DNZ Blog


Dunedin City Council Archives and the public domain

By thomasin sleigh.

At DigitalNZ, we're always keen to see online collections with clear and consistent licensing, and we're especially interested in those collections that apply open licenses. 

The Dunedin City Council Archives is home to many fascinating records about Dunedin's history, some of which they have been digitising and uploading to Flickr over the last couple of years. We're lucky to work with them as one of our content partners, and were able to help with advice in the early days of their digitisation project about which licenses were best to apply to their collection. The Archives now use Creative Commons' public domain mark and the Attribution-NonCommercial license to ensure that the old photographs and plans remain clearly in the public domain, and so people know how they can share and use the records.

To find out how they went about this, we caught up with Alison Breese, an Archivist at Dunedin City Council, to pepper her with questions about their Flickr collection.

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Image: Dunedin City Council Archives, New Zealand & South Seas International Exhibition 1925–26, c. 1925. Public domain.

Could you give us a little intro to Dunedin City Council’s archives and heritage collections?


We hold archives and records created by Dunedin City Council and its predecessors (approximately 3000lm) from 1855 up until the 2000s. We are located in the basement of Civic Centre building, The Octagon, Dunedin and we provide evidence and information to staff as well as the general public.

Which parts of the Dunedin City Council's archives have you decided to put up on Flickr and how do you make your selections?


The aim is to put up photographs and images that can be easily viewed from any device (such as pcs, smartphones, tablets etc). We have uploaded some architectural plans, maps, and some ephemera such as circus letterhead, and voting cards. It’s nice to put up items that would not usually be accessed in normal research but are interesting to show a slice of history. We also regularly put up little gems we happen across when completing other research.

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Image: a sample of the Dunedin City Council Archives' collection on Twitter.

How did you approach the tricky copyright question when getting the collection online? What benefits can you see in using Flickr’s public domain mark and the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license?


We are rather lucky in that the majority of our collection was created by or for Dunedin City Council. Our photo collection holds a huge array of photos that were taken “on the job” by employees or were professional photographers employed by council to take a photographic record, which means that the Dunedin City Council holds the copyright on these photographs. Photos in our collection taken pre-1944 are out of copyright and we use Flickr’s public domain license for these. For the photographs which are still in copyright (taken after 1944), we’ve chosen to apply a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, so that people can still download and share these images, but can’t use them for commercial purposes. We’re also happy to remove images, if people have legitimate copyright concerns, and encourage people to contact us directly.

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Image: Dunedin City Council Archives, 1960 Festival Procession Float 'Mighty Mouse', DCC Archives, 1960 Dunedin Festival Procession, Photo 14, Slide Collection. CC-BY-NC.

As our Archives and reading room is located underground, we are not as high profile as other collections are. In putting our collection online we have had a huge interest in our collection and our Flickr site has been viewed over 700,000 times to date and rising. It is also a great way to promote Dunedin’s infrastructure history—while we have a lot of beautiful shots of the city we also have more unusual photos such as road works and construction (most popular on social media!) and also slum clearances and photos of everyday life. In conjunction with our Flashback Friday segments on the DCC Facebook page and partnering with DigitalNZ, we have also gained some valuable information on our collection with the public supplying further details for us.

Do you have any collection highlights? Or any popular items that have elicited interesting responses on Flickr?


My favourite is a collection of photos that were taken to show Dunedin’s underground toilets in 1919—another council had asked for information about them and a photographer and taxi were promptly ordered to go about town and photograph the sites. A wonderful set showing a day in the life of Dunedin was created and recorded the toilets, which are long since gone. The particular engineer did get in trouble though, as there was no money to pay for the photographer nor the taxi!

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Image: Dunedin City Council Archives, Exchange Comfort Station 1919. Reference: City Engineers (CE) Correspondence Series 2, Volume 18. Public Domain.

A surprisingly popular photo on our site is of the 1930s interior of the Electricity Department building—I’m not sure if people have been studying interior design or just like the lino!

What are your plans for Dunedin City Council’s Flickr collection in the future?


We plan to keep adding photos and images from items in our collection regularly and to open up more of our collection in the public domain.

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Showing 1 comment

Jack Prichard says:

Took me right back to my student day's in the city, I'd forgotten how beautiful the railway station is.