Tairawhiti Museum and Art Gallery
Rich in Gisborne, East Coast history
Rich in Gisborne, East Coast history Poverty Bay - taonga maori
Tairawhiti Museum and Art Gallery Rich in Gisborne, East Coast history

Poverty Bay - taonga maori


The museum is fortunate to hold a fascinating and extensive photographic collection. Historic information from early photographs has always interested people and today photographic images are a leading medium of communication.

The photographic archive is continually growing and provides staff and researches much insight to life and physical changes in the Tairawhiti region. The archive is overseen by photographer Dudley L Meadows who is the person to contact if you wish to browse the collection. Many of the images are available to purchase and can make valuable additions to research or attractive and interesting prints for display.

Whilst some images have been made by staff, the photographic collection relies on donations from the public. You may have photographs that can help build the archive.
There are many subjects that we get enquiries about. You can donate a print/negative/slide or you can have it copied by our photographer.In this way you can retain the original print or family album. 

 Image Collection Highlight

Recently we had a visit from Sue and Kent Bradley who were in Gisborne with the Horowhenua–Kapiti girls’ college rugby team.  Although Sue and Kent left Gisborne in 1959, both grew up here (Kent in Te Karaka).  Sue is the daughter of Alan Gordon a local photographer part of whose collection the Tairawhiti Museum holds.  There are at least 16 mounted images at the museum and Sue plans to donate more.

Gordon ran a professional photographic business in the late 1940s, situated at the Bank of New Zealand Chambers on Gladstone Road.  He was also a very active life member of the Gisborne Camera Club.  By the time he left Gisborne in 1976, Gordon had photographed hundreds of local people and won a number of prizes at photographic society exhibitions throughout the country. 
“Dad was embarrassing,” recalled Sue, “He had an eye for the type of person that he needed for a photo.  So he would just go up to people and ask them and they would never turn him down.”

Gordon was remarkable in that he imported Max Factor cosmetics and ‘made up’ his models himself.  He was ahead of his time technically and in his imagery. An example can be seen in this photograph entitled ‘The Striped Gown”.  Can you identify the model?  If so, contact Dudley Meadows at Tairawhiti Museum.

A magnificent self portrait of Alan can be seen here...

Recent Additions 

The recent tsunami scare to Gisborne has triggered recollections of earlier events on the East Coast. During 2006 the museum had many requests for images of tsunamis that hit the region during 1947 and 1960.

It was a delight then to be donated a number of photograph album pages displaying images of tidal wave destruction from 1947.

On 26th of March 1947 at about 9 AM, a tsunami hit a 100 km stretch of coastline between Tokomaru Bay and Mahia Peninsula. It was probably accompanied by an underwater landslide, and at its maximum, about 15 km north of Gisborne, the tsunami was about 10 metres high—it washed away two houses and a bridge, and engulfed a number of people, who luckily survived the powerful swirling waters.

The force of the wave was enough to break off large fence posts at ground level. Seaweed was found in overhead wires. At Tatapouri Hotel outbuildings were damaged and destroyed, and fish were collected from inside the hotel itself.

Further south near Young Nick’s Head a field of pumpkins was less fortunate. At other places huge fish were cast ashore. Had the tsunami occurred in summer, when the beaches were crowded, many people may have drowned.

Only two months later on the 17th May the coast was subjected to another tsunami. The images shown are thought to be from the March event.


William F Crawford 

One of the most extensive and captivating photographic collections are the images made by William F Crawford. Gratefully, his descendants have donated many of his original glass plate negatives. The prints from these plates offer an extremely great insight into life in the district from Crawford's arrival in 1874 until his passing some 40 years later.


Some of  Crawford's best work can be found in 'Gisborne Exposed' available here.....