View unique NZ aerial photos from V.C. Browne & Son

To make hard-to-find New Zealand content easier to ‘find, share, and use’, you have to know that the content has been digitised. Herein lies the paradox of Digital New Zealand.

That’s why the following note from Roger Barclay made our day:

"I have read with interest your comments about making NZ content easier to find.  I have recently launched a website that provides access to V.C. Browne & Son's aerial photograph collection and it sounds like this site fits well with what you are trying to achieve.  How do we go about getting this content reflected in your search facilities?"

The V.C. Browne & Son Collection

The V. C. Browne and Son NZ Aerial Photograph Collection contains approximately 26,000 images – and you can now discover the digitised ones through Digital New Zealand.

Victor Carlisle (V.C.) Browne was one of New Zealand’s pioneering aerial photographers. His son William (Bill) took over his Aerial Photograph business in the 1970s.

The collection spans a period of over 50 years, from the 1930s to the late 1970s. Most of the images are black and white aerial photographs, but there are some portraits and architectural works as well.

The photographs mainly focus on the South Island, particularly Canterbury where the Brownes were based. But most New Zealand cities and major towns are also imaged.

One of the great things about the collection is that it’s in sequence (Roll No/Photo No) – so browsing the collection is like looking out the window of your own plane onto the intriguing landscape of an older New Zealand.

Our favourite image

Roger notes that he is still doing work to improve the metadata about the images and identify the contents – it’s a big job.

Nevertheless one of our favourites is this photograph, which by our counts is right on top of where DigitalNZ is located, inside the National Library of New Zealand.

Probably Wellington Somewhere: Copyright V.C. Browne & Son

[Probably Wellington somewhere (PB0615/5): Copyright V.C. Browne & Son, used with permission]

Here's what the same area looks like today (click & hold mouse on map to move):

View Larger Map

 The big square building in the centre on Aitken Street (not there in the earlier view) is the National Library, where we are.

Adding value to the collection

Roger Barclay has been steadily scanning and creating metadata to increase access to the Browne family photograph collection since the early 2000s. You can read the background to the project on his website.

To bring this content into the Digital New Zealand search experience, we asked him to provide us with a single (static) URL for each content item – previously you couldn’t link directly to a large image and metadata; which also made it hard to share links to the images with other people.

Now that the site has this new structure, Digital New Zealand can more easily collect information about these unique pictorial representations of the country.

In addition, Google will also be able to find its way to the images; bringing the content to the eyes of even more interested people.

More please

If Roger hadn’t contacted us, it might have been a while before we found out about the V.C. Browne & Son collection. We’re glad he did (and thanks to the DigitalNZ content provider who referred him on).

Do you have a digital collection of New Zealand-related content we don’t know about?

We’re here to help people find it through the DigitalNZ discovery system, including the developer APIs that enable links to your content to appear in other relevant contexts such as Te Papa’s collections online.

Drop us a line if you’d like to bring your content into view.

You can find out more about being part of DigitalNZ here

Or get advice about digitising your family collections on Make it Digital