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Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

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Subject: Jonathan Dennis, Cinema of New Zealand, Film archives
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Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Nga Taonga Sound & Vision, formerly the New Zealand Film Archive (in Māori: Ngā Kaitiaki O Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua) is a charitable trust dedicated to the collection, preservation and viewing of mainly New Zealand films and videos made between 1895 to the present day. It also has some of Len Lye's films in its collection.


  • Background 1
  • Activities 2
  • 2009 lost film recovery 3
    • Background and restoration 3.1
    • Films discovered 3.2
    • American silent films 3.3
  • TVNZ Archives 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6


The Film Archive was founded in 1981 to collect, protect and project New Zealand’s film and television history.

On 1 August 2014 the Film Archive launched a new organisational identity as Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision. Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision is the operating name for the New Zealand Archive of Film, Television and Sound Ngā Taonga Whitiāhua Me Ngā Taonga Kōrero. This new, integrated archive was formed by the consolidation of the Film Archive, Sound Archives Ngā Taonga Kōrero and the Television New Zealand Archive.

The organisation's main head office is in Wellington. As well as preservation facilities, the Wellington premises feature a 110-seat cinema, viewing and reference libraries, and a gallery that hosts regular moving image exhibitions. Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision also has offices in Auckland, with viewing facilities and gallery exhibitions, and in Christchurch, which is where the majority of the sound archiving takes place. Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision operates medianet, a digital video resource that provides access to the collections at 17 host institutions across New Zealand.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision holds a large collection of moving image and audio items. The collections span New Zealand’s sound and moving image history: from the earliest days of cinema, audio recording and television, to contemporary film, television, advertisements, music videos, computer games and radio productions – along with related documentation.

The organisation archives amateur recordings, public broadcasts and commercially released productions.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision adheres to international archiving standards, and is a member of: AMIA (Association of Moving Image Archivists), ARANZ (Archives and Records Association of New Zealand), ARSC (Association for Recorded Sound Collections), ASRA (Australasian Sound Recordings Association), FIAF (Fédération Internationale des Archives du Film), FIAT (Fédération Internationale des Archives du Television), IASA (International Association of Sound and Audiovisual Archives), NOHANZ (National Oral History Association of New Zealand), and SEAPAVAA (South East Asia and Pacific Audio-Visual Archives Association).


Material is deposited with Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision voluntarily and without cost to the depositor. The archive's guardianship ensures ownership of the original item and copyright are retained by the appropriate parties. The collections are stored in secure, climate-controlled vaults and conservation is undertaken where necessary. Many titles in the collection can be viewed at the libraries in Wellington and Auckland. A school disk loan library was initiated in 2006, to support screening programmes in the school curriculum, and an online classroom was launched in 2013.

Regular screenings of New Zealand films are held in the cinema, which is also available to community groups for screenings and events. As well as film and video, its exhibition programme showcases the work of contemporary artists and emerging filmmakers using video and computer technology, such as the online performance platform UpStage. The archive recently established a partnership with Illusions, New Zealand's moving image and performing arts criticism magazine, to create the magazine's web site.

In 2010, a collection of 75 previously thought to be lost films, were discovered in the archive.[1][2]

2009 lost film recovery

In 2009, 75 American silent films were discovered in the New Zealand Film Archive. The films dated from 1898 to 1929 and were previously thought to be lost films.[3]

Background and restoration

During the time period that the films were performed films were shipped to countries along a "distribution line" format, with New Zealand often being the last place the films would be shipped. Because of the high cost of transport during this time and the flammability of the early film stock, most of the films would not be shipped back to the United States and were stored into government archives,[3] were destroyed,[4] or were given or sold to private owners.[5]

The films were discovered during the visit of Brian Meacham, a Los Angeles film preservationist, to the archive. Meacham was curious as to what films the Archive held, upon which it was discovered that the Archive held a large amount of early American films. The New Zealand Film Archive’s Steve Russell said "It’s one of the rare cases where the tyranny of distance has worked in our and the films’ favour".[6]

In order to export the films back to the United States for restoration, the movies have had to be transported in U.N.-approved steel barrels in incremental doses.[7] Many of the films had begun to deteriorate, with film preservationist Annette Melville saying "About a quarter of the films are in advanced nitrate decay and the rest have good image quality, though they are badly shrunken".[8]

Films discovered

Of the 75 films discovered in the New Zealand Archive, some of the more notable examples were John Ford’s 1927 film Upstream and the 1923 film Maytime.[9] It was also noted by the New York Times that many of the films that were recovered "underline the major contribution made by women to early cinema".[7] Sony has assumed the costs for the restoration of Mary of the Movies.

The Hitchcock film The White Shadow was discovered in the collection,[10] mislabeled as the movie Twin Sisters and lacked a title credit.[11] The discovery of this film was named as one of's "Biggest Surprises of 2011".[12]

American silent films

The archive has many silent American films that had been shipped to New Zealand at the time of their release, but were thought not worth the expense of shipping back to the United States after they ran in theaters.[1] The films were supposed to be destroyed after being sent to New Zealand and seen there at the end of their distribution run, but some were stashed away instead, then later put into the archive. Only about 20 percent of films from the silent era were still in existence as of 2010.[13]

The New Zealand Film Archive has a strong commitment to repatriating old films to their country of origin. In 2009, the archive agreed with the (American) National Film Preservation Foundation to repatriate 75 silent American films, all rare or previously thought by American archivists and scholars to be lost (the archive continues to hold many other silent-era American films). About 70 percent of the copies were complete. The films, all on highly volatile and dangerous nitrate stock, were to be shipped back to the United States for restoration and copying, except for Upstream, a 1927 film by John Ford, which was determined to be so precious that transportation could not be risked before it was restored and copied in New Zealand. Other films in the cache include "Mary of the Movies" (1923), the earliest Columbia Pictures feature film known to have survived,[1] "Maytime" (1923; starring Clara Bow); the first surviving film Mabel Normand directed (and starred in); an episode of the serial The Active Life of Dolly of the Dailies, as well as industrial films, documentaries and newsreels. The agreement to repatriate the films came after an American film preservationist from the Academy Film Archive visited the New Zealand archives while on vacation and began discussing the New Zealand institution's holdings with archivists there.[13]

TVNZ Archives

In August 2014 guardianship of the TVNZ Archive was transferred from TVNZ to the Ministry of Culture and Heritage, with day-to-day management passed to Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision.[14][15]


  1. ^ a b c Kehr, Dave (2010-06-07). "Trove of Long-Lost Silent Films Returns to America". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-06-06. 
  2. ^ "New Zealand Project Films: Highlights". Retrieved 2010-06-06. 
  3. ^ a b Silent films in the spotlight The Art Newspaper
  4. ^ A Happy Homecoming For Long-Lost Silent Films NPR
  5. ^ Long-lost movie screens again ABC News
  6. ^ US film treasures surface in New Zealand
  7. ^ a b Long-Lost Silent Films Return to America New York Times
  8. ^ Rare silent movie haul to be restored BBC
  9. ^ “Astonishing” collection of old US movies discovered in Wellington Wellington Scoop
  10. ^ Hitchcock’s ‘The White Shadow’ Discovered Wall Street Journal Blog
  11. ^ Film archivists find early Hitchcock film SCPR
  12. ^ The Year in Film: 2011's Biggest Surprises
  13. ^ a b King, Susan, "Silent film treasures to be preserved", June 7, 2010, Los Angeles Times, retrieved same day
  14. ^ One News (2014-05-21). "'"TVNZ archive content to be 'more accessible. TVNZ. 
  15. ^ "TVNZ Archive". The Film Archive. 2014-05-22. 

External links

  • Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision official site

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