Precious documents on show at library
Having been made more accessible, there is hope that all Kiwis will visit the country’s founding documents.
The 1835 Declaration of Independence of the United Tribes of New Zealand, 1840 Treaty of Waitangi and 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition are displayed in He Tohu, a new permanent exhibition at the National Library of New Zealand.
After three years of planning and development, the exhibition opened on Saturday, making the documents more accessible.
The documents are housed in specially made display cases, made by German company Glasbau Hahn, which monitors light intensity, temperature and humidity levels to preserve them.
Project manager Rob Stevens says the documents have become fragile and both the paper or parchment and signatures have yellowed, making them difficult to read.
The cases use LED lighting, together with low lighting in the room, to make them easier to read.
Stevens says the cases themselves look simple, but they are fitted with security glass and contain sensors to monitor what is going on.
The document room is also set at a cooler temperature to help the preservation.
Each document has ‘lighting hours’ that measure how long they can stand the light before becoming damaged, so visitors will turn the lights on for each when they want to read them.
Stevens says that one of the biggest challenges was that all of the documents have different light limits.
‘‘Some of the documents stand up to five times the light as other documents,’’ he says.
‘‘Fortunately the big Waitangi sheet … that actually has the best light tolerance, so that’s able to stay on display at the level we’ve got pretty much all the time.’’
Some more fragile pieces only have a tolerance of one or two hours a day.
Stevens says that with optimised controls, the documents will last another 500 years.
The documents were pre- viously housed at Archives New Zealand in a display that was designed in 1989.
He Tohu is open six days a week and has free entry.
He Tohu is at the National Library of New Zealand, Molesworth St, Wellington.
An artist’s impression of the He Tohu exhibition, which is now open.