Heritage and research

Heritage and research collections

We have a wide range of heritage and research collections, including local history, family history and whakapapa, oral history and community archives.


Sir George Grey Special Collections

Auckland Libraries' Sir George Grey Special Collections is one of New Zealand's three major heritage collections. The Sir George Grey Special Collections: Ta Hori Kerei - Nga kohinga taonga whakahirahira were made accessible to the public in 1997, and are currently housed on the second floor of Central City Library. The collections encompass a broad range of heritage materials, including illuminated and rare books, historic maps and manuscripts, photographs, oral history and ephemera.


Oral history

The research centres and Sir George Grey Special Collections are home to a substantial number of recordings of Aucklanders sharing their unique experiences and irreplaceable local knowledge. Residents have been helping to record the history of Auckland for a number of years and many of these stories are available from the research centres in audio or transcript form.



Auckland Libraries' heritage photograph collections include a large number of photographic prints, images from newspapers and digital resources. The photography collections held in the Sir George Grey Special Collections contain over 500,000 images of New Zealand from the 1840s to the present day. Highlights include historic surveys of Auckland buildings and architecture, social portraits, advertising images, magazine and newspaper negatives and over 250 individual photo albums.



Ephemera collections include items intended to have a limited life-span, such as programmes, posters, tickets, flyers and cards. These items were originally produced to pass on details about specific issues, activities, events, products, and services. The Central City Library holds three ephemera collections with items that date from the 1840s to the present day. You can locate ephemera from these collections using the Ephemera Index database.



The Auckland Libraries manuscript collection consists of the unpublished records of a range of individuals and institutions and brings together items such as diaries, letters, minute books, ledgers and lists. These resources include the Community Archive, the Chelsea sugar refinery archive, the East Coast Bays archive and the JT Diamond collection, which gathers information associated with west Auckland.


Rare books

Auckland Libraries holds a number of important collections of rare books, ranging from Sir George Grey's collection to contemporary private press publications. Rare book collections are housed mainly at the Central City Library and can be viewed in the Special Collections reading room. The Angela Morton Collection covers the visual arts of New Zealand from pre-European times to the present day and is housed at Takapuna Library.



The research centres and reference collections hold a number of maps of current and historical interest. These include historic maps and atlases, topographical and ordnance maps, and Māori maps. A selection of maps from the Sir George Grey Special Collections have also been catalogued and digitised for the Heritage Images database.


Māori collections

Māori collections are held at the majority of libraries across the region. They include both heritage collections and current-use lending and reference collections. Resources include Māori Land Court minute books, electoral rolls, newspapers and materials in te reo, as well as a number of digital resources such as Iwidex.


Local history

The Auckland Libraries’ research centres hold a wide range of local history resources and can provide expert librarian help. The local history collections focus on the greater Auckland region, but also include general New Zealand and Pacific history and literature. As well as published material, and several thousand reels of microfilm, there are unique indexes and other bibliographic resources about Auckland.


Family history

Family history is a vital part of the research centres' collections. As well as published family histories, you will find indexes to births, deaths and marriages in New Zealand and other parts of the world, shipping records, guides and a range of digital resources.



The research centres house amazing collections of historical and soon-to-be historical newspapers. These comprehensive collections cover our city’s day-to-day history from the 1840s to the present and many papers have been transferred to microfilm to preserve the original publications. Some international titles are also included.


New titles and RSS

Browse our monthly new titles lists under the 'Special Collections' heading or subscribe to our daily new title RSS feeds - the day after we add an item to our collection, you’ll see it in your RSS feed.

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