The Tyree Studio Collection Gains International Recognition

Nelson Provincial Museum has received international heritage honours with the inscription of its extraordinary Tyree Studio Photographic Collection onto the UNESCO register.

The recently digitised collection of more than 123,000 glass plate negatives documents the development of the Nelson-Tasman region from the 1860s to the 1940s. Its inscription on the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation Memory of the World New Zealand documentary heritage register was one of seven announced in Auckland on the 29 October 2017.

Nelson Museum’s Senior Curator Photography, Darryl Gallagher, says the Tyree Studio Collection, is a nationally significant pictorial record documenting the development of the Nelson Tasman region from soon after the beginning of European settlement. It covers generations of Nelsonian’s who are represented in those images.

The collection was started by William Tyree in 1878. “This was a time when other photographic studios were scraping off the emulsion and reusing their glass plates,” says Darryl. “William Tyree bought other photographic collections for commercial purposes and then he had the foresight to build a strong room of brick and concrete to protect the glass plates.”

The work of preserving the collection was continued by his successor, Rose Frank, who worked in the Nelson based business for 61 years. Aside from 1220 negatives that went to the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, Frank gifted the collection to the Nelson Historical Society before she died in 1954."It was her life's work," Darryl says. "She did want to make sure the collection got handed on."

Darryl said he believed Tyree and Frank would be impressed and proud the collection survived, was digitised and now had recognition from UNESCO.

Nelson Museum’s Chief Executive Lucinda Blackley-Jimson said, “a photographic collection so complete and intact, which documents life here during two world wars and significant periods of social change makes this a unique and nationally significant collection. We are delighted that it has been recognized by UNESCO as the cultural treasure it is.”

Access to this collection has also been enabled with a major digitisation project that was initiated in 2010 and finally completed in 2017.

Today most of these images are already viewable on Nelson Provincial Museum’s Collection Online: