It was the aka that Tāne, one of Rangi and Papa’s children, climbed to make his journey to the heavens. From this journey, Tāne brought back to earth Ngā Kete o te wānanga — the three baskets of knowledge containing the traditional wisdom of Māori. For us, the aka symbolises the quest for knowledge, growth and strength.
The library started as a science library in 1867 and has evolved as the museum has. In 1993 the National Art Gallery library was added to the mix (part of the merger of the National Museum and National Art Gallery to form the Museum of New Zealand). This strengthened the New Zealand and international art aspects of the library and brought with it an important art resource, the Art and Exhibition ephemera files. The public can access an index of this collection here.
The library is now a major research and reference resource, with particular strengths in general New Zealand and Māori history, natural history, art, photography and museum studies. The crown jewels of the library is its Rare Book collection, with the unique Carter Collection at its centre. It contains material on the early exploration and history of New Zealand and the Pacific ranging from the 1650s to 1890s. Charles Rooking Carter presented this collection to the Colonial Museum (now Te Papa) and the New Zealand Institute (now the Royal Society of New Zealand) from around 1870-1890. Carter intended it as a resource that could be used to write the ‘first history of colony’ and as a way for people to educate themselves, breaking down the class barriers of the time. Check out some of our library blogs to see some of these amazing objects.
The library catalogue went online in 1991 and in 2018 moved to the wonderful Koha library management software. Internally an EBSCO discovery layer helps facilitate and maximise access to our digital subscriptions. The two systems form Tomokanga, the gateway for library staff to interact with the library collection.
The LIANZA conference is happening at Te Papa Tongarewa this year, if you would like to come for a nose, please get in contact. Or I’ll see you at the conference!