Update: Hug a Historian Today

More than three months after the November 2016 Kaikoura Earthquakes, access for historians and other researchers is still seriously curtailed at the nation’s most important repositories.

At Archives New Zealand’s Wellington office, the reading room has now reopened, but thousands of archives (although they have not said how many) are out of reach as shelving repairs are underway.  No list has been issued as to what is or is not available.

At the National Library and the Alexander Turnbull Library, the situation is the same.  Apparently, the problem is that safety issues need to be addressed with the library’s stacks before they will allow staff to return to those spaces, which is of course absolutely the right thing.  However, information is unfortunately very hard to come by, and not always reliable.  The Turnbull Library have issued a list of manuscript items they will retreive – and yet when I rang up and spoke to a librarian the other day I got a blanket ‘no you can’t see that’, before she had even asked what the item was.

Below is the list, as of 14 Feb 2017, as to what you can see and not see at the National Library and Turnbull Library.



Note that the entire National Library book collection is unavailable, as well as its entire magazine and journal collection, which is a colossal number of items. Add to this all of the published book collection held by the Alexander Turnbull Library, most of its manuscripts, photographs, and many many other items, and this adds up to a vast amount of New Zealand’s cultural heritage, which continues to be unaccessible.

Thankfully, the Victoria University Rankin Brown library is now up and running again, although the lifts are not, making its 9 floors slightly daunting for some.

What does this mean?  There are numerous historical reports which can’t be completed, historians can’t access what they need to do their jobs, and clients are left waiting.  Personally, I have two reports which I can’t hand in to my clients at the moment.  No information has been issued as to when these access restrictions will be lifted at any of these three institutions.  Hopefully, however, this work now means that access restrictions will be much shorter after any future quakes.

See the earlier post here.

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