Aotearoa and the Pacific

  • Carved wooden canoe by Ioane Iaone UC-APC-1260

    Ioane Ioane, Guam - leklek II, 2016, Mixed media: wood, shells, thread, UC-APC-1260

The unique Aotearoa and Pacific collection held at the Macmillan Brown Library was established as separate collection within the University of Canterbury Library in 1935 when it was received as a bequest from John Macmillan Brown (1845-1935) who was one of the University's foundation professors (1874-1895). He bequeathed the bulk of his fortune to the University of Canterbury to fund the Macmillan Brown Library and the Macmillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies.

The terms of the will authorised the development of his library as a permanent research collection for Aotearoa and the Pacific. The will states that its purpose is for 'the sympathetic investigation and research of the history, traditions, customs, laws and ideas of the peoples of the Pacific generally'. The term 'Pacific' in relation to Macmillan Brown's will has always been understood to include Aotearoa. UC library staff continue to develop the collection according to those principles and the evolving learning, teaching and research needs of UC, and the Macmillan Brown Library now holds a very extensive range of New Zealand and Pacific material.

Ephemera is a term for printed material with a limited life span which is produced for specific events, issues, products or services eg. programmes, brochures, flyers.

Macmillan Brown Library has 3 large separate collections of ephemera:

  • Theatre and concert programmes - from musical and dramatic shows performed in Christchurch and Canterbury. These programmes date from 1897 onward. This is a very large and extensive collection.
  • Art files - art exhibition invitations or programmes. These files are organised under individual artist or gallery names. The art files are listed on our catalogue.
  • General ephemera - this covers a wide range of material including political flyers, sports programmes, festival programmes, travel brochures, church services and much more from the 1920s onward.

Digitised copies of the Canterbury College and Canterbury University College reviews are available here

Published by the Students’ Association, the Canterbury College Review was founded in 1897 and ran until 1948, with a name change to the Canterbury University College Review in 1914.

The Expedition Reports Collection consists of material gathered during various exploratory expeditions.

Early 20th century Polar exploration

  • Including expeditions by the British, Scottish, Swedish and Americans.

Early Pacific exploration

French, British and American including

  • Reports on the Challenger Expedition of 1873-76
  • The French Expedition to Cape Horn of 1882-83

To see items in this collection, please ask at the Macmillan Brown Library Service Desk.

William McKay was a medical practitioner who bequeathed his library to Canterbury College in 1944. The 74 items in the collection are either on West Coast history, or the natural history of New Zealand. Each item is numbered in the original sequence designated by McKay.

William McKay was born in 1876 at Black's Point, near Reefton. McKay began practising medicine in 1908. He was in England at the outbreak of World War One and served in France with the Medical Corps. He retired in 1925. McKay's obituary describes him as "one of Greymouth's best known and respected citizens". He certainly was very active as he had ties to many local sporting groups and committees; being one of the foremost members of the Grey District Acclimatisation Society, foundation member of the Greymouth Golf Club and Greymouth Men's club, former president of the Star Rugby Football Club (having been a prominent player in his youth), vice-president of the Greymouth Trotting Club, president of the Greymouth branch of the Canterbury Automobile Association, member of the Arthur's Pass National Park Committee, an inaugural member and chairman of the Municipal Baths Committee and member of the National Party.

McKay was also very interested in botany and birds, and during his retirement he took an active interest in the natural history and wild life of the West Coast. He had a substantial book collection, containing many rare and valuable items relating to the West Coast or containing considerable reference to it. McKay bequeathed these items to Canterbury College in 1944. McKay died on 22 August 1946, aged 70 years.

To see items in this collection, please ask at the Macmillan Brown Library Service Desk.

The collection is split into three categories:

  • Items concerning the West Coast (including newspapers).
  • Items relating to the natural history of New Zealand.
  • Other items including McKay's manuscripts and a list of his complete Library before his death.

The Macmillan Brown Library has many oral history recordings available for researchers. Some are in specific oral history collections, while others are within archival collections. Christchurch, Canterbury, and the West Coast feature strongly in the oral history collection but there are also oral histories concerning people and places elsewhere in New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

The oral histories are recorded on a variety of formats including magnetic audio tape, compact discs and digital files stored on the Library network. For technical and rights management reasons all oral histories must be listened to within the Macmillan Brown Library reading room. Staff will let you know how to access the particular recording format of the oral history that you have requested.

Clients must formally request to use oral histories for purposes other than private research and study. If you would like a copy of an oral history the Library may charge a reproduction fee along with copying costs. New Zealand copyright legislation applies to all oral histories in the collection and it is the responsibility of the user to comply with copyright regulations.

As most oral histories were given to the Library under the auspices of specific deeds of gifts and formal consent forms, copying and access restrictions may apply to particular collections. The Library reserves the right to refuse access and copying requests for any reason including preservation concerns.

More information

You are welcome to contact our staff if you would like help with your enquiry. 

Caroline Syddall

Pacific Library Liaison
Macmillan Brown Library Rm 226A
Internal Phone: 93883

See the following subject guides for more information: