Cartoon Archive Celebrates a Quarter Century

In the quarter century since Prime Minister Jim Bolger launched the NZ Cartoon Archive on April Fool’s Day 1992, over 50,000 cartoons have been collected, 14 exhibitions held, six books and one monograph published, and there has been an array of events from a Cartoonists’ Convention to seminars and lectures by prominent cartoonists.

Not only is the Cartoon Archive the only one of its kind in Australasia, it was run during the first 13 years in a then unique private-public sector partnership. The NZ Cartoon Archive Trust, with prominent business world trustees, raised money, promoted the archive and curated exhibitions while the Alexander Turnbull Library (ATL) referenced and archived the increasing number of cartoons donated by cartoonists and collectors and made available by newspaper companies. For the last 12 years, since 2005, the Archive has been fully integrated into the Alexander Turnbull Library and the Guardians of the NZ Cartoon Archive has continued the work of the Trust, particularly with the publication of books and running of the Cartoon Archive’s website. The Archive’s 25th anniversary will be celebrated with several events, jointly organised by the Guardians and the ATL.

These include:

  • Illustrated lecture by leading UK cartoonist Steve Bell at the National Library on 9 March 2017.
  • Launch of Savages to Suits: Māori in editorial cartoons monograph by Paul Diamond, ATL’s Maori Curator in July 2017.
  • The exhibition Ludicrous Likenesses: The Fine Art of Caricature, curated by Dr Oliver Stead, ATL Curator Drawings, Paintings and Prints, at, and in conjunction with, the NZ Portrait Gallery.

Chief Librarians Chris Szekely, Margaret Calder and Jim Traue with Ian Grant.

Contributions from Many

“When I researched The Unauthorized Version, the country’s first cartoon history, in the late 1970s, I quickly became aware that we had a remarkable heritage of first-rate cartoonists stretching back well over one hundred years. This, and the work of contemporary cartoonists, needed to be preserved as increasingly valuable historical sources of information about prevailing attitudes and views of each generation.

“A number of people have contributed to turning an idea into an increasingly substantial reality.

“There has been wholehearted support from ATL chief librarians – from Jim Traue’s enthusiasm for the original concept to Margaret Calder’s involvement in getting the Archive up and running to Chris Szekely’s on-going and very active interest. “Members of the Cartoon Archive Trust, particularly the late Michael Robson, Ian Fraser and Hugh Rennie, made significant contributions.

“Key working roles were played by Susan Foster, the manager/curator for the first eight years; Rachel Macfarlane, Archive Trust administrator, 2000-05, and cartoon research librarians Pauline Hannah, Melinda Johnston and, now, Hannah Benbow.

“Also, the Cartoon Archive would not have succeeded without the willingness of the country’s cartoonists, their relatives, and newspaper companies to provide the cartoon originals and copies, on paper and digitally, to build the collection. The promise to preserve their work for future generations to study and enjoy has been faithfully carried out by ATL staff.”

Ian F. Grant, founder, NZ Cartoon Archive

One of the Brightest Jewels

“It is a pleasure to applaud the 25th anniversary of the founding of the New Zealand Cartoon Archive. Since the Turnbull Library assumed full responsibility for the care and ongoing development of the Archive in 2005, editorial cartoons have continued to be an important research resource. Nowhere is this more evident than in the forthcoming monograph by the library’s Maori Curator, Paul Diamond, which examines how Maori have been depicted in editorial cartoons between 1930 and 1990.

“Another cartoon-related event that happily falls within the jubilee year, is the exhibition, Ludicrous Likenesses: The Fine Art of Caricature. The exhibition is a collaboration between the library, the New Zealand Portrait Gallery and the Guardians of the Cartoon Archive. Scheduled to open at the Portrait Gallery in August, the show, co-curated by the ATL’s, Dr Oliver Stead and Hannah Benbow, draws almost exclusively on the Turnbull’s cartoon holdings, and promises a treasure trove of original artworks, many of which have never before been publicly exhibited.

“These are just two of the events that will showcase the New Zealand Cartoon Archive over the coming year. As the Library approaches its centenary year, it is very pleasing to celebrate the Archive’s continued position as one of the brightest jewels in the Turnbull Crown.”

Chris Szekely, ATL Chief Librarian