Let the good times roll – Heritage wallpaper collection now online

One of the largest collections of historic wallpapers in the Southern Hemisphere – and the first Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga collection to be made available online – will go live today (September 1).

Over 650 samples of heritage wallpaper spanning from the 1870s through to the 1970s will be made available through the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga website, enabling people from all over the country – and world – to browse the unique collection at the click of a mouse. 

 “When it came to wallpaper, New Zealanders were definitely early adopters,” says Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Marketing Advisor Bec Collie. 

“Many of our properties around the country still have original examples of wallpaper on the walls dating back to the 1870s. In addition, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga also has an extraordinary collection of original wallpapers, wallpaper swatches and sample books that go back over a century. 

“The collection is one of the most significant groupings of domestic and social history objects in New Zealand.”

Wallpaper has been around since the 16th century, and for many years wallpaper production was slow and labour-intensive with manufacturers using the block printing process. New technology emerging in the 1840s meant mass production of wallpaper became possible, increasing its availability and reducing its price.

Wallpaper production in Britain, for example, went from 1 million rolls in 1834 to nearly 9 million rolls in 1860, with some of that output exported to countries like New Zealand, whose emerging middle and upper class sought new and fashionable patterns to decorate their homes.

“Many of the oldest wallpapers in the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga collection include such iconic brands as Sanderson, Colin McArthur and Shand Kydd which originated from countries like England and Canada,” says Bec.  

“More recent brands like Ashley Wallpapers and Guthrie Bowron may be more familiar to Kiwis, with samples in our collection spanning the 1950s to 1970s. Part of the fun of going through the online collection is to see wallpaper patterns that we remember seeing growing up – either on our own walls, or on the walls of our grand-parents or friends.”

Wallpaper samples – which range from the dowdy to the decadent – provide a snapshot of changing styles, tastes and production techniques across different eras.

“As well as its aesthetic value, the online collection will be an invaluable tool for people researching wallpaper styles for different heritage projects like home and building restorations. The collection also provides ideas from the past that are sure to inspire today.” 

To celebrate the launch of its online wallpaper collection Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga has created a range of beautifully crafted and locally designed gifts and homewares inspired by some of its stunning samples – including scarves, cards and even the classic New Zealand designed Blunt umbrella.

“We wanted to celebrate the collection and its widespread availability with a range of merchandise featuring some of our more striking designs – including the amazing ‘Bloom’ print which was made by English manufacturers Sanderson in 1923, as well as ‘Meadow’ – a beautiful 1970s floral wallpaper; and ‘Marigold’ – an English wallpaper dating back to 1929.”

Check out the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga online wallpaper collection: https://collection.heritage.org.nz/explore or head to the online shop to collect a piece of heritage: https://shop.heritage.org.nz/