National Publicity Studios
Although the National Publicity Studios were established in 1945, its beginnings can be traced back to the establishment in 1924 of a Publicity Office – part of the Department of Internal Affairs. The emphasis of this Publicity Office was on films, photographs and booklets.
The National Publicity Studios also has strong connections with the early Tourist and Health Resorts Department [AABO and AECB], established in 1901 with some focus on promoting the unique landscapes of New Zealand using photography.
At the end of the Second World War, the Publicity Office was divided into two parts - the newly created National Publicity Studios and the National Film Unit for more information on the National Film Unit see our Audiovisual research guide .
The purpose of the National Publicity Studios was to provide advice to government departments and state agencies on the provision of photographic, art, and display services and to assist in the production of publicity material aimed at conveying a favourable image of New Zealand.
The National Publicity Studios was divided into two main sections:
Photographic - photographers, laboratory, photo library and facilities for audio-visual production.
Art - graphic art, display art, display workshops and silkscreen facilities.
In 1987, the National Publicity Studios was disestablished and replaced by Communicate New Zealand.
For more information see:
Directory of Official Information 1983
75 Years of Tourism (pamphlet) 1976
NZ Tourist & Publicity Department (pamphlet) 1978
Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives 1949, H-47
Archway Agency documentation for the National Publicity Studios [AAQT].
Registers and indexes
As a rule, indexes and registers which are part of this collection contain the following information:
Negative registers: negative reference, brief outline of subject shown, sometimes a date and photographer
Negative card indexes: card for each negative or sometimes a group of negatives, if taken of the same scene
The cards contain information such as negative number, a comprehensive outline of the subject (generally more information than in the corresponding negative register), and sometimes the name of the photographer and the date the photograph was taken.
Microfiche and ticksheets
This index is held on 549 microfiche sheets in the Wellington Reading Room. These give access to the negative numbers of the three series:
Once a negative number is found you can consult ‘ticksheet’ binders of series 6401, 6403, & 6421 in our Reading Room. These are organised by negative number.
The ticksheet binders list the photographic formats held for each image, such as a negative or print or both. Negative description sheets and nitrate description sheets are also contained in these binders.
Negatives and prints
Negatives and small contact test prints from these series are held in secure, temperature-controlled stack areas. Contact us to get access.
Larger reference prints [Series 6403 & 6539 – the latter mainly 'A' 6401 & 'B' 6421 images] are available in the reading room. These are arranged by negative number within each series. They are enclosed in mylar - polyester -covers with a backing card to give better protection, and the reverse of each print has brief details:
Most photographs from the National Publicity Studio’s Black and White File Prints [AAQT 6539] have been digitised and are available as JPEG images on Archway.
Many entries in the negative registers and negative card indexes are stamped orannotated "withdrawn" which means negative withdrawn from loan.
In many cases the original negatives and prints are held by the Alexander Turnbull Library Some prints corresponding to negatives in the collection are held in the Special Collections, Auckland City Library.
The negatives and prints in this series, which appear to date from c1913 to the 1940s, were created to publicise New Zealand, both locally and overseas. Most of the images include scenery, places and Māori.
The negative numbers for the images in this series have no prefix. The series began as full plate glass negatives, then went to nitrate and some safety film negatives. These are stored separately for preservation reasons.
The black and white reference prints from this collection have been separated from the negatives and are available in the Reading Room.
The prints are arranged numerically by negative number. They are enclosed in mylar covers with a backing card to give better protection, and the reverse of each print has brief details: negative number, photographer, subject, and date.
It appears that Series 6403 was used as a source of images for, or at least shared images with, Series 8315 NZ Government Publicity Glass Lantern Slides, and possibly also Series 6493 'HC' Glass Lantern Slides. These two series, comprising images designed to promote and market New Zealand, focus primarily on shots of scenery, places and Māori. Other sources for the series include individual photographers and firms such as Burton Brothers and Muir & Moody.
For further information on the origins of photographic images, see the series document for Series 8315.
Cross-checking of the glass lantern slide numbers and images [Series 8315] against numbers and descriptions in the negative registers and card indexes which control Series 6403 has been undertaken. This has shown that a considerable proportion of the slides match the numbers and descriptions of images from Series 6403.
It is likely that the publicity collections assembled for use in Australia [Series 8315] and New Zealand [Series 6493] drew on images included in Series 6403, or that the three series shared images used by the Tourist and Health Resorts Department from 1901 to the 1940s.
Black and white negatives and prints
"A" Black and White Negatives and Prints [AAQT 6401]
The negatives and prints in this series were created to publicise New Zealand, both locally and overseas. The negatives are numbered from A1 to A100,000, after which a new sequence was started in 1972.
"B" Black and White Negatives and Prints [AAQT 6421]
In this series, which started in 1972, the glassine bags have the negative number written on them. A few empty bags have "Transferred to R series" and the "R" negative number on them. These are 6 x 6cm negatives now in the "R" negative drawers [AAQT 6418]. For negatives that have been transferred into mylar sleeves, information from the glassine bags has been noted down onto a description sheet. From about negative number B2900, the year is also shown, i.e.: B9238/76, up to 23423/87, the last negative in the series.
The images were created to publicise New Zealand, both locally and overseas.
Other series of negatives
"0" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6468]
"ASPAC" Black and White Negatives & Prints [AAQT 6536]
"CD" Colour Transparencies [AAQT 6465]
"CG" Black and White Negatives & Prints [AAQT 6469]
"CN" Colour Negatives [AAQT 6420]
"Cook" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6464]
"CR" and "CN" File Prints [AAQT 6541]
"CR" Colour Negatives [AAQT 6419]
"ER" Colour Negatives [AAQT 6473]
"EX" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6467]
"H" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6423]
"HC" Lantern Slides [AAQT 6493]
"MB" Black and White Negatives & Prints [AAQT 6422]
"P" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6476]
"PA" Black and White & Colour Negatives [AAQT 6472]
"PATA" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6463]
"QM" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6474]
"R" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6418]
"RA" Black and White Negatives & Prints [AAQT 6533]
"RV" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6475]
"S" Black and White Negatives & Prints [AAQT 6535]
"TC" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6425]
"TCC" Black and White Negatives [AAQT 6462]
"TD" Colour Transparencies [AAQT 6466]
"WA" Black and White Negatives & Prints [AAQT 6404]
"X" Black and White Negatives & Prints [AAQT 6424]
"XA" Colour Transparencies [AAQT 6470]
"XD" Colour Transparencies [AAQT 6471]
"Z" Black and White Negatives & Prints [AAQT 6402]
Black and White File Prints [AAQT 6539]
Royal Visit 1953 Black and White Prints [AAQT 6538]
DAC Communicate NZ - photographic negatives, prints and transparencies [ABIS 6534]
"R" series negatives and prints; ''PA'' series negatives and prints; miscellaneous negatives and prints ("CD'', "TD" series and unidentified) [ABIS W4025]
Volumes include the following:
title of photograph
The index cards have the negative number or numbers on the top left corner. Also entered is the title of the photograph a few have more detailed descriptions.
Later cards have the name of the photographer and the date taken.
Many cards have ‘WITHDRAWN’ either stamped or hand-written on them. This means the negative was withdrawn from use. The cards are generally divided every 100 negative numbers.
Photograph albums and other items
National Film Unit
The photographs of New Zealand Railways came primarily from its Publicity and Advertising branch.
Accessing the collection
You can browse the drawers of reference prints in the Wellington Register Room using the subject headings on the drawer labels and interior drawer divisions as a guide to relevant image groups.
You can also use the subject card index (two drawers) on top of the reference print cabinets. The left drawer includes both general for example regional stations and technical images such as different locomotive types and gives specific negative references. The right drawer includes similar headings but is more directly related to the print collection, which is arranged by subject rather than negative number. The index cards have reference print drawer numbers noted on them.
Negatives and prints
The black and white reference prints (held in the Wellington Register Room) range from passenger trains and views of carriage interiors to publicity shots, regional railway stations, railway staff, engine workshops and different locomotive models. The photographs range in date from the late 1880s to the 1970s. Information relating to each image (date, subject, photographer, negative number) is on the back of the prints. This accession contains registers, prints and negatives. Two collections of Second World War photographs are also housed in the cabinets in drawer 73. [AAVK W3493]
Other negatives and prints
NZ Railways Publicity Photographs and Artwork (primarily artworks; some photographs) [ABIN W3806]
Access: Preservation restriction on many negatives.
The main collection of Forestry Black and White Reference Prints [AAQA 6506] is held in the repository. However, you can request to view photographs in the Reading Room.
Reference print images range from exotic and indigenous species of trees and other flora to forest industry and forestry methods (e.g. logging, deer farms, animal control, nurseries, silviculture, afforestation).
Subjects also include publicity shots, housing and offices, state forest parks and scenic reserves, Rangers and Junior Woodsman Training Schools, forestry workers and trainees (at work and leisure), conferences, ministerial visits and portraits of Forest Service directors and senior officers.
The photographs date from about 1922 to 1987. Information for each image (date, subject, photographer, negative number) is on the back of the prints.
Black and White, Colour, Slide Subject Index
The subject index to the Black and White Reference Prints [AAQA 6506] is held in our Wellington Register Room. Cards are alphabetical by subject and give subject classifications (often typed in red) which you can use to determine which box of photographs to request. Some also include specific negative references.
Portraits and Groups Index
This indexes many of the staff photographs included in the Black and White Reference Prints [AAQA 6506]. Arranged alphabetically by person or group, the cards have both subject classifications (in red) and specific negative numbers. You can trace photographs relevant to staff through Archway.
- Other indexes
Negatives and prints
- Photograph albums
This collection is formed from several different negative series including:
“A” negatives 
“K” negatives 
“G” negatives 
“MIN” negatives 
“S” negatives 
Black and white negatives 
“Mr Neale's” negatives 
Additional negatives from various outside organisations such as the National Publicity Studios and Ministry of Works
All prints have multiple number subject classifications. The first number is the main topic, the second number the sub-topic, and the third number the specific print, for example 1/4/26, where 1 means Apiary, 4 Bee Anatomy, and 26 that this is the 26th photo on Bee Anatomy.
In about 1963 all prints were top-numbered into the "DA" black and white print system  DA numbers were assigned to groups of multiple subject numbers for example 58/1/- became DA 22,106 onwards. Once the DA numbers had been given, index cards were made up . In the late 1960s the prints were reconverted to their original multiple number subject classifications. Most prints also have a dewey number in an attempt at re-classification, but this proved impracticable. A date stamp on the bottom of a print mount indicates that the photo was published, probably in the Department of Agriculture Journal or Bulletin (BUL). Prints which do not have a Department of Agriculture negative number (i.e. K6302) have the name of the photographer or firm which created the image, i.e. ‘Sparrow Industrial Pictures’ or ‘Miramar Studios’ (a division of the National Publicity Studios). You need to take care as different government agencies often had similarly numbered negative series.
This series [AANR 6329] was originally available in metal cabinets in the Reading Room. The photographs suffered damage and became disordered, so the series was removed from the Reading Room and re-boxed in August 1998. The disorder of the sequence has been retained pending further listing work, and photographs are listed at subject division level in Archway.
Many subject sections were missing when the series was re-boxed and relisted. These classifications have been recorded as missing on the list, although it is also possible that they did not exist when the images were transferred to the then National Archives. The largest 'gap' is in the 57/- sequence of photographs of women. It seems likely this sequence was integrated into another series before transfer.
Many of the negatives, and their indexes and registers are not listed on Archway.
Negatives and prints
First World War
We hold several First World War photograph collections:
Gallipoli Campaign, by Sergeant Jack Hilliard (Permission needed for copies) [WA 254]
Various photographs of: NZEF Embarkation, wounded (graphic images) and women’s war effort in Britain [WA 10 6/23]
Medal Winners, from Dominion Museum exhibition after the war [AALZ 902] Index to names and list of photographs held in our Wellington Reading Room
1st NZ Expeditionary Force in France 1917-1918 by official photographer (H11-H634 with gaps [AALZ 901] Most photographs are general or group shots. A numerical list by print number includes brief descriptions of subject matter. (Many of these photographs are also in the F D Thomson papers)
Soldiers overseas (H279-H876 with gaps – two bundles, some duplicates of above) [ACGO 8398 12 & 13]
Second World War
We hold two major series of Second World War (Pacific) photographs and several smaller series in Wellington:
Official photographs taken by RNZAF photographers in the Pacific and at home [ADQA 17263 especially 64/1-41]
Semi-official and private photographs, mostly army (2 NZEF) but also some navy (RNZN) – Pacific only [ADQZ 18905]
Other groups of photographic images from the Second World War include:
Māori in the armed forces (includes Māori Battalion, Vietnam & Singapore) [AAMK W3495 Box 23 F-Q]
Women at War [AAUR W3263 Box 1]
Photographs in Public Works Department Official War History Index (also in Appendix L, AD series list binder) [ADQZ 18912/72a]
Photographs [ADQZ 18912/72a, 73a, 75a, 77a]
Photographs can also be found through the Second World War subject card index in Wellington.
Other institutions, such as the Alexander Turnbull Library and service museums, hold significant collections of Second World War photographs.
- Royal New Zealand Air Force
See our War research guides for more information.
The most complete set of aerial photographs in the public sector came from LINZ (Land and Information New Zealand). The work (most contracted to New Zealand Aerial Mapping) was done c1936 – 2005. Aerial photographs are used to document landscape and land use changes, to create maps, and to provide aerial views of specific locations at specific times.
Most Crown-owned aerial photograph negatives are held by New Zealand Aerial Mapping Limited (NZAM) and are known as the Crown Aerial Negative Archive. However, a small number of aerial negatives were transferred to us as part of the main sequence of photographic prints [AARP 7938]. Most of these negatives were commissioned by contractors other than NZAM.
Other aerial photographs
This index controls several series: Lands & Survey Prints and Transparencies, Lands & Survey Black and White negatives, Lands & Survey Colour negatives, Lands & Survey Miscellaneous negatives. We do not known how comprehensive the index is or whether it covers the whole of the collections below. [AANS 8136]
These registers record the negative number, date, photographer, place taken and a caption.
Other land related photographs
Historical photographs - this collection includes events, significant personalities, developments in technology and land use, as documented by the former Lands & Survey Department over many years [ABWN 23196]
The Aerial Photographs created by Whites Aviation are held by Alexander Turnbull Library.
Educational filmstrips (some with teacher notes). Films cover topics such as the Treaty of Waitangi, farming, goldmining and industry in New Zealand, Antarctica, life in Fiji, Māori culture, etc. [AAOJ W4898]
Te Aro School
Clyde Quay School
Wellington Girls College
Alexander Turnbull Library School Records
Brooklyn 1902-1961 (including Mornington records)
Mt Cook Infants 1882-1935
Mt Cook Boys 1881-1925
Mt Cooks Girls 1882-1925
Mt Cook Main 1926-1978
Early records for Mt Cook School 1875-1880 are in the Beaglehole Room, Victoria University, Wellington
- School Journal
For further information regarding education records see our Education guide .
Index & Register
Police and prison
Historical photographs of prisoners and criminals are sporadic at best and it is almost impossible to tell when a criminal or police file will contain a photograph. The records below definitely contain photographic material.
Access: All Police records are restricted for 100 years from date of closure, except for Police Gazettes which are restricted for 70 years from closure.
There are also specific Police Photographic collections and supplements:
Hawkes Bay Police
Other transport related photographs
Migration and citizenship
For records containing photographs of Chinese migrants, aliens registrations and some passport applications see our Citizenship and migration guides .
We hold photographs of structures built by the Government only. Private building plans and photographs are held by the individual/company who constructed the building, and/or the local council.
New Zealand Housing Corporation
Photographic Records and Assorted Non-Textual Materials. Various identified and unidentified slides, photographs, plans and sketches of state houses and housing developments, plus some photographs of staff and sports teams [AALF 7484]
Commissions of inquiry
Access: Some of the records of Commissions of Inquiry are restricted. See the Archway listing or contact us for further information.
Health and science
Dental c.1950s – 1970s
Broadcasting, communication and tourism
Some are listed to subject level in Archway some simply to alphabetical range.
Colour transparencies [ABKB 8032]. New Zealand scenery, tourist attractions, and visitors. Most images by staff photographers of the Tourist and Publicity Department and the NZ Tourism Board. Others purchased from commercial photographers or tourist operators for use in overseas promotions.
Index to colour transparencies [ABKB 8034]. A database of images created by the New Zealand Tourism Board in 1996. This contains low resolution copies of colour transparencies held by the Board [Series 8032], and searchable descriptions of each image. The database can be searched by region, subject keyword and number.
Registers of colour transparencies [ABKB 8033]. The registers record the title, date (often photographer and copyright status) of images from the New Zealand Tourism Board's Image Library.
Foreign affairs and relations
Politicians and public servants
For more information on government employment records see our Employment guide .
Tu Tangata: Te Ao Hou records [AAMK W3495]. Permission to publish images from Tu Tangata: Te Ao Hou records must be obtained from Te Puni Kōkiri.
Archives New Zealand
Women’s Suffrage Centennial
Wairakei Geothermal Power Station Project 1956-1958
Last modified on 19 June 2019