New Zealand Community Archives

Dr Eric Boamah


Archives and Records Association of New Zealand (ARANZ)

The vast collection of New Zealand’s central and local government archival material is stored in the many archives, libraries, museums and other repositories throughout the country. The wealth and protection of this material is reliant on providing public access to it and the resultant evidence of its worth by such access. While much of the material has a high information value, it also has an evidential value, which can be utilised to protect people’s rights and ensure openness to transactions of groups from local councils to the Government.

Archives New Zealand confirmed this year that they will no longer be maintaining its ‘Community Archives’ site which was struggling to maintain a reliable inventory of archived material. Instead they have offered a listing of institutions. This fails to serve the purpose that many contributors want.

A critical opportunity

The Archive and Record Association of New Zealand (ARANZ) believes the current situation provides a unique opportunity to better promote records and archives and their use. It is determined to prove a positive way forward for all parties to reinvigorate the archive and records network, for documenting the activities and philosophies of New Zealand past, present and future.

Historical vision

One problem people have in accessing and using the wealth of material is to locate it. To combat this major barrier to access, the National Register of Archives and Manuscripts (NRAM) was established in 1979 by the then National Archives. This allowed institutions and private collectors to list their collections. This not only greatly assisted researchers to search for sometimes obscure collections, but also to locate materials in repositories that would not seem to be a logical home. By this means, institutions could also advertise their very existence in pre-internet days.

In 2005, NRAM, now rebranded as the Community Archive, was updated into a digital format by Archives New Zealand, for both government material and other significant collections. Many reasons for its failure included difficulty for repository organisations to directly update their material as intended.

Pivotal role of Community Archives

Community Archives had a pivotal role to connect information with those that require it. It provided valuable support to community groups to broadcast their collections and thereby add to the documentary heritage of the country. Without access to the full record, scholarship will be unable to present a clear and full picture of New Zealand and how large events or changes in philosophy affected the country as a whole.

Strategy for a new platform

ARANZ, community institutions and users of records, have expressed their concern at the lack of a vehicle to promote records and their locations. As an advocate of archives and records, ARANZ believes it has a duty to devise a means to ensure the vision of NRAM is continued and supported.

ARANZ will canvass their members and contact other stakeholders, including smaller repositories and those institutions that have the preservation of records as a minor aspect of their core activities. With a clear strategy, ARANZ will then work with Archives NZ, the holders of the information, to instigate a new platform to provide a successful outcome for all involved.

Contributions are welcome to preserve our archives

This is an ongoing project and ARANZ would be interested in the ideas or comments of your group. For further information, contact Dr Eric Boamah,, Phone: +64 4 9155858 Mobile: +64 226820537,

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