Biography and Memoir: picks from our December newsletter

Some picks from our December Biography and Memoir newsletter:

Cover of PaikeaCover of The Wharf at Waterfall BayCover of Pope FrancisCover of Shirley JonesCover of An Appetite for WonderCover of Life is So GoodCover of DilemmaCover of DukeCover of Angela Merkel

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For more great biographies and memoirs, check out our lists of winners of  the Costa Biography Award.

Central Library Manchester – coming soon

Photo of Central Library ManchesterOur new temporary Central Library Manchester is scheduled to open Monday 20 January 2014.

It is on the corner of Manchester and Allen Street – close to Moorhouse Avenue. It may also be the only library in New Zealand with a view of a Harley-Davidson shop.

There will be a bit of a collection shuffle as part of this move. Ngā Pounamu Māori and Ngāi Tahu collections at Central Library Peterborough will be unavailable from Monday 13 January to Sunday 19 January 2014 inclusive. Family History, microfilm and microfiche collections at Central Library Peterborough will be unavailable from Thursday 16 January to Sunday 19 January 2014 inclusive. These collections will be available at Central Library Manchester when it opens.

Central Library Manchester will be the place to go for researchers, especially those needing our Māori and Family History resources.

This week in Christchurch history (30 December – 5 January)

1 January 1908
Shackleton expedition sails for Antarctica in “Nimrod”. A crowd estimated as high as 50,000 watched the departure – probably the largest in Lyttelton’s history.

4 January 1876
First meeting of the Christchurch Drainage Board.

Members of the Christchurch Drainage Board and visitors present at the opening of the septic tank, Bromley sewage farm [4 Sept. 1905]
5 January 1940
First echelon of Canterbury troops for World War II leave Lyttelton on “Dunera” and “Sobieski”.

Christchurch chronology
A timeline of Christchurch events in
chronological order from pre-European times to 1989.

More December and January events in our Christchurch chronology.

Fireworks on a global scale

cover for the book EruptionWe all know about volcanoes right? After all here in Christchurch we’re virtually sitting on one which provides both of our local harbours.

But did you know about supervolcanoes? They’ve been in the news lately because at the best known one in Yellowstone National Park scientists have just finished measuring its magma chamber. It’s even bigger than they thought at fifty five miles across. That’s a lot of lava.

The other one you will have heard of is Lake Taupo, which is what remains of a supervolcano that exploded 65,000 years ago thereby helping to form the central plateau of the North Island.

The thing about supervolcanoes, of which there are a number on earth (estimates vary) and others known on Mars and Jupiter’s moon Io, is that they are also super spectacular. When magma from a chamber 55 miles across explodes it is world changing. When Taupo went up, evidence was noted by the Romans on the other side of the world in the form of unusual sunsets. It is thought that one in Siberia was responsible for what is known as “the great dying” the greatest extinction event on earth of all time.

Fortunately they only blow very occasionally, even in terms of geological timescales so you don’t need to lose any sleep over them. You don’t need to worry about our own Banks Peninisula volcano either by the way. It was pretty big but its magma chamber is empty.

New Year’s Resolution (2)

In my haste to get going on my resolution to read seven books from the Guardian Best Books of 2013 list, I reserved all seven at once. First to arrive was The Great War: A Photographic Narrative. It’s a biggie, 500 pages with 380 black and white photographs chosen from the half a million in the archives of the Imperial War Museums.

I was gripped from the first image, a colour double page spread of a greatcoat worn by Kaiser Wilhelm II in Russia Cover of The Great War by Mark Holbornbefore the war, when he was a colonel-in-chief in the Russian army. “Its provenance is confirmed by the imperial ‘W’ on the inside lining beneath the collar and by the fact that one sleeve was shorter than the other. Photographers and tailors were required to disguise the Kaiser’s withered left arm, the result of an accident at birth”.  There is nothing like an historical item of clothing – elsewhere in this volume there is a photograph of the jacket Archduke Franz Ferdinand was wearing when he was assassinated. Complete with bloodstains. You have to go to Vienna to see that though.

On the opposite page is a photograph of the Kings of Norway, Portugal, England, Greece, Belgium, Spain, Denmark and Bulgaria in 1910. All related by birth or marriage and all about to witness the end of the world as they knew it.

The book is as impeccably organised as might be expected, coming as it does from the Imperial War Museums. It follows an orderly and horrifying progression from the declarations of war to the Armistice and it is the incidental details that are the most affecting: a line of dogs, each pair drawing a machine gun on a small cart; men of the medical corps searching packs belonging to the dead looking for letters and personal effects that could be sent to relatives; women crying at the funeral of a munitionette. The very word munitionette upset me.  A minor concern, I know.

It was a sad and sobering experience looking at these photographs from 100 years ago, but rewarding too. We’ll all be hearing a lot about The Great War in the next four years – the images in this book probably give more of an idea of the suffering borne by those who experienced it than words ever will.

The real faces looking out down the years also reminded me of all the great literature that came out of the First World War, and after it. Unfortunately it involves yet another list, of things I might revisit if I ever finish the things on my 2014 resolutions list.

Do you have any memorable World War One works?

On the beach: Picturing Canterbury

Photo of New Brighton beach at Christmas [1927]
New Brighton beach at Christmas [1927]
Explore our sampler of Christmas photographs from our collection. We also have images of the Hay’s Christmas Parade.

Browse DigitalNZ sets of images:

More images

You want weapons? We’re in a library. Books! The best weapons in the world!

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Trist and Small: 1902

View in our collection

A 1981 article on Trist and Small in the Addington Raceway timeline.

Image in Kete Christchurch

A 1940s view of their premises in Kete Christchurch.


We have digitised a rather splendid 1902 publication Tourists’ guide to Canterbury.

Merry Christmas!

Ngā mihi o te wā! Christmas Tree We wish you and yours all the best for Christmas and the New Year from Christchurch City Libraries.

We are closed on Christmas Day and Boxing Day (Wednesday 25 and Thursday 26 December). Check out our holiday opening hours for more details.

The Woman who Lived in a Shoe float Santa arrives at New Brighton The annual Santa photo New Brighton Christmas parade 2003 Christmas tree

Picturing Christmas past

View images of Christmas and pictures of the Hay’s Christmas Parade from our collection.

Our Flickr page also has a collection of images and photographs of Christmas.

Some Christmas Listening

A Concord Jazz Christmas A Concord Jazz Christmas
Cover image The Charlie Byrd Christmas Album
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Explore A Jazzy Swinging Christmas – a playlist of online music from Music Online.

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Explore A Classical Christmas – a playlist of online music from Music Online.

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Explore Christmas around the world – a playlist of online music from Music Online.