Te Papa Picture Library digitisation – Natural disasters

When I was 12 the sky once rained ash.

Sounds strange doesn’t it? However, in Taupo, New Zealand where I grew up, a series of eruptions from the nearby volcano Mt Ruapehu became a regular occurrence. From 1995-1996 the mountain reminded us that it was still active, releasing lahars and clouds of ash.

These eruptions triggered my fascination with volcanoes. Although it wasn’t just volcanic eruptions that intrigued me, I was interested by all kinds of natural disasters.

Earthquakes and Volcanoes : Untitled

Earthquakes and Volcanoes : Untitled, New Zealand. Maker unknown. Te Papa

I was so fascinated by these events unleashed by Mother Nature that I studied geography through the Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu – The Correspondence School up to my 7th form year (now year 13). I loved being taught through a distance education programme. I think it was the excitement of collecting a new pack of learning material every month or so. These packs were not only full of text but were packed with visual resources to aid in learning.

Rees Street, Queenstown, NZ, during flood of 1878

Rees Street, Queenstown, NZ, during flood of 1878, 1878, Queenstown. Hart, William P. Hart, Campbell & Co. Purchased 1943. Te Papa

With New Zealand experiencing many natural disasters over the years with everything from floods, droughts, earthquakes to eruptions it is not surprising that Te Papa holds a vast number of images of natural disasters. This month we have been focusing on digitising images in the collection depicting these events in New Zealand and globally.

Perhaps one day one of these images will appear in a publication to aid others in learning about the earth’s natural events… just like those that appeared in my Correspondence School packs.

Inangahua in flood

Inangahua in flood, January 1877, Reefton. Barrowman, J. Te Papa

Eruption of Matavanu Volcano, Savai’i, Samoa

Eruption of Matavanu Volcano, Savai’i, Samoa, 1905, Samoa. Andrew, Thomas. Te Papa

By Becky Masters, Picture Library Manager

2 Responses

  1. Te Papa Picture Library

    Thanks for your comment Daniel, I am glad you enjoyed them.

    We had little photographs of droughts, but I did get the following two scanned, so do check them out at the following links:



    Kind regards

    Becky Masters
    Te Papa Picture Library Manager

  2. Daniel Collins

    Historical photos like these are great for making rare, natural disasters more tangible, complementing historical accounts and scientific measurements. I’d be inclined to add pictures of droughts to the list too, creeping though they are, like low rivers, parched fields or extensive tree die-back. Thanks for sharing!


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