Documentary archives

  • Hand-written journal from Comber papers MB814-Comber papers-item 79256-journal-1840

    MB814 Comber papers, item 79256, journal, 5 February 1840

The Macmillan Brown Library holds nearly 5000 linear metres of archival material, from many individuals and groups. The archives include diaries, letters, unpublished manuscripts, financial records, meeting minutes and much more. We have listed a few of our significant collections below. Listings of archive collections can be searched online via Kā Kohika.

We are collecting an increasing amount of material from local Canterbury businesses. Some of the largest collections in this category are materials from:

  • Caxton Press / Landfall
  • Lichfield New Zealand.
  • The Canterbury Frozen Meat Company
  • Booth MacDonald and Company Limited ['BoothMac's'] / Kariori Fibre Company
  • New Zealand Stock Exchange photographs
  • Christchurch Gas Works
  • Hall and MacKenzie

We are continuing to build our collection in this often neglected category. We hold archives from a diverse range of people and organisations including:

  • The Ancient Order of Foresters
  • The Christchurch Nuclear Free Peacemaking Association.
  • Halt All Racist Tours (HART)
  • Pacifist, Conscientious Objectors and Peace Groups records
  • Peter Lusk
  • Patient’s Rights Inc
  • The Prisoner’s Aid Society (PARS)
  • The National Council of Women
  • The New Zealand Navy League
  • The Society of Friends
  • Youth Hostel Association of New Zealand Inc [YHANZ]
  • Canterbury Volunteer Centre
  • The Pacific Leprosy Foundation
  • The Victoria League of New Zealand ( Canterbury Branch)
  • The Royal Overseas League
  • Salisbury Street Foundation
  • Home and Family Society
  • Robyn Duff papers (relating to the Gay liberation movement)

The International Military Tribunal for the Far East (IMTFE), most commonly known as the Tokyo War Crimes Trial (29 April 1946 to 12 November 1948), was one of the most important trials of the twentieth century. The IMTFE was charged with bringing the highest levels of Japanese war criminals to trial. The Tribunal consisted of eleven members from eleven nations: Australia, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, India, New Zealand, the Philippines, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, and the United States of America. Justice Erima Harvey Northcroft was chosen to represent New Zealand on the Bench of the IMTFE.

After the trial In January 1949, Justice Northcroft kindly donated his nearly complete set of trial documents to the University of Canterbury (then University of Canterbury College). At the time of his bequest, Justice Northcroft was well aware of the importance of this resource. Since that time, as original copies of the material have dwindled, disintegrated, and been lost, the value of Northcroft’s gift has risen exponentially.

This collection is now one of the most complete sets of IMTFE documents in the world. It contains almost 380 volumes and nearly 110,000 pages. Evidence can be found therein for examinations of virtually any topic regarding Asia in the first half of the twentieth century, particularly as it applies to the growth of Japanese imperialism.

View the complete inventory for the Justice Erima Harvey Northcroft Tokyo War Crimes Trial Collection.

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.

Researchers are able to access a great deal of material deposited with us by individuals and families. This material includes correspondence, diaries and personal records. Some of the most heavily used materials in this category are:

  • The Acland Family Papers
  • The Baverstock papers
  • The Armitage family papers
  • Samuel Hurst Seagar papers
  • James Hight papers
  • Leo Bensemann papers
  • Muriel Bradshaw papers
  • Brian Wyn Irwin papers
  • The Fenwick Family papers
  • The John Hall papers
  • The John Macmillan Brown papers
  • The John Bell Condliffe papers
  • Harry Reginald Hornsby papers

We have papers from Canterbury politicians and political parties. Special access restrictions apply to some of these collections. Included amongst these records are the papers of:

  • The New Zealand National Party
  • The New Zealand Labour Party
  • The New Zealand Values Party
  • The New Zealand Social Credit Political League Records
  • Sir Geoffrey Palmer
  • David Caygill
  • Tim Barnett
  • Ruth Richardson
  • Max Bradford
  • The New Zealand Democratic Party 

This category includes material from:

  • The Canterbury District Law Society
  • The Nurses’ Association
  • The New Zealand Association of Social Workers

Over the years we have gathered collections of materials that have a particular research focus, including:

  • The 1981 Springbok Tour Archive (a digitized version of this is available via Kā Kohika).
  • The Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal Records (an HTML version of this inventory can be found here; it is also available via Kā Kohika).
  • Jan Willem De Jong papers
  • The Ron Every Papers
  • The Karl Popper papers
  • The Writing Research Aotearoa Archive
  • Origins of New Zealand English Project Archives
  • The Diary of Mr. Francis Hayter
  • The Comber manuscript
  • The R B Holmes collection (relating to the North West Frontier region of India)
  • We also have papers relating to New Zealand's involvement in Military matters include the First and Second World Wars, the Vietnam War and the Boer War

The Macmillan Brown Library is Canterbury’s single largest repository of Trade Union Archives. We hold minute books, correspondence and financial papers from a variety of Trade Unions dating back to the 19th century. This category is a significant resource for all those interested in researching New Zealand industrial relations. Donors within this group include:

  • The New Zealand Watersiders Union
  • The Council of Trade Unions
  • The Federation of Labour

We are the repository of the University of Canterbury’s non-current archival material, including University of Canterbury College Inwards Correspondence from 1873-1957.

We also hold material from notable Canterbury lecturers, and the archives of some special projects carried out by academic staff. Certain University clubs have deposited their archives with us and we hold records from the University of Canterbury Students Association. Other University affiliated organisations include:

  • Helen Connon Hall
  • Bishop Julius Hall Association
  • Rolleston House
  • The University of Canterbury Drama Society

We are Canterbury's largest archive of literary manuscripts and associated papers and we also hold significant collections from local artists. We hold correspondence and papers from:

  • Rewi Alley
  • Ursula Bethell
  • Keri Hulme
  • Stevan Eldred Grigg
  • James K Baxter
  • John Weir
  • G R Gilbert
  • Mervyn Thompson
  • Ngaio Marsh
  • Robert Pinney
  • Arnold Wall
  • Mona Anderson
  • Chrystabel Aitken
  • The Arts Council of New Zealand
  • The Physics Room
  • Peter Ireland
  • Cora Wilding


Archives can be used in the Macmillan Brown Library. Register and request to view items using Kā Kohika. If you have problems, email the Macmillan Brown Library.

Copying and reproduction

All requests for copying and reproduction must be approved by the Macmillan Brown Library. Some charges may occur. Contact the Macmillan Brown Library to make a request.

Contact us

For further information, contact:
The Macmillan Brown Library
Phone: 03 369 4499 ext. 94499