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About the Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial Collection

The Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial collection began in 1957 with the intention of creating a photographic record of New Zealand's involvement in the Trans- Antarctic Expedition and IGY activities.

The collection was split at this time and survey materials were removed and eventually deposited at Land lnformation New Zealand (LINZ) in Wellington. The LINZ collection was returned to Antarctica New Zealand in 2001. As the collection was originally part of what is now known as the Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial Collection its management and maintenance fell under the Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial Collection Development Plan.

The collection was continued with photographs and slides collected each year by those working at Scott Base and, by the professional photographers employed by the DSIR for this purpose. This system of photographic record keeping resulted in a detailed collection representative of each year's events until 1994 when the organisation ceased employing professional photographers. No organised system for updating was put in place to replace the previous joint professional and amateur system, making the yearly photographic record post 1994 fragmented and incomplete in some areas until the advent of digital photography when a digital database was implemented.

The result is that visual documentation of New Zealand's Antarctic activities is not as complete in the 1990’s compared to the years where a photographer was employed by the organisation. Gaps in the collection were rectified with donations by event personnel and agreements with Scott Base staff. Science event personnel continue to provide pictorial materials to update the collection both retrospectively and in the future.

The film reel collection was developed from film taken by in Antarctica while on expeditions as well as promotional and informational film about the DSIR's activities and role in Antarctica. The film reel collection has been included in the Pictorial collection due to similar storage and preservation requirements, and because their content is related to that of the photographic collection (i.e. a record of New Zealand's Antarctic activities).

The importance and significance of this unique collection cannot be overestimated. It is unique throughout the world. No other Antarctic nation has a pictorial record of their activities from the beginning of their programme in the systematic way that this collection has been developed. lt is important historically as a detailed record of New Zealand's involvement in Antarctica. lt is important from an information and education perspective, enabling people who may never travel to Antarctica to experience the beauty and global significance of the continent. It is important scientifically and environmentally as a medium to show the public and stakeholder in a visually stimulating way the investigations and methods used to discover and protect Antarctica. lt also shows differences in environment over time.

The historical collection gives valuable insights into changes in practices (science work), changes in environment, changes in what is imþortant and emphasizes the aesthetic and intrinsic values of Antarctica that are fundamental to both the Antarctic Treaty and the Environmental Protocol. The collection holds the official visual documentation of Antarctica New Zealand and its predecessors as created by professional photographers, organisation staff and event personnel.

Coverage in the collection ranges across almost 60 years and includes all aspects of New Zealand's Antarctic activities as well as purely aesthetic images. The collection has predominantly been donated to Antarctica New Zealand by people who wished to make the material available and aid the objective of Antarctica New Zealand's predecessors who wanted to develop a pictorial record of new Zealand's activities in Antarctica. The Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial collection comprises a variety of media including photographs slides, negative, film, glass plates and paintings. lt is a globally unique collection detailing the activities of New Zeáland in Antarctica. lts importance spans across the education, information, and history of science and environmental investigations. lt tells the story of New Zealand and Antarctica from both a professional and human standpoint.

The range, diversity and unique nature of the Antarctica New Zealand Pictorial collection make it a national and international resource. The working collection is in high use for internal and external publications. Encouragement of the use of the collection in publications promotes the collection and helps achieve Antarctica New Zealand objectives of public awareness and education as well as in environmental and science objectives.

The collection stirs the senses and creates discussion and excitement like no other medium can.

The physical collection is comprised of the following:

  • Slides

The slide collection was loosely catalogued into subject areas. The collection was approximately 75 percent catalogued in this way. There was no cross-referencing. Slides were subjectively placed into the subject areas, which means that a slide may fit into several areas but not identified as such. Some slides were titled and had the photographer’s name on the mounts while others do not. There was no list containing all slide details. There were typed lists of the collection however their accuracy could not be guaranteed without an intensive 'shelf check, which the ADAM project has been tasked with. There were approximately 800 records catalogued electronically (which the university has provided us with a print copy of) however the records provided are very sparse on detail, description and accuracy.

  • Photographs and negatives

The photographs were broken up to several sections:

  1. Photographs with negative attached. These were contained ín file drawers enclosed in non-archival plastic sleeves. They were catalogued by year.
  2. Photographs with no negatives. These were in several formats including some, which are framed. They are were not listed or catalogued.
  3. Negatives without photographs. These were a variety of negative formats and were not listed or catalogued
  4. Glass plate negatives. These are held in non-archival plastic sleeves. There was a typed listing giving some information.
  5. lnternegatives. There are @ 180 of these that are numbered but not listed anywhere. They did not have prints attached nor information re dates and subject matter. They were also stored in non-archival plastic sleeves.


The ADAM Project (Antarctic Digital Asset Management) was undertaken by Archives New Zealand in 2014-2015 to digitise and comprehensively catalogue as much the collection as possible before it was archived with Archives NZ.

The physical assets, once scanned, will be passed to Archives New Zealand under DA65, where they will remain for safekeeping.

Although all items in the collection have been scanned at a high resolution, the Archives NZ Archway reference number is available for anyone wishing to access the original item.


Up until 1998 the pictorial collection did not formally apply the Copyright Act. Copyright provision on some materials is with Antarctica New Zealand by default due to scarcity of provenance information about the items. Creative Commons copyright is now applied to all items going forward unless otherwise negotiated with individual photographers/videographers.

For further information, please contact Antarctica New Zealand's Communications Team.