Air New Zealand’s 75th anniversary celebrations begin with a new exhibition due to open at Te Papa on the 20 December 2014; Air New Zealand 75 years: Our nation. The world. Connected.
The exhibition includes a fabulous and sometimes quirky range of objects selected from Air New Zealand’s archive and Te Papa’s own collection. As our national carrier, the airline’s story is inevitably intertwined with New Zealand’s history and as such some real gems have ended up in Te Papa’s collection.
A great example is a 1958 NAC (National Airways Corporation) poster featuring a witch. This eye-catching poster is bright, bold and playful. Standout, cleverly designed posters were a key marketing tool in the 1950s, and many examples take pride of place in the exhibition.
In this NAC example a witch is flying through the sky in an airplane seat with her broom redundant at her side. Humour obviously plays an important role with this poster. It must have attracted attention in the window of the travel agency, where it was intended to hang. The slogan ‘Nearly Everyone Flies NAC These Days’ implies air travel is a common occurrence but in reality it was still a novelty in the 1950s.
NAC, which began in 1947, mainly flew to domestic destinations throughout New Zealand but also went to some Pacific destinations as well. These were taken over by TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited) in 1952. Norfolk Island was one popular destination promoted by TEAL through a stunning poster designed by Arthur Thompson in the 1950s.
Several other TEAL posters advertise Pacific destinations most of which were part of TEAL’s famous Coral Route. The exotic flight-path involved an island hopping excursion that began in Auckland and ended in Tahiti. In the 1950s, flying the Coral Route meant a trip in a luxurious flying boat, complete with silver service and to settle the nerves – a glass of sherry.
Posters that were created to promote the Coral Route and other destinations are a visual reminder of key airline destinations. They also provide a unique opportunity to enjoy gorgeous screenprints and 1950s graphic design with all the texture and lush colour of the era. They were eye-catching when they were first made and are equally so today. For me they’re a real highlight of the exhibition.