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UNESCO recognition for National Film Unit newsreels

UNESCO recognition for National Film Unit newsreels

The National Film Unit newsreels, a significant collection in the care of Archives New Zealand, have just been placed on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) New Zealand Memory of the World Register.

The collection was recognised for having ‘a vital part in informing New Zealanders’ view of the world and themselves for over three decades’.

The newsreels cover all major events in New Zealand’s history, sport and culture from 1942 to 1971. Shown at local cinemas as Weekly Reviews (1941-50) and Pictorial Parades (1952-71) they both portray important national events and give an insight into every day life.

“In the period before the advent of television these newsreels were the only means of audio-visually documenting major events such as wars, political change, natural disasters, sports events and national news,” says Acting Chief Archivist John Roberts.

“Central to the Archives New Zealand audio visual collection the newsreels are a familiar and memorable representation of New Zealand’s twentieth century history, societal change and relationship to the world.

“And today, they still retain a powerful impact.”

John Roberts paid a special tribute to David Smith, Senior Advisor Audio Visual Records and to Evelyn Wareham, Manager Public Sector Digital Continuity for putting together the nomination for the UNESCO biennial award.

Film maker Gaylene Preston and Simon Sigley, lecturer in media studies Massey University Auckland, endorsed the nomination.

This new award takes to three the number of archives now on the register – the others being the 1840 Te Tiriti o Waitangi and the 1893 Women’s Suffrage petition.

The award was presented by former Chief Archivist Dianne Macaskill chair of the UNESCO New Zealand Memory of the World Register committee at this year’s National Digital Forum in Wellington.

UNESCO launched the Memory of the World programme in 1992 to recognise significant documentary heritage in a similar way to that of UNESCO's World Heritage List which recognises significant natural and cultural sites. The need to protect culturally iconic documents was made in response to their being targeted during the Bosnian War.

The New Zealand Memory of the World Programme is one of over 60 programmes worldwide and was established in 2010 by the New Zealand National Commission for UNESCO.

For information about the National Film Unit go to: and view the newsreels on Archives New Zealand’s television channel here.


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