Changes to the Museum Library, Archives and Collections 2016-2017

Friday, December 16, 2016

Some exciting changes are happening to the Library and Collections areas. It has taken 13 years and four different plans to finally make everything happen. The funding came from an Investment Partnership Agreement with Regional Facilities Auckland and the New Zealand Maritime Museum.

The most notable difference is that the former library fixed shelving space and the open area by all the offices on the library level will be completely transformed with the installation of four compacta stacking units. In August prior to the start of the compacta stacking installation additional beams were installed in the ceiling of the floor below to hold all the extra weight of materials that will be held within the library floor area. 

All the old fixed library shelving had to be removed – some was given away and the rest taken offsite for use in our storage facility.

New LED lighting was installed.  By the end of August the first two compacta stacking units were installed and with that the library collection was moved into its new home. The library section of shelving comprises the ship registers, library books and New Zealand maritime serials. 

The Collections Team all helped to move the Auckland Harbour Board (AHB) archives from the Collections store above the library to their new home, combined with the AHB archives that were in the library area they are now on one level of shelving outside the library office. New archival boxes were purchased to house AHB archives that were in transit boxes. 

Where the library collections were housed on fixed shelving two additional compacta stacking units were built to house the photographs, ephemera, overseas’ serial titles and archives collections from the Collections store. The old sisal floor covering was removed and new vinyl laid. New LED lighting was installed. After a rigorous clean, some areas had not seen a vacuum for nearly 20 years (or it seemed like it), the new compacta stacking units were installed. This will give us nearly 100% more storage space on purposed designed shelves for the different types of book, archives, photograph and paper ephemera collections. 

Moving the collections
Volunteers and Collections Staff all helped to fold boxes, moved collections, dismantle shelving and transport shelves offsite.

One section of the new shelving has purpose built drawers to house many of the photograph collections. In particular the Bill Laxon Collection (250,000) photographs mounted on cards, formerly housed in 6 cabinets, now live in 8 drawers. Other photograph collections that had been in catalogue drawers or shoe boxes all have new homes.

Photograph albums from Auckland Harbour Board (65) and Auckland Maritime Society (70) have been boxed and moved to the new shelves, as have the archives of the Northern Steam Ship Company.

Amongst them, I have found interesting items, such as the Harbour Board visitors’ book 1930-1989. The first signature was Lord Bledisloe’s, and other famous visitors included Prince Charles and Prime Ministers David Lange, Robert Muldoon and Keith Holyoake.

I also found a large portrait photo of Bombardier R. G. Fordyce, an AHB employee who served in World War I and who was killed in action in 1918. His name appears on the AHB War I Memorial outside the Museum on Quay Street.

Challenged by Barry Thorn (Museum volunteer) to find a photo of SS REYNOLDS in the Bill Laxon Collection, I was able to put my hands on it within moments, thanks to the new storage. Barry’s brother was killed when SS REYNOLDS was sunk in 1942.

What happened to all that new space?

Once the library collections were all in their new homes it was time to start emptying the Collection Store of objects so that new flooring, lighting and shelving could be installed. Maritime objects of all shapes and sizes currently fill the gaps in much of the new compacta stacking on the library floor. There are also objects on top of the shelves, as well as Diver Dan holding one section in place, so no-one can move it. Ship models and uniforms surround the shelving. Moving the objects temporarily has taken much longer than moving the books and archives and sometimes several people are needed to move one object.

Many hands

The logistics for moving objects is much longer than people realise. For one ship model it took four people just to move it from the Collection Store to the library level. The 1 metre long ship model in a glass case on a high shelf needed two people up on step stools and two on the ground to receive it and place it on a trolley – then it took two to get the trolley out of the Collections door, and two to get it in the library door. It then had to be manoeuvred around the stacks, then three people were needed to get it into its temporary storage shelf. All this took nearly 30 mins.

A large number of objects have been crated up and taken to our offsite storage at Avondale, while some of the framed works will be brought down from the Collections Store to the library level and others will be plastic wrapped and left in their cases in Collections. 

The filing cabinets full of photographs and slides are also cling wrapped and currently residing the in the staff lunch room.

All the chart and plan cabinets have been plastic wrapped until the installation work is completed in Collections. Shelving and lighting will be installed starting from mid-January 2017 and then the objects will have to be returned, shelved and given new shelf locations in our catalogue. This process is going to take several more months.

Once all the objects have been removed from the library floor and the cabinets reinstated then the library will re-open to the public. 

All the photographs were taken by Marleene Boyd or Liz Gordon and are copyright to the New Zealand Maritime Museum.

Marleene Boyd


New lights in library.

     New beams underneath library.

Library books on new shelves.


Marleene painting the walls.

 New lights in, old lights out.

New lights completed.

Removing sisal flooring from the library.

 Concrete floor polished and levelling layer going down.

New vinyl being laid.

Cleaning up the dust.

Adjusting the vacuum cleaner take 2.

Installing the tracks and bases for the shelving. 

Shelving sides and walls going in.

Shelving installed.

Diver Dan holds back the shelves.

Nick, Michael, Rebekah packing objects.

Photo collections and objects waiting to be moved to library.

Plastic going over framed works.

Sweeping up the sisal flooring in Collections.