Sumner, mast and yard-arm: Picturing Canterbury

Photo of families on the beach
Families on the beach below the mast & yard-arm, Sumner beach, Christchurch
[ca. 1905]
Explore our sampler of summer photographs from our collection.

Fantasy newsletter

Here is a selection of covers from our Fantasy newsletter for January 2014.

Cover of Harbinger by Philippa Ballantyne Cover of Dangerous Women Cover of Tarnished by Rhiannon Heed Cover of The Winter Warrior by James Wilde Cover of The Land Across by Gene Wolfe Cover of Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

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A new year spent reading

Cover of Dust by Hugh HoweyCover for Wildfire at Midnight by Mary StewartCover of Ace, King, Knave by Maria McCann

I am a happy reader. The main reason for this unexpected happiness is that I have been making satisfying reading choices over the holiday period. At this time of year I endeavour to have a variety of books so I can read to my heart’s content. My heart is contented and my reading mojo is a happenin’ thing.

I started my holiday reading Dust by Hugh Howey, the last book in the Silo series. This story pulls the threads of the previous books together in an unforgettable and memorable way. As I was reading this last book I was continually thinking about the politics, ethics, and values and of those living in the silos. At the end it was difficult to leave the characters behind with Juliette and Solo remaining firm favourites for their strength and determination to remain true to themselves. A thought provoking read and I highly recommend this series.

Wildfire at Midnight was my next choice and very different read. This book was first published in 1956 and is a detective story with a difference. Set on the Isle of Skye, it involves murders, mountaineering, druids, pagan rituals and is full of drama. I couldn’t put this book down as the main character kept going off by herself and getting into dangerous situations adding further tension to the story. Mary Stewart is a skilled writer who keeps the reader guessing.

Ace, King, Knave by Maria McCann was the perfect complement to my previous reads. This book is full of deception, scheming, and charm. It has an array of colourful characters and immediately transports the reader to eighteenth century England. This is a textured read. I was drawn in by the drama, card games, different social levels, street slang, and the authenticity of the times. A glossary adds further interest and connection for the reader. A satisfying read.

My next choice After Her by Joyce Maynard was a slow start but interesting enough to keep me reading. This is a murder mystery told from an unusual viewpoint. Patty, the storyteller, is the daughter of a detective who is put in charge of finding a serial murderer. The story describes the pressures on family life, the destruction of a career and the consequences of these murders later in life. It is a fascinating and poignant read.

My last holiday read was Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. This book is based on a true story about the last executions in Iceland. The landscape and characters dominate this well written and touching story. It is a moving and unsettling read. Highly recommended.

How did your holiday reading go?

Cover of After Her by Joyce Maynardcover for Burial Rites

Budding journalists at the South Learning Centre

Journalism students at South Learning Centre are celebrating their hard work and pressured deadlines with some stunning results. The Canterbury Oracle, The Papercut and The South Library Bulletin newspapers are super pieces of work.

The In The News programme ran for 8 weeks in Term 4 of 2013 and involved students investigating the composition of a newspaper, suitable and varied content, the reality of advertisements and the pressure to produce articles and final publications under the duress of deadlines.

Students visited The Press to interview the chief editor, advertisement officer and experience the day-to-day running of Christchurch’s busiest newspaper.

In the News is an example of the interesting programmes our learning centres offer  to schools. They also run a great variety of after school and holiday programmes.


Kaffe Fassett quilt display at South Library

quilts on displayRenowned textile artist Kaffe Fassett is coming to town and the South Library is hosting an exhibition of quilts using stunning fabrics designed by the Kaffe Fassett Collective. Kaffe is known all over the world for his brilliant colour combinations and designs, in many forms of needlework as well as quilting. He is the author of over 40 books and  a prolific designer of textiles for the patchwork industry. He works with a talented team of designers who form the Kaffe Fassett Collective. The Collective includes Kaffee Fassett, Brandon Mably and Phillip Jacobs.

Fassett and Brandon Mably are visiting Christchurch to give a public lecture on February 6. The lecture will take place at the Beckenham School Hall from 7pm. Tickets ( there may still be some available) cost $50.00 and are available from Stitch, 27a Colombo Street, 03 332 1820, contact fenella@stitchplayroom.comThe lecture is designed to inspire and motivate. The presentation highlights works from his latest project, these include his patchwork quilt,fabric, needlepoint, mosaic, painting and knitting designs.

The quilts hung in the exhibition have been created by local artists, including award winning quilt artist Penny Jameson, using some of the many stunning fabrics designed by the Kaffe Fassett Collective. They show a range of traditional techniques and patterns with a modern twist and eye popping colour. Find the 2 quilts by our very own Katie Grady in the exhibition.

The exhibition  runs until February 18.

Ten years ago today … Janet Frame died

Janet Frame photo
Janet Frame photo in Kete Horowhenua

Find out more about Janet Frame.

Janet Frame ranks as one of New Zealand’s finest ever novelists, with an international reputation. (Helen Clark on the announcement of Janet Frame’s Prime Minister’s Award for Literary achievement 2003)

One of the senses in which Frame is decidedly not ordinary is that she is a writer who, in the past, has gone to considerable lengths to avoid publicity for herself or for her books. She is the only author I know of who writes under her own name but lives under a pseudonym: Janet Clutha. Biography and Compassionate Truth: Writing a Life of Janet Frame by Michael King in the Australian Humanities Review.

She had no consistent “message”; but she had suffered and seen suffering, and she did not want it to be overlooked. (C.K Stead The gift of language in NZ Listener)

In private, with family or a few trusted friends, she could be quick, witty, articulate, entertained and entertaining, capable of everything, not excluding malice. She had her bad days; but at her best she sparkled and shone like her own writing.(C.K Stead The gift of language in NZ Listener)

I think what is essential and durable in her work is a tragi-comic vision, bleak in its implications but full of life, courage and humour in its expression. New Zealand has lost an icon, but we have not lost the books she wrote nor the letters and records of an exemplary life. The life and the work together are reminders of how unpredictable, uncontainable, unmanageable – how rare and mysterious – real talent can be. (C.K. Stead)The gift of language

It is ten years ago today that we heard of the death of Janet Frame.

Find out more about Janet Frame.

W. and E. Broadway: 1902

View in our collection

Broadway’s Confectioners, shop, Christchurch. Webb, Steffano, 1880?-1967 : Collection of negatives. Ref: 1/1-003970-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.


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

Biography and Memoir: picks from our January newsletter

Some picks from our January Biography and Memoir newsletter:

Cover of Elizabeth of YorkCover of Lady Catherine and the Real Downton AbbeyCover of Alone TogetherCover of CoopCover of Alex Ferguson: My AutobiographyCover of A Woman in BerlinCover of Johnny Cash: The LifeCover of  An American Bride in KabulCover of Biko: A Life

Subscribe to our newsletters and get our latest titles and best picks straight in your inbox.

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

Time travel with Picture Post Archive

Picture Post was an iconic British newspaper published from 1938-1957. At its peak 80% of the British public were reading it. Why? Well, a large part of this was its pioneering use of photojournalism. No longer were pictures just portraits of the great and good,  but they reflected the stories of those on the street in all their joys and worries. There was a lot to worry about with this newspaper covering the stormy years leading up to World War II to the first decade of the Cold War.

It is positively fascinating to see the prevailing attitudes and the discussions of everyday Britain in this time period. The Picture Post  Archive contains fully searchable reproductions of every issue of this newspaper for you to explore.

This archive is a goldmine for historians or anyone with an inch of curiosity in their bones. You can access this from home or at any community library with your  library card and password / PIN. I encourage you to have a read and fall into a world preparing for and enduring war and facing the nuclear age with bravery and humour.