European settlement, a date which varies from place to place in New Zealand, the primary catchment area of the Turnbull Library's Manuscripts Collection is Wellington and, in a cricketing sense the Central Districts that is Nelson and Marlborough in the South Island, and the North Island Wairarapa, Manawatu, Hawke's Bay, Wanganui and Taranaki with a tendency to extend into Poverty Bay and the
West Coast. Otago, Canterbury and Auckland north of Taupo are, given the duration of European settlement in those regions and the relatively large size of their populations, comparatively poorly represented. A study of Part lof the Union List of notifications from libraries other than the Turnbull shows just why this is so. Containing 1,500 entries, but confessedly very incomplete, Part 1 shows the predominant number of reportings to have come from the Auckland Institute and Museum, Auckland Public Library, the Hocken and Hawke's Bay Art Gallery and Museum, with some from Canterbury Museum, Canterbury Public Library, Wellington Public Library and National Archives; good evidence that over the previous twenty years, manuscript curatorial institutions outside Wellington had begun to resume collecting with some vigour and to good purpose particularly in their home regions.
There was in fact a resurgence of interest in archives and manuscripts generally; amongst librarians under the aegis of the Archives Committee of the New Zealand Library Association; and at the National Archives, under Michael Standish. In the 1950 s National Archives experienced something of a golden period with the publication of a very useful set of preliminary inventories, which also stimulated local interest through its system of approved repositories under the 1957 Archives Act.
In effect what we had at the beginning of the 19705, setting aside the National Archives, was an archipelago of manuscript collections. The largest mass was centred in Wellington, with the Turnbull Library the largest of the islands, accounting for perhaps half the total number of manuscript collections the other half was unevenly distributed between the Hocken Library in Dunedin, the two Auckland repositories, and the two Canterbury ones, as well as the National Museum. There were also quite a number of non-reporting institutions, smaller islands still —Otago Early Settlers Association, the Marlborough Historical Society, the Nelson Provincial Museum, Dairy Company records collection at Massey, Wanganui Museum, the New Plymouth Public Library, the Taranaki Museum and the Auckland University Library —all had significant if unreported holdings of manuscripts. So that while the Turnbull Library still led by a good margin the largest manuscript collection in the country, it no longer enjoyed the same easy pre-eminence.
Not that it stopped the Turnbull Library, because the 1970 s were to see an extraordinary development in the size and range of its collection, taking full advantage of its strategic location in Wellington and increased resources, staffing and financial, that became available to it during that decade. Only the Hocken Library in Dunedin, taking advantage of some favourable opportunities peculiar to Dunedin, was able to attempt to match the Turnbull performance. The catalyst in part at least was two new manuscript librarians —a North American, Tom Wilsted, who joined the staff of the Library in 1974 before returning to the United States in 1978, and a historian of science Dr Michael Hoare, who succeeded Wilsted as Manuscripts Librarian from 1978 to 1983. Both, under Chief Librarian Jim Traue, a gifted publicist, were to take the Turnbull collection into the era of heavy archives, when the size of accession was to be routinely measured in numbers of shelf metres occupied rather than numbers of items or pages. This more proactive approach was introduced to New Zealand by Tom Wilsted who was familiar with the devices for increasing accessions from his North American experience. He identified a number of gaps, and initiated quite noticeable efforts to plug them. Foremost amongst these was the lack of modern politicans' papers. Previously if anything, these had been the domain of the National Archives, but its efforts in this direction had not been vigorous, and in any case its credibility
with donors and depositors had been badly dented over the Nash papers affair. Direct high level approaches for the papers of three former Prime Ministers were almost immediately successful those of Sir John Marshall, 1946-1975, (87 metres) in 1976; and shortly after of Sir Sidney Holland, 1943-1961, (20 metres) and of Sir Keith Holyoake, 1950-1974 (107 metres). In addition those of a number of lesser political lights were obtained. At the same time emphasis was given to attracting the records of the headquarters of national organisations with which Wellington is so richly endowed and on a much broader front of New Zealand experience, including business and sport, than had previously been represented in any substantial way in the collection. The key year was perhaps 1974, with major accessions being reported by the Wellington Chamber of Commerce, the New Zealand Shipping Co., the New Zealand Amateur Athletic Association, the New Zealand Farmers Union, and the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society; the following year —Gas Association of New Zealand, Kauri Timber Co, New Zealand Red Cross Society, and the year after that Corso and the Maori Women's Welfare League. The apogee of this frenzied bout of accessioning was 1977. Besides the Holland and Holyoake
papers the following were acquired in that year: Boys' Brigade of New Zealand, A. H. & A. W. Reed, Consolidated Goldfields of New Zealand, Lutheran Church of New Zealand, New Zealand Express Co, YMCA, New Zealand Table Tennis Association, and Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand. Towering above all others however was the massive 81 metres of Dalgety New Zealand, 1860-1940. When it is remembered that in the annual report of the Chief Librarian of the Alexander Turnbull Library to the National Library for the year ending March 1973 it was recorded that the total holdings of the Turnbull Manuscripts Collection were at that stage 550 linear metres, annual accessions being a mere 16 linear metres the scale of the transformation can be imagined. Nor were literary manuscripts neglected, and during this period and on into the 1980 s, beginning with the purchase of the Denis Glover collection at the beginning of the decade, the papers of other New Zealand writers began to be systematically collected notably those of Frank Sargeson and later Dan Davin. The staffing resources of the manuscripts collection were also increased to cope —being but two in 1970 had risen to four and a half by 1980, and by the mid 1980 s had reached six.
Of course the pace could not, did not last. Some cooling of administrative feet and the constraints of space did in the 1980 s lead to a slow down in accessions —particularly with respect to bulky business archives, and from 1984, with the fall of the Muldoon government, National Archives resumed its traditional interest in ministerial papers. But by 1980 the holdings of the Turnbull Manuscripts Collection had been totally transformed, and for the better. Prior to 1970 there was
a danger of it becoming over-refined and increasingly unrepresentative of New Zealand life. The Wilsted revolution, if I may use that term, changed all that and made the collection modern, and relevant, and much more representative. To be representative means not to be overselective. I should like to think that there will always be a place for the records of the equivalent of the New Zealand Table Tennis Association and the Wellington Archery Club in the Turnbull Manuscripts Collection.
What then today is the standing of the Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts Collection. How important is it? Within the Turnbull Library, it is in my view, one of the two most important New Zealand collections, the other being that of newspapers. If a fire were to destroy all the Turnbull Library’s collections these nationally would be our two greatest losses. After all just about every publication would be duplicated one way or another in other New Zealand libraries and overseas. The pictorial collections painting and photographs would of course be an enormous loss. But the most important images have been already published one way or another, and in my view it is very seldom that a picture is worth a thousand words. Pictures and photographs can be extraordinarily unrevealing. More often it is the case that a thousand words is worth a hundred pictures. Newspapers on the other hand I rate very highly, because at their best they provide contemporary insights which even manuscripts cannot offer, if only on a very public level.
When looking at the Turnbull Manuscripts Collection as a whole, particular individual collections stand out, and I offer my personal selection here of the ten most important: Mansfield papers; McLean papers; Dalgety papers; New Zealand Federation of Labour; National Council of Women; Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society; New Zealand Maori Purposes Fund Board papers; Mantell papers; Marsden/Mantell; Holyoake papers. Flow would these measure up in the national selection of ten, drawing on the contents of all our repositories, excluding the official holdings of National Archives and of other in-house archives? My best ten would look something like this: Grey Maori manuscripts Auckland Public Library; Logan Campbell papers Auckland Institute and Museum Library; Mansfield papers Alexander Turnbull Library; McLean papers Alexander Turnbull Library; New Zealand Federation of Labour Alexander Turnbull Library, with the Canterbury Trades Hall Collection at Canterbury University Library; Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society Alexander Turnbull Library; Nash papers —National Archives; CMS Missionary Papers Hocken Library; Brasch/Landfall papers Hocken Library; National Mortgage Agency Hocken Library; Dalgety New Zealand Alexander Turnbull Library.
I am sure this is a controversial selection but my criterion has primarily been the width of use and interest a collection is likely to
have nationally. So for this reason the likes of Baxter and Sargeson are excluded, but so also are the archives of the Plunket Society and the National Council of Women, etc, which certainly do have national application, and of Sir Ernest Marsden.
The Turnbull collection in fact comes out of this exercise rather well, as was to be expected, but it certainly does not tell the whole story about the nature of its holdings. Rather its real strength lies in the great number, many of them quite small but all contributing, of individual sets of papers within the whole. Taken together they constitute a rich finely grained cultural loam that has the power to fertilise most lines of historical research. Whereas other individual repositories may have one, two, or perhaps three sets of papers relevant to a particular line of enquiry, the Turnbull will commonly have four, five, six or more collections. To take a concrete example, that of health, which has been surveyed and listed by Frank Rogers Hocken has fifty-three relevant sets of papers, but the Turnbull had no fewer than one hundred and seventy-eight.
But my national selection of ten does illustrate another point —it shows the national collection of manuscripts and private archives is not located entirely within the Turnbull Library, but is distributed across a range of repositories. My image of the archipelago drawn from the 1969-1970 published Union listing still holds true. There is a rather distressing tendency for any collection set up within the Turnbull Library to be referred to as 'the national collection'. The National Library Act confers no such exclusive or prescriptive rights but merely empowers the establishment of'a' national collection! A set of papers is no less national for being outside Wellington; it belongs to us all wherever it is. The papers of Kate Sheppard, whose face is to feature on one of our new banknotes, are held in the Canterbury Museum. These papers do not belong to the Museum alone, but are part of the distributed national collection of manuscripts, which is the common heritage of us all. In future the national collection is likely to become even more distributed than it is now. Our collective institutional
arrangements are not static —new repositories continue to emerge, the Wairarapa Archive and the North Otago Archive in Oamaru for example, and an ever-widening range of options is open to donors and depositors. National Archives now offers a range of geographical locations for the papers of Ministers to suit their needs The Auckland regional office has obvious attractions for our many Auckland Ministers of the Crown for example. University Libraries have had some success in acquiring literary papers —Bruce Mason's at Victoria and Ursula Bethell's at Canterbury. And if we are to meet the needs of donors, depositors and researchers, good communication nationally of institutional holdings will be increasingly essential. A good start was made with the National Register of Archives and Manuscripts in New Zealand
based at Turnbull, but I personally look forward to the day when one of the options on Hocken Library terminals will lead me into National Archives and Turnbull Library databases of archives and manuscript holdings, and vice versa. Where will the Turnbull Library Manuscripts Collection fit into this new scheme of things? My answer is at the centre, where it always has been and where it still is. To use another image, it is the quoin or centrestone of New Zealand's manuscripts arch. And when at some future date on a winter's evening I am on Bracken's Lookout, I may not see the Aurora Australis, and then I will turn north and really see that arch of light with one base in Dunedin, and the other Auckland and know that high at its centre are the reflected glories of the Turnbull Library's Manuscript Collection.
The text of an address to the Friends of the Turnbull Library delivered at Turnbull House on 29 October 1991.
Permanent link to this item
The Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts Collection as a National Taonga, Turnbull Library Record, Volume XXIV, Issue 2, 1 October 1991
The Alexander Turnbull Library Manuscripts Collection as a National Taonga Turnbull Library Record, Volume XXIV, Issue 2, 1 October 1991
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• David Blackwood Paul, “The Second Walpole Memorial Lecture”. Turnbull Library Record 12: (September 1954) pp.3-20
• Eric Ramsden, “The Journal of John B. Williams”. Turnbull Library Record 11: (November 1953), pp.3-7
• Arnold Wall, “Sir Hugh Walpole and his writings”. Turnbull Library Record 6: (1946), pp.1-12
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