New Zealand photos saved from US landfill

Thousands of photos of Māori life in the 20th century have been bought by the National Library, after they were almost lost in America.

The photos are part of a set of 1.4 million photos which were taken by photographers at newspapers in New Zealand. They were sent to the United States to be digitised in 2013, but the digitisation company went under, so the photos were going to be dumped. However, they were saved by a gallery, the Duncan Miller Gallery, in Los Angeles, which has restored the photos over a period of three years.

There are 5300 images of Māori in the collection. It includes photos of many leaders, writers, musicians, and politicians, and of important events in New Zealand at the time. The photos were independently valued at $340,000, but the gallery owner, Daniel Miller, said the National Library paid less than that for them.

Now the gallery is trying to find people or places to take the remainder of the set of more than a million photos, which were taken from 1840 to 2005. They include photos of Napier after the strong earthquake in 1931, of Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay after they climbed Mount Everest, and of Princess Diana in Auckland in 1983. Daniel Miller would like all the photos to be back in New Zealand as he believes they should “all be in Kiwi hands”.


landfill – a place where rubbish is buried under the ground

be digitised – if photos are digitised, they are turned into an electronic file that can be saved on computer

go under – if a business goes under, it has to stop doing business because of financial problems

be dumped – be taken away

gallery – a building where people can see works of art