Wellington City Libraries

Te Matapihi Ki Te Ao Nui

Heritage > Our ephemera collection

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H.M.S Pinafore programme cover.

Photo of Dame Sybil Thorndike as St. Joan

What is "ephemera"?

"Ephemera" is material that is published and printed for the moment. It is not designed to be kept and is very much a reflection of the times in which it was produced.

Examples of ephemera include: posters, pamphlets, brochures, invitations, and programmes for events.

Our ephemera collection

Catch a glimpse of the past with our Ephemera Collection, boxes of scraps and gems from everyday life that the Library has kept over the years. As well as the historical content, ephemera is useful when studying design.

The libraries' ephemera collection can be divided into two distinct parts:

  1. Posters
  2. Other ephemera


The poster collection at Central Library consists of a comprehensive sample of posters that have been displayed in the library since 1976, with a sprinkling from earlier dates. They cover a large range of styles and subjects; from hand done efforts by local groups to glossy professional works, from movie festival posters to local gigs to marches against violence, all reflecting the concerns and styles of their eras. They are being progressively recorded and re-housed in archival folders.

They are housed on the first floor of the library near the Art, Music and Literature desk, in locked cabinets. They cannot of course be borrowed, but can be viewed in the library - you need to ask at the desk, and provide some ID. They are subject to copyright for anything other than personal use and study.

Other Ephemera:

We have information on theatre, music, dance, art exhibitions, political meetings, school fairs, churches, industry and much more.

This section of the Ephemera Collection is housed on the second floor of the library, and use of this part of the collection is subject to the same conditions as the poster collection. To access this collection in the library, ask at the second floor enquiries desk. See below for a cross-section of the content of this collection.


Advertisements are a fascinating part of ephemera.

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The portable gramophone - the iPod of its day?

  • "Old Dutch Cleanser - A champion of woman's rights - the right to spotless floors and walls, shining pots and pans."
  • "The new handy size Dominion to combat Wellington winds."
  • "Translucent loveliness that belongs to crystalline Kauri Gum is presented for your selection in Jewellery fashioned into earrings, fobs, necklaces, brooches and pendants."


What entertainments were available to Wellingtonians over the years?

Our programmes include:

  • Hinemoa conducted by composer Alfred H. Hill in 1896.
  • The Wellington Liedertafel's separate Ladies' and 'Smoke' (gentlemen only) nights in the early 1900s (and again, women-only nights for some 1980s theatre).
  • 1941 entertainment at the Town Hall featuring Public Service Queen Miss Joan Young, and Government Department Princess, Miss Thelma Mark.
  • The touring Hohner Symphony Accordion Orchestra with Rolf Glass Chromonica Trio in 1955.
  • The singing boys of Mexico - "Twenty enchanging youngsters, aged 8 to 15 years, with swarthy skins, flashing eyes, and golden voices, singing with the fervour and fire of their fascinating Mexican homeland", visiting during the 1957 Lower Hutt Music and Drama Festival.
  • Cooking demonstrations during the 1967 Wellington Maori Arts Festival, with tasty Kumara Towers and Apricots Kiri Te Kanawa.
  • Downstage performances in the 1970s which promised "all cigarettes used in Downstage productions are exclusively Rothmans".

Ephemera on the Wellington Local History Database

The Ephemera collection has been indexed and can be searched through our Wellington Local History database.

Anti-prohibition advertisement.

Wellington Railway Station under construction.

Heritage Links (Local History)