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Over 12,000 Historically Significant Images In Lyttelton Museum’s Collection Digitised & Online Now

Treasure trove of photos

Over 12,000 historically significant images in Lyttelton Museum’s collection have been digitised and their catalogue records can now be seen online. The Museum hopes that the community will enjoy what were hidden treasures, and if they have any information to add they will contribute it to the online catalogue.

“I’m really excited that we can make this fabulous resource available,” says Museum President Kerry McCarthy. “Lyttelton Museum has been collecting images for over 50 years and now, with the support of Lottery Environment and Heritage and Canterbury Museum, we can finally share that treasure.”

The images are of photographs, paintings and drawings of the Lyttelton/Whakaraupō area and community dating from around 1860 through to the 21st Century. The community and researchers can access items which were previously all but invisible e.g. the glass plate negative collection. And importantly, there is no need to handle the originals, many of which are fragile.

In 2018, the Museum received Lottery funding to support the digitisation project, which had twin goals: to create high-resolution preservation copies, and to enable the collection to be properly catalogued for the first time. People can easily search through the web-based collection catalogue site eHive, and they can add information to the online records. Images include historic Lyttelton streets and buildings, gatherings and parades; the two World War periods; harbour shipping and maritime events, landscapes, panoramas and people.

“We’re excited to see what new information people can provide about the pictures to help us build our repository of harbour stories for the new Lyttelton Museum,” adds Kerry McCarthy.

It was no simple project. The Museum contracted technician Amy Ryan to work on the collection, which took 14 months to complete. Murray McGuigan and Lizzie Meek, members of the Lyttelton Museum committee, managed the project working with New Zealand Micrographic Services (NZMS) at their Christchurch office based at Canterbury Museum.

The original images were captured by NZMS on a Nikon D850, a full frame digital SLR camera boasting a 45.7 megapixel sensor, which resulted in superb copy quality.

To celebrate the launch of the online repository, the Museum is running a series of online exhibitions via their website, called ‘LocalEyes’, featuring images from the collection meaningful to the Lyttelton locals who select them

The first exhibition is curated by well-known New Zealander and Lyttelton local Joe Bennett. His selection, including commentary on why he chose the images, will be on display from April 28 to 31 July, 2020.

The Lyttelton Museum collection catalogue, which now includes the image collection listings, can be found through the Museum’s website.

View the first ‘LocalEyes’ exhibition curated by Joe Bennett here.

Background information on Lyttelton Museum

The Museum’s collection has been in storage since the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes, when it was rescued from the Museum’s previous premises on Norwich Quay. That building was demolished due to earthquake damage. In 2017 the Christchurch City Council gifted land at 33 London St, in the heart of Lyttelton, as the site for a new Museum. Currently, concept designs for the new Museum building are being developed by architects Warren & Mahoney.

The Museum’s next big project is a major fundraising campaign to raise $9.9M towards building the new Museum, which will celebrate and protect the taonga and stories of Lyttelton, its port, and the wider Lyttelton Harbour Te Whakaraupō communities.

Despite not currently having a physical presence, the Museum continues to be active in the community with pop-up exhibitions and projects to bring the collection back to the community in innovative ways. The image digitisation project is one of these activities.

As well, work continues on important tasks to care for the collections in temporary storage at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand at Wigram so that objects and stories of local, national and international significance can be shared again in the future.


The charred remains of the Rhind & Co. Grain store on Norwich Quay where amajor fire broke out on Christmas Eve, 1942. 1942 Lyttelton Museum Collection ref. 9747.1
A Lyttelton Harbour Board diver (possibly John Canning) descends into the water ca 1930s | Lyttelton Museum Collection ref. 9784.1
Technician Amy Ryan working with a photographic print from the Lyttelton Museum collection. Based at New Zealand Micrographic Services/Canterbury Museum, Amy spent 2,500 hours assessing and cataloguing the objects, and re-housing all the objects into archival packaging. Credit: Leigh Rout/NZMS

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