Collections

If clothes maketh the man, then it's surely the items in and around heritage properties that make them fascinating, bringing history and stories colourfully to life.

Across its portfolio of properties, Heritage New Zealand holds over 70,000 historic objects relating to the inhabitants and the multi-layered histories of those sites.

Together this collection makes one of the largest groupings of domestic and social history objects in New Zealand, and is of exceptional historical significance.  We also hold what is believed to be one of the largest collections of historic wallpapers in the Southern Hemisphere.

The collection bears witness to the gamut of everyday domestic life and industry in New Zealand from about the 1820s onward, with particular emphasis on the Victorian and Edwardian periods.  

Meteors, Tudor books, photographs, nipple shields, children’s toys, tuatara eggs, recipe books, diaries and letters, chamber pots, printing presses, high-end domestic furnishings and the contents of ‘lowly’ pioneer dwellings, potato scufflers, windmills, a table on which the Treaty of Waitangi was signed – a seemingly endless list of fascinating objects – largely within the context of their original settings and therefore providing a unique insight into New Zealand history.

Information about items held at all properties is managed centrally on our collection management database.  A small selection of these objects is available to view by searching by property at New Zealand Museums, or by using the search box at the left.  

We are in the initial stages of planning our own Collections Online resource.  

Small publications about aspects of the collection (fashions and recipe books) are available to purchase - contact the Stone Store via shop@heritage.org.nz for more details.

Please contact the Heritage Adviser Collections in our National Office with enquiries and questions.

  • Child's rattle

    A 1680s combination baby's rattle, whistle and teething soother.  A similar item is held in the Victoria and Albert Museum.  Image: Stephen Tilley

  • Portrait of Mary Hawkins

    This portrait of Blanche Lush's great great grandmother, Mary Hawkins, was painted around 1710.  It still hangs in Ewelme Cottage.  Image: Stephen Tilley  

  • Shoes

    These shoes, held at Te Waimate Mission, were probably heirlooms sent to Bishop Selwyn's wife, Sarah.  By the time they arrived, the Selwyns had moved and the shoes ended up with her mother, Harriet Richardson.  Image: Stephen Tilley

  • Dry goods storage cupboard

    This is a Depression-era kitchen drawer unit for dry goods at Fyffe House.  They are made from biscuit tins - the paper is still attached to the outside edges - a nice example of "making-do" in tough times.  Image: Stephen Tilley

  • George Low's boat

    Perhaps the largest object catalogued - George Low's clinker-built boat at Fyffe House.  He used it to catch lobsters and kept it in the parlour after he retired.  Image: Grant Sheehan.

  • Cup and saucer

    The hand-painted kowhai pattern on this teacup, saucer and plate set is an early example of a New Zealand aesthetic appearing in decorative arts.  Image: Stephen Tilley

  • Nipple shields

    These Victorian lead shields are extremely rare.  Nursing mothers used them to keep their clothing dry.  These were donated to Ewelme Cottage at a much later date - they did not belong to the Lush family.  Image: Stephen Tilley.

Donating objects

The collection has frequently benefited from the donations of objects from individuals.  In general, we only acquire objects which relate directly to one of our properties or to their original inhabitants.  However non-related items are sometimes acquired for education or handling collections.

If you are interested in donating an item to a property, please contact the Heritage Adviser Collections in the first instance.

Objects can also be left via bequest.  Please contact the Heritage Adviser Collections or the Funding Development Manager for more information. 

Recent acquisitions

A correspondence book belonging to James Reddy Clendon!  

This book was recently donated to Clendon House, Rawene.  Written in James Reddy Clendon’s hand, the letters copied inside are dated from 1862 to 1865, and are particularly useful as an historical resource as this dates to the period that he was beginning to build his residence at Rawene.

James Clendon (1800-1872) was an influential early European settler in the Northland district, acting as a large scale land owner, merchant president of New Zealand’s first bank, United States consul, and a member of New Zealand’s first legislative council.  He witnessed the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi and was a strong advocate for local Maori.

Loans

Collection items are available for loan to museum institutions only.  Formal loan requests should be submitted at least six months in advance to the Heritage Adviser Collections.  The Heritage Adviser Collections can also provide a copy of our loans policy on request.  

Handling collections may be available for school groups at certain Heritage New Zealand properties. Please contact the Property Manager in question.

You can view the loan agreement template (pdf, 655kb) for an indication of loan conditions.

Research and image requests

The Heritage New Zealand collection is an amazing resource for researchers of material culture and domestic and interior design.  Other particular research strengths include the lives of women and children, education, costume and textiles, missionaries and mission life, and the development of particular pastoral and mechanical industries.   We also hold what we believe to be the largest collection of historic wallpaper samples in the Southern Hemisphere, amounting to over 2,000 samples. This collection is housed as Highwic in Auckland.

Read more about the strengths of the Heritage New Zealand collection on this website. 

For enquiries about researching the Heritage New Zealand collection, please contact the Heritage Adviser Collections. Research charges may apply and details of these are available on request.

Collection images are also available for inclusion in publications.  Please see here for details of image charges, and an application form.