Millions of stories

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Ashburton Museum’s photographic collection numbers in the millions. From a single image to large collections of negative frames – all document a unique moment in the story of our district.

Some have been taken for a specific purpose, often by a professional photographer, such as of weddings, jubilees or parades. Others are ‘snaps’ – quickly taken and often a bit wonky, crooked and blurred, but they capture an important, if fleeting, moment.

Sometimes these amateur images are really valuable, as they detail events the professionals weren’t around to see, or think important. They also give us an idea of what people in the past thought was important, or worthy to take a photo of.

Young people may find it hard to believe but in the not too distant past photos took time. First you had to use up your roll of 12, 24, or for the really keen, 36 image film, then take it to be processed. This could take a week or more. (Movie films once had to be sent to Australia to be processed and could take months.) By that time you may have forgotten why you took that shot, or indeed what that blurry shape was.

Taking a photo was therefore a financial commitment, as what you took was going to cost time and money to develop; as my Mother reminded me when my childhood photos were returned and found to be full of my dog, or worse the neighbour’s cat!

The images on this page were what someone once thought ‘important’. Frustratingly, they were posted to us from out of town with no information about who they were of.

A huge ‘thumbs up’ to New Zealand Post who got the packet to us, even though it was addressed to only:

Ashburton Museum

Ashburton’ !

A few photos of the snow were dated, but although really interesting and useful, they are lacking much of the detail that could make these images extremely important. Regardless of the lack of information, they are still fun to look at. If you can add to my sketchy descriptions, please let me know. This collection should also remind people that we are interested in all sorts of images not just the well-framed and significant; and how important it is to label your photos so that someone in the future can enjoy the investment that once went into making them.

By Kathleen Stringer


  1. Snow images are always fun. This one dated July 13, 1945, is of someone by a 14 foot snowman!
  2. Taken at the same time as the snowman, this shows Fred, with snow up to the top of his gum boots. Note that Fred may be cold, but he’s wearing sunglasses!
  3. While not a great image to look at, this shows the platform of the Ashburton Railway Station. Note the boxes for dogs in the foreground.
  4. The glassworks.
  5. Construction next to the Federal Coffee Palace: is this for the Young People’s Hall for the Salvationists?
  6. Cameron Street.

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