The Turnbull and its Pictorial Research Collections

In addition to the public art galleries in this country, there exist several institutions that collect and preserve paintings, drawings, prints and photographs. The two most important of these are The Hocken Library, in Dunedin, and The Alexander Turnbull Library, in Wellington. Both these libraries originated in private beneficence; each has its own character and fields of interest.

The 'Turnbull', as it is familiarly known to writers and scholars, is now a national research collection - or rather a whole group of collections. It is unusual among libraries in New Zealand in that it holds more manuscripts, paintings, drawings, photographs, posters, prints, maps and sound recordings than it does volumes of printed matter.

Although the Turnbull is particularly rich in its pictorial research collections, it is not an art gallery in the usual sense of the word. It has at present only limited facilities for displaying items from its holdings of historical New Zealand paintings; its paintings, drawings and prints relating to the discovery and exploration of the Pacific; its vintage photographs. Because the Turnbull has the responsibility of preserving works that are at the same time historical documents, and are, quite literally, irreplaceable, its collections are generally made accessible to the public at some remove - through the medium of books and magazines, of film; through the work of scholars, writers, editors, publishers, script-writers, television producers.

It is impossible in a small compass to give an adequate idea of the range of the pictorial research collections in The Alexander Turnbull Library. In this issue of Art New Zealand we have set out to show just a few key items - paintings, drawings, prints and photographs - as an accompaniment to short articles by those working in various sections of the Library.