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National Publicity Studios

Although the National Publicity Studios were established in 1945, its beginnings can be traced back to the establishment in 1924 of a Publicity Office – part of the Department of Internal Affairs. The emphasis of this Publicity Office was on films, photographs and booklets. 

The National Publicity Studios also has strong connections with the early Tourist and Health Resorts Department [AABO and AECB], established in 1901 with some focus on promoting the unique landscapes of New Zealand using photography.

At the end of the Second World War, the Publicity Office was divided into two parts - the newly created National Publicity Studios and the National Film Unit for more information on the National Film Unit see our Audiovisual research guide.

The purpose of the National Publicity Studios was to provide advice to government departments and state agencies on the provision of photographic, art, and display services and to assist in the production of publicity material aimed at conveying a favourable image of New Zealand. 

The National Publicity Studios was divided into two main sections: 

  1. Photographic - photographers, laboratory, photo library and facilities for audio-visual production. 

  2. Art - graphic art, display art, display workshops and silkscreen facilities. 

In 1987, the National Publicity Studios was disestablished and replaced by Communicate New Zealand. 

For more information see:

  • Directory of Official Information 1983 

  • 75 Years of Tourism (pamphlet) 1976 

  • NZ Tourist & Publicity Department (pamphlet) 1978 

  • Appendices to the Journals of the House of Representatives 1949, H-47 

  • Archway Agency documentation for the National Publicity Studios [AAQT]

Registers and indexes 

As a rule, indexes and registers which are part of this collection contain the following information:

  • Negative registers: negative reference, brief outline of subject shown, sometimes a date and photographer

  • Negative card indexes: card for each negative or sometimes a group of negatives, if taken of the same scene

The cards contain information such as negative number, a comprehensive outline of the subject (generally more information than in the corresponding negative register), and sometimes the name of the photographer and the date the photograph was taken. 

black and white photograph of girls standing around a mirror
Reference: AAQT 6539 W3537 Box 94 A90301

Railway photographs

The photographs of New Zealand Railways came primarily from its Publicity and Advertising branch.

Accessing the collection

You can browse the drawers of reference prints in the Wellington Register Room using the subject headings on the drawer labels and interior drawer divisions as a guide to relevant image groups. 

You can also use the subject card index (two drawers) on top of the reference print cabinets. The left drawer includes both general for example regional stations and technical images such as different locomotive types and gives specific negative references. The right drawer includes similar headings but is more directly related to the print collection, which is arranged by subject rather than negative number. The index cards have reference print drawer numbers noted on them. 

Forestry photographs

The main collection of Forestry Black and White Reference Prints [AAQA 6506] is held in the repository. However, you can request to view photographs in the Reading Room. 

Reference print images range from exotic and indigenous species of trees and other flora to forest industry and forestry methods (e.g. logging, deer farms, animal control, nurseries, silviculture, afforestation). 

Subjects also include publicity shots, housing and offices, state forest parks and scenic reserves, Rangers and Junior Woodsman Training Schools, forestry workers and trainees (at work and leisure), conferences, ministerial visits and portraits of Forest Service directors and senior officers. 

The photographs date from about 1922 to 1987. Information for each image (date, subject, photographer, negative number) is on the back of the prints.

Black and White Reference Prints [AAQA 6506] are listed to box and subject level in our online search Archway.

four children planting a tree
Reference: AAQA W3347 6506 Box 32/ 945.2 Print 7090

Agriculture photographs

Multiple number subject classification prints make up the main group of agriculture photographs [AANR 6329]

This collection is formed from several different negative series including: 

  • “A” negatives [6328] 

  • “K” negatives [6327] 

  • “G” negatives [6340] 

  • “MIN” negatives [6307] 

  • “S” negatives [6338] 

  • Black and white negatives [6306] 

  • “Mr Neale's” negatives [6318] 

  • Additional negatives from various outside organisations such as the National Publicity Studios and Ministry of Works

All prints have multiple number subject classifications. The first number is the main topic, the second number the sub-topic, and the third number the specific print, for example 1/4/26, where 1 means Apiary, 4 Bee Anatomy, and 26 that this is the 26th photo on Bee Anatomy.

War photographs

Aerial photographs

The most complete set of aerial photographs in the public sector came from LINZ (Land and Information New Zealand). The work (most contracted to New Zealand Aerial Mapping) was done c1936 – 2005. Aerial photographs are used to document landscape and land use changes, to create maps, and to provide aerial views of specific locations at specific times. 

You can access the aerial photographs [18861] through the card index to aerial photographs [ABWN 18929] although some are listed by name/area in Archway. 

Most Crown-owned aerial photograph negatives are held by New Zealand Aerial Mapping Limited (NZAM) and are known as the Crown Aerial Negative Archive. However, a small number of aerial negatives were transferred to us as part of the main sequence of photographic prints [AARP 7938]. Most of these negatives were commissioned by contractors other than NZAM.

Land photographs


This index controls several series: Lands & Survey Prints and Transparencies, Lands & Survey Black and White negatives, Lands & Survey Colour negatives, Lands & Survey Miscellaneous negatives. We do not known how comprehensive the index is or whether it covers the whole of the collections below. [AANS 8136]

Education photographs 

For further information regarding education records see our  Education guide.

Wildlife Service

Police and prison

Historical photographs of prisoners and criminals are sporadic at best and it is almost impossible to tell when a criminal or police file will contain a photograph. The records below definitely contain photographic material. 

Access: All Police records are restricted for 100 years from date of closure, except for Police Gazettes which are restricted for 70 years from closure.

Black and white mugshot of a man
Reference: P12 Box 39/ 52


Migration and citizenship 

For records containing photographs of Chinese migrants, aliens registrations and some passport applications see our Citizenship and migration guides.


We hold photographs of structures built by the Government only. Private building plans and photographs are held by the individual/company who constructed the building, and/or the local council. 

Commissions of inquiry

Access: Some of the records of Commissions of Inquiry are restricted. See the Archway listing or contact us for further information.

Health and science 

Broadcasting, communication and tourism

black and white image of a  young woman in a white nurses uniform
Reference: ABKI 520 W4078 Box 1 / 1b

Foreign affairs and relations

Politicians and public servants

For more information on government employment records see our Employment guide.

man in a suit sitting on a stage with his arms around two sheep with two dogs sitting on the sheeps backs
Reference: R23223859 AAXO 8029 W4742 25 / 180


Archives New Zealand

Women’s Suffrage Centennial


Wairakei Geothermal Power Station Project 1956-1958