Historic archives released online

20:29, Jan 09 2014
have a coke
KITSCHY: Have a Coke - Kia Ora was painted between 1943 and 1945.

Those in the know have always realised that the fustily named Archives New Zealand was hiding treasures in its countless boxes and files, but now they're emerging online - and some of them are startling.

By law Archives holds all government files forever, notwithstanding the odd fire or two, and they are available to researchers. Some are secret and others need approval to read.

And some, thanks to Archives, are available on the photo-sharing website Flickr.

This week it has posted a striking Coca-Cola painting from World War II - in which an American soldier shares a bottle with a Maori chief and a Kiwi soldier in front of a whare.

Have a Coke - Kia Ora was painted between 1943 and 1945.

"The link between Coca-Cola and American servicemen can be seen in this kitschy and now politically-incorrect painting," Archives says on Flickr.


Its wartime art archive runs to 1500 original artworks depicting those who served New Zealand in times of war and the arenas in which they served.

An earlier war is remembered in The Homecoming from Gallipoli showing the return of New Zealand soldiers on the SS Willochra to Wellington in 1915. It was painted in 1916 by Walter Armiger Bowring.

Left behind at Gallipoli were 2700 New Zealanders killed in the eight month-long campaign.

Published today on Flickr is a letter the Education Department received in 1915 from Rudyard Kipling's publishers, Macmillan & Co. They complain that the School Journal had published Kipling's poem, If, without permission.

"We are authorised by Mr. Kipling to say that the terms on which the matter can be settled are a payment by the Government of New Zealand of £50."

Archives says it has no record on whether the money was paid.

Just as Antarctica is in the news these days, so too it was in 1904 with Archives displaying a picture of Robert Falcon Scott's ship, Discovery, leaving Lyttelton on December 21, 1901.

Hundreds watched it leave.

"Amidst the patriotic fervour, cheers and excitement in Lyttelton that day, a young able seaman, Charles Bonner, climbed atop Discovery's mainmast in order to return the applause of the crowd. Moments later he fell to his death."

Scott died on a later expedition to Antarctica.

On the frivolous side, the historic record includes a 1971 picture of a new uniform worn by air hostesses on NAC - the National Airways Corporation.

And as any historian knows, if certain files are missing from the archives, the excuse occasionally is "lost in the Hope Gibbons fire".

A considerable collection of records were held in the Hope Gibbons Building in Taranaki and Dixon streets in Wellington.

To prove it existed, Archives has posted a photo of the great fire.

"The fire that occurred on the 29 July 1952 destroyed many of the records of the dominion of New Zealand. The fire destroyed files from the Marine Department, the Public Works Department, and the Labour Department."

It says the fire "was highly significant in the history of record keeping in New Zealand".

Archives holds burnt files from the Hope Gibbons fire within its collections.

Archives and Stuff are working together to highlight historic moments in our daily Today in History.