Te Aka Matua Research Library at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Did you know Te Papa Tongarewa has a library? The Te Aka Matua Research Library has supported the research output of the museum since 1867. It is classified as a special library but is more akin to an academic library in scope. Te Aka Matua is an integral part of Te Papa’s Knowledge and Information offering, which includes library, archives, records management, media assets, intranet, general enquires via the Te Papa website and more. A team of nine information professionals support this mahi. The library itself is staffed by three full-time librarians.
The library’s name, Te Aka Matua, also supports this knowledge kete approach. Te Aka Matua means the parental vine. The aka is the vine that connects Rangi-nui, the atua of the sky, to Papa-tū-ā-nuku, the Earth mother. 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 is open to the public by appointment, we have two Reading Rooms to host research visits. We break the visits up between our Cable Street and Tory Street sites depending on the subject. Most of our science visitors go to Tory Street while the humanities and botanical researchers we host at our Cable Street building.
ur collection of 50,000 plus items is distributed across multiple sites as it is too large to fit into one space! The down side of this approach is the collection can’t be easily browsed by the public. Our catalogue is available via Te Papa’s website or Te Puna/ World Cat. The collection is available for interlibrary loan, and the Rare Books are also available for exhibition loans like the rest of Te Papa’s collections.
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!
Martin Lewis (right) is the Liaison Librarian (Online) and Rare Books collection manager. He recently gained LIANZA professional registration and is a graduate of the Open Polytechnic library programme. He has been working in Wellington libraries since the mid-nineties, starting in the Wellington City Library system, then moving to the Teachers College Library (now part of VUW) and has spent the last 16 years at Te Papa. Martin looks after the intranet, Koha and Tomokanga, distributes the general enquires from the website and does multidisciplinary reference and research support. Working with the Rare Books collection has given him a bit of an obsession with historic marbling…