More than a library

In the latest From the Reading Room blog, join us for a behind the scenes look at the Air Force Museum’s research facility, learn about its history, and find out how our archive is used by staff and researchers alike.

Holding what is probably the largest collection of First World War aviation books in New Zealand; our Museum’s Reading Room holds a sizeable reference library of military aviation books, and it is also the primary space from which members of the public can access the wider Museum collection.

At special request, we are happy to retrieve items from our archival collection of documents, audio-visual recordings, microfilm records, negatives and photographic prints, artworks and maps for you to view, along with collection objects like medals and textiles.

It’s a great advantage to have reference works close at hand to provide useful contextual information for visiting researchers (and staff!) when interpreting  particular objects or historical documents from the collection.

Researchers in the Reading Room
Researchers accessing archival collections in the Reading Room at the Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

For attendees of the recent The Wings over New Zealand Show Christchurch forum the Museum hosted, it was the perfect opportunity for aviation enthusiasts from around New Zealand to visit the Museum’s Reading Room and pursue their own research projects, using collections held in the Museum archive.

Image credit: Matthew O’Sullivan
R.W. Albrecht collection
Personal archives relating to Flight Sergeant Ronald Wilfred Albrecht.
From the collection of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Bomb-proof and quake safe

The Reading Room is located in one of Wigram’s historic wartime buildings, No 1 Store. The building was designed in 1937 as part of the expansion of the RNZAF, and was completed in 1938. Its bomb-proof reinforced concrete floors, walls and ceilings – all more than 25 cm thick – contributed to it surviving the Canterbury earthquakes relatively unscathed.

For 57 years, No 1 Store was the main store building and headquarters of the Supply Squadron for RNZAF Base Wigram. When the Base closed in 1995, the building was allocated to the Museum and refurbished as a research facility.

No 1 Store, Wigram, March 1939.
Image credit: ©RNZAF Official WgF421

Many of the original Art Deco features of the store have been retained, and from the exterior, it looks nearly identical to when it was first built. Internally only a few cosmetic changes have been necessary. The windows are now sealed and the building insulated to allow effective use of air conditioning systems – these renovations improved the interior’s environmental conditions, which are now suitable for housing archival collections.

The building’s refurbishment was made possible thanks to generous support from the Lottery Grants Board and the late Nancy Bamford. Miss Bamford’s contribution to the refurbishment of No 1 Store was made in memory of her brother, Flight Lieutenant Richmond Dean Bamford, who was killed in action while serving in Algeria with 36 Squadron RAF, in January 1944. Bamford’s legacy is remembered by his portrait which hangs in the entranceway to No 1 Store.

Portrait of R.D. Bamford, July 1943, Cairo.
Image from the collection of the Air Force Museum of New Zealand.

Accessing the collection

While we do not currently have an online catalogue or online ordering system, the best way to see what we have in the collection is to contact the Research Team.  You are also able to book an appointment to visit the Reading Room during the week to discover more about the RNZAF and the military aviation in New Zealand.

Accessing our collection. Image credit: Air Force Museum of New Zealand