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National Library of New Zealand
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Reviewed by:
Kirsten McKenzie
University of Sydney
September 2003

Timeframes currently presents more than 21,000 images from the Alexander Turnball Library. The picture collections specialize in the social and natural history of New Zealand, the Pacific, and Antarctica “from the earliest European contact to the present.” Most of the material in Timeframes, however, dates from before 1947. Since the site is being continually updated, the number of available images will grow.

Although Timeframes is set up to allow images to be ordered for reproduction, this does not preclude the site being used as a teaching resource. The site is clearly laid out and simple to use, although the lack of editorial guidance through the large image collection is a drawback. Searches bring up a list of thumbnail images and titles. Clicking on the picture provides a larger version of the image. Clicking on the title provides the full descriptive record from the library’s electronic catalog.

There are two ways to access images—searching or browsing. The advanced search function allows users to restrict images by terms such as “image type,” “subject,” or “iwi/hapu” (Maori concepts that refer to people/tribe affiliation). The search help provides general guidance on searching as well as specific information on each search term. “Browse” presents alphabetical lists of subject topics, from “Abduction-England” (an 1844 poster advertising a musical burletta) to “Zulu (African People)” (a 1930s watercolor by artist Eileen Mayo).

This is a very diverse site that could be used in a variety of teaching situations. The images are generally of good quality and can be saved electronically for use in lecture presentations. Unlike similar sites such as PictureAustralia, there has been no editorial arrangement of the images beyond the browse function. To some extent, users who know what they are looking for will be able to use the site more easily. The browse feature is particularly useful since it sets out the diverse subjects covered by Timeframes.

Using the browse feature as a guide, images from New Zealand and the broader Pacific region could be incorporated into world history courses in a thematic way. Some subject headings are particularly helpful for comparative work, such as “World War, 1939-1945” or “Trade Unions.” But the browse feature also includes subjects that might not immediately occur to students or teachers, such as “Afternoon tea,” which presents a series of images that speak to the colonial use of space and landscape through social rituals. These could be analyzed by students across diverse examples of transplanted cultures on a global scale.

A recent publication of use to teachers of world history is A History of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.1 This presents the history of New Zealand thematically, connecting it to broader trends within the surrounding region.

1 Donald Denoon & Phillippa Mein-Smith with Marivic Wyndham, A History of Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2000).

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