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.

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