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Behind the scenes with the Auckland Libraries heritage team

Published: 6 November 2018

This month, OurAuckland is meeting some of the people who work 'behind the scenes' to make Tāmaki Makaurau a great place to live.

As we go behind the scenes at Auckland Council this November, we've been speaking to some of the people who preserve the history and collections discovered in October’s heritage theme.

Auckland Libraries’ heritage teams are based in the Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero (Central City Library) and beaver away behind the scenes to compile, describe, conserve and share Auckland’s extraordinary collections.

The teams work with both the printed collections – which include rare books, posters, maps and newspapers – and the unprinted/unpublished collections, which encompass photographs, archives and manuscripts and oral histories.

We check in with some of these heritage experts about what they get up to on a regular day.

Renée Orr and Zoë Colling
Heritage Programmes and Outreach Developer

Behind the scenes with Auckland Libraries’ heritage team
Renée (left) and Zoë (right)

Tell us a bit about your role in the team?

While most of our colleagues all have areas of the collection that they look after – maps, manuscripts and archives, rare books, photographs, oral history and sound – we get involved in anything and everything!

Our job is to promote the collections and create opportunities for the people of Auckland to discover and enjoy them. So, our typical day might include creating social media content or publishing a blog post, working on an exhibition, or supporting colleagues with events.

We also do shifts on the public desks, helping visitors to Sir George Grey Special Collections and Research Central. And because we job-share this role, working a flexible 20 hours a week each, after all this we head home to pick up our children from school and daycare!

What makes you passionate about your work?

I love working with Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections because of the way they connect us to our ancestors. Every item in the collection has a story to tell, whether it’s the person who made it, the person who used it, or the time and place it was created in. It’s a privilege to help care for these taonga and help others access them – Renée

Our collection excites me for lots of the same reasons libraries, in general, excite me. There's an intellectual and joyful freedom in being able to browse, inspect, learn about and share our varied treasured material. Working alongside colleagues who all have different specialist areas of knowledge is a huge boon too. It’s a privilege to work with and promote such precious collections with other like-minds. – Zoë

Daren Kamali
Senior Curator of Pacific Heritage Research

Behind the scenes with Auckland Libraries’ heritage team (1)
Photo Credit: Julia Mage'au Gray

What does your role involve?

I connect with Pacific Island communities around Auckland to raise awareness around Pacific content in Sir George Grey Special Collections. I also create library resources for minority Pacific communities like Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tokelau and Rotuma. I’m about making Auckland Libraries a safe and friendly place for Pacific Island communities to visit and research.

What excites you about Auckland Libraries’ heritage collections?

Researching the history of our Pacific peoples and sharing information with the broader Pacific population in Aotearoa and the Pacific. Also learning more about myself and my connections to Aotearoa and the Pacific through arts and history.

Bridget Simpson
Research Librarian - Newspapers & Serials Specialist

What’s an average day like for you?

Normally, I can either be found in the basement with our interesting and diverse collection of heritage serials – everything from The Strand (1891-1950), where the Sherlock Holmes stories are serialised, to Sea Spray (1945 -1992), the NZ yachting magazine. I’m also working through our enormous range of heritage newspapers, such as the Samoan Reporter of 1845 and our full run of Auckland newspapers.

Below is a photo of me with a recent donation of the Northern News. This title started in 1919 and is a rich record of the North.

Behind the scenes with Auckland Libraries’ heritage team (2)
Research Librarian Bridget Simpson

Sue Berman
Principal in Oral History & Sound Heritage

Tell us about your role?

I hold a Principal role with a specialist eye to oral history, sound and audio-visual archive collections and development.

My days are varied and can include delivering support and training, collection management work, project work – often with other units in the council but also with community partners, interviewing and curating content for exhibitions and podcasts, and at times people can also find me behind the desk on Level 2 of Tāmaki Pātaka Kōrero – Central City Library assisting with research enquiries.

What do you love about Auckland Libraries Heritage collection?

One of the things I love is that the collection is home to both 12th-century manuscripts of international significance and the 21st-century stories, images and archives of Tamaki’s people and places which create precious taonga for future researchers and communities.

It’s exciting housing so many different formats of historical record including printed collections, music, manuscripts, diaries, newspapers and magazines, recorded oral histories, photographs, pamphlets, even zines!

More about Auckland Libraries heritage collections

  • Central City Library’s Reading Room is open seven days a week and anyone can request to see any of the collection items
  • Check out the library treasure book ‘Real Gold’ for highlights from the collection
  • The exhibitions on level 2 of the Central Library are a great way to explore libraries’ collections. Wāhine take action is on until 11 November and over the summer Central City Library is running a pop-up book exhibition for Aucklanders to enjoy
  • Not all Heritage Collections are housed in the Central Library – there are heritage collections across Auckland and oral history collections are strong in the North, South and West research centres
  • Heritage and research experts are there to help you find the resources you need and explain the context and significance of the taonga held