J.C. Beaglehole Room (Special Materials) Collection SLCS: Description

This statement provides a framework for collection development and management activities within Victoria University of Wellington Library's Special Materials Collection.

Current Collection

For the purposes of this Statement, the Special Materials Collection comprises of two main collections, with a number of collections that straddle both types, e.g. the Fildes Collection.

  • Rare Books: this collection includes 20,000+ records on the catalogue, including named collections (e.g. Fildes; Stout; Seddon; Brancepeth Station, Roth); early printed books; general (modern) rare books; New Zealand and Pacific collections; newspapers and rare periodicals; New Zealand and general pamphlets; specimen bindings collection; 1990s New Zealand publications collection; ‘Print Culture’ exemplars; historic maps, music scores and the last resort copy of all University publications.
  • Archives and Manuscripts: this collection includes 945+ linear metres of archives with particular strengths in the areas of labour/employment archives; literary archives and archives built up due to academics’ research interests; historic photographs; manuscripts; posters and ephemera. These include the archives of groups inextricably entwined with the history of this University, national University groups, and some ‘corporate’ University archives which have been acquired as official records deemed to have long-term historical value and to be at high risk of destruction.

The physical collection is entirely housed at Kelburn Library, in closed storage accessible by Special Materials staff only. The electronic collection is entirely housed in the Library’s secure server. No material may be borrowed, and all use must take place under supervision in the J.C. Beaglehole Room.

The collection consists of the following critical resources and distinctive collections.

Rare Books

The term ‘rare books’ is used to cover all printed materials held in the J.C. Beaglehole Room. These include named collections, early printed books, scarce and valuable modern printing, New Zealand and Pacific research materials, early New Zealand newspapers, early New Zealand and general periodicals, New Zealand and general pamphlet collections, and printed ephemera.

Named Collections

Within this larger collection are the following Named Collections:

  • Fildes Collection of New Zealand and Pacific material. The Fildes Collection was the private research library of Mr Horace Fildes, which he left to the University on his death in October 1937

“The great event of the year is the reception of the noble collection of the late Mr. Horace Fildes…. Along with the Carnegie Corporation, Sir Robert Stout and Mr. Blair and Mr. McEldowney, Mr. Fildes will be remembered as one of the library’s greatest benefactors. We have made extensive alterations which will provide a worthy and accessible home.” (Harold Millar, Annual Report of the VUC Library, 1937)

The 1800+ volumes in the collection include his bound scrapbooks of newspaper clippings and his annotated working copies. His research papers, portfolios, and correspondence files were also included in the bequest. The collection thus includes both published and archival resources

  • Sir Robert Stout Collection of pamphlets. Sir Robert Stout was a key figure in the early history of the University and his extensive pamphlet collection was presented to the Library in 1928. The collection included about 2000 pamphlets, bound in 93 volumes but with many unbound duplicates. The collection forms a very good proportion of the total pamphlet literature published in New Zealand between about 1875 and 1905, plus some items before and after these dates. The remainder covers the full range of Sir Robert's intellectual and professional interests with material from Britain, the United States of America and Australia
  • ​Brancepeth Station Library contains approximately 2000 volumes of late 19th century popular fiction and general works. It was presented to the University Library in 1966 by Mr Hugh Beetham, of Brancepeth Station in the Wairarapa, having been established by the Beetham family in 1884 as a library for the staff of Brancepeth Station, which was then one of the largest properties in the region. A condition of the gift was that the books remain in their original bookcases. The Brancepeth Station Library is located in a public corridor on Level 1 of the Central Library outside the J.C. Beaglehole Room
  • ​Seddon Library contains c. 300 books identified as the working library of Richard John Seddon, and books gifted to him usually in his official capacity as Premier
  • Dr Robert Stout Collection of general historical works

Rare Maps

A small collection of c. 560 maps which is growing by donation only. The maps are collected for their relevance to Wellington especially to Kelburn.


A small collection of real estate subdivision posters which is growing by donation only. The posters are collected for their relevance to Wellington especially to Kelburn. Other collections include those of the New Zealand Students’ Arts Council and of the Dan Long [PSA] Library. Posters which occur within archival collections are treated as archives.

POW Library

A small collection from Somes/Matiu Island. This collection is not growing.

Z537.2 Collection

This collection is an attempt to collect for the study of 1990s publishing in NZ. This collection is not growing.

New Zealand Pamphlets Collection

The pamphlet collection includes a major research collection (the Sir Robert Stout Pamphlet Collection, see above), several minor named collections (e.g. from Les Cleveland, Bert Roth, Thomas Turnbull) and a general ‘New Zealand pamphlet’ collection. The Sir Robert Stout Pamphlet Collection is very strong in 19th century political and social theory, including a large proportion of material from Great Britain and Australia. The minor collections are chiefly comparable to Sir Robert’s interests – politics, economic debate, social theory – but from later periods (post-1920).

The general New Zealand pamphlets cover all the subject areas of the Library’s collections, and range in date from the 1840s to the present. The greatest emphasis is on political, economic and social debate, minor local histories of schools and churches, and exhibition catalogues. Since the 2000s exhibition catalogues have tended to be located in the Library’s General collections rather than in Special Materials. This collection is growing.

General Pamphlets

Apart from occasional non-New Zealand pamphlets in some of the New Zealand pamphlet collections, there are also some general pamphlet collections. These pamphlets are not individually catalogued, being allocated to broad subject categories, e.g. ‘Pamphlets on political science’, ‘on South Africa’, ‘on socialism’ which have general catalogue records. The collections include a few 19th and early 20th century items, the proportion varying according to the subject area, but the majority date from the 1940s to the 1970s. A high proportion are the more substantial type of publicity brochure issued by official organisations whether independent or governmental.

Print Cultures Collection

One of the successful bids to the Library Contestable Funding round in 2006 was for a Print Cultures Collection, which "enables students, staff, and researchers to work with artefacts not generally in the public domain and provides opportunities for trans-national and comparative book history, a new research area in the field of book culture” (Dr. Sydney Shep, Contestable Funding application).

The collection is numerically small so far, and consists of exemplars of textual communication, particularly those with non-Western scripts, purchased in collaboration with academics in the appropriate fields. The purchase process has sometimes tested the limits of the ‘normal’ acquisitions process, for example we have purchased via E-Bay and via advances to academics travelling in areas outside the conventional Western book trade. This collection is growing.

Victoria Authors’ Collection

The Library has had a historic role in collecting offprints of articles by staff members, as well as a copy of their books. Books were catalogued – in theory a copy was held by the J.C. Beaglehole Room (JCBR), however in practice this was not always the case. Victoria Periodicals were held in Closed Stack, i.e. available without supervision. Some offprints of articles by staff were sent to the Vice-Chancellor initially, and then passed to the JCBR in the Library. These offprints were never catalogued, but were listed by author name within the JCBR and were one reason for indexes to Victoria Staff which JCBR maintained to c. 1980. As changes to the publishing environment affected the number of copies sent to authors, this collection dwindled. From c. 2006 this type of record has been managed via the Research Office’s ResearchMaster software. JCBR has had a storage role only, and in early 2009 storage and verification was passed to the Manager, Special Collections, or to the Institutional Repository.

There are some issues to do with Staff Authorship which require clarification and are currently treated on a case by case approach, for example:

  • Works by authors written prior to their appointment by Victoria
  • Chapters in works
  • Edited works where the editor has contributed neither a chapter nor a substantial Introduction

This collection is growing.

Victoria Periodicals

The Library has endeavoured to collect all Victoria output, including periodicals. In 2008 JCBR acquired by relegation from Closed Stack the unique or best copy of all Victoria periodical publications, prior to Closed Stack items being stored offsite. This collection is growing.

Victoria Subject Collection

Special Materials includes a ‘last resort’ copy of all publications about the University and its staff. These include official histories, festschriften, biographies, and work covering professional qualifications in which the University is engaged, e.g. Law. This collection is growing.


The Library’s copies of early and rare newspapers are kept in Special Collections. Apart from isolated issues of Australian, Pacific and British papers these are all New Zealand newspapers. The only substantial groups are Wellington papers of the 1840s and 1850s and partial runs of certain Socialist and Communist papers of the late 1930s and 1940s. There are isolated issues and fragmented runs of many 19th century provincial papers, and a substantial run (complete after 1926) of The Maoriland (later The New Zealand), The Worker and its successor The Standard. The Worker is particularly fragile and should be used as little as possible (the early years are also available in microfilm). Increasingly, early New Zealand newspapers are now available in digitised form via the website Papers Past.

Association Collection

This collection includes copies with particular significance for the University, usually because of their provenance. It also includes comprehensive collections of works by and about the writers in the New Zealand Literary Archive Project.

Archives and Manuscripts

The J.C. Beaglehole Room is the official repository within the Library of archival material. Archival material is primary source material used particularly for historical research. The Archives and Manuscripts collections include both Collected Archives and Manuscripts, and some University corporate archives, with a degree of overlap.

University Archives

Victoria University itself has a rich and complex history from 1899 on, and the University has engaged both as an institution and through its many academic and student members with the development of knowledge, and with national, regional and local issues.

The University Archives consist of those official records of the University deemed to have long-term historical value, and certain collections of private papers—such as the records of student organisations or of eminent academic staff - with inextricable significance to the University’s history. These include significant collections of photographs.

The University archival collections fall into ‘personal’, ‘clubs and societies’ or ‘corporate’, although the divisions are not clear-cut.

Collected Archives

The Collected Archives have chiefly built up to support the research interests of academics or for their future research value, and include the following strengths:

Literary Archives

  • Papers of dramatist and critic Bruce Mason which were deposited annually from his Honorary Doctorate award until his death in 1982
  • The James K. Baxter collection of English Dept. lecturer Frank McKay, the poet’s biographer
  • The New Zealand Literary Archive Project – an important group of collections established in 1993 in partnership with Independent Newspapers Limited and the Victoria University of Wellington Foundation, and continued by the Library. This Project has enabled the Library to collect and preserve the papers of New Zealand writers who have a strong association with the University. The original three contributors, Alistair Te Ariki Campbell, Patricia Grace, and Witi Ihimaera, were joined in 1995 by Jenny Bornholdt. Each has placed restrictions, of varying severity, on access to their papers. A complementary secondary collection of all published work by or about these authors is collected
  • The archives of Creative Writing courses begun by Prof. Bill Manhire and now the IIML

Employment Archives

  • Trade Union records deposited under the Labour Archives Trust
  • Employment archives the records of professional associations or learned societies deposited by particular agreements. These include the archives of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, the New Zealand Society of Archivists, the Archives and Records Association of New Zealand

Other archives, manuscripts, and personal papers

  • Apart from the more substantial collections, the archives and manuscripts collection includes a number of items of varying size and importance which have been received from a variety of sources
  • Dr Robert Stout and Mr H. Fildes were the sources of a significant proportion of the more general manuscripts. Both made arrangements for copying early accounts of New Zealand and these were received in the Library when their respective collections were donated. The originals of these manuscripts are often in the Alexander Turnbull Library
  • There are also photocopies and some transcripts of early journals, letters and accounts which have come from individual donors, usually personal acquaintances of University staff or graduate students. A number of family scrapbooks or miscellaneous letters have been received in a similar way
  • There are also a number of miscellaneous manuscripts of minor importance, received from varying sources. These include isolated letters, sheets of notes laid in printed books, and the occasional paybook or similar personal document
  • Several collections created by individuals to assist their particular research interests have also been deposited. These may include pamphlets, newspaper clippings, and official or semi-official documents, as well as correspondence and other manuscript materials. Several of these collections are concerned with political issues, such as the Vietnam War, or more general social questions.
  • A related group of collections are the research notes or professional papers of members of the University staff, or of other people with University associations. Notable among these are the papers of Dr E.G. Jacoby, Dr A.E.C. Hare, Professors Hugh Murray, Ernest Beaglehole, Peter Munz and Mr D.M. Wylie. Some of these collections include personal papers, and some contain confidential material and are subject to restrictions on access
  • The papers of Mr Fildes are very similar in nature to these research collections. They supplement his book collection, which is described in detail above. In addition to compiling his own indexes to material of historical interest he corresponded with most contemporary writers on New Zealand history and these letters form the bulk of his papers


  • A final category contains a number of collections which have been described as manuscripts although they are actually the records of certain organisations and could be identified as archives. Most of these are the records of informally established societies, small business concerns which were possibly never registered as companies, or an individual’s privately collected file of records produced by an organisation. Privately deposited sets of the proceedings of Commissions of Inquiry are included in this group, when the material is incomplete or includes confidential material

Other relevant SLCSs

The Special Materials Collection has links to all other Subject Level Collection Statements.