Dispersal of New Zealand’s Nelson College Heritage


One of New Zealand’s oldest schools is selling rare New Zealand books and artwork dating back to the 18th century to help fund repairs for their ageing buildings.

The collection includes first editions of Captain Cook’s voyages and books signed by former student, Noble Prize winning scientist, Ernest Rutherford.

Nelson College, with a history of a 152 years, says its buildings are more than 70 years old. Yet the college says it gets the same yearly maintenance funding as schools a quarter of its age.

„We have substantially more infrastructure costs than your average aluminium-jointed modern building school,“ says headmaster Gary O’Shea.

So the college is now selling pieces of New Zealand history – its rare books and art works worth hundreds of thousands of dollars – to help cover costs.

„After an awful lot of soul searching by members of the trust, it was decided that we would be better served if we were able to add the funds from the sale of these items into an endowment fund,“ says Ian Lash from the Nelson College Trust Foundation.

Keeping the fragile items would mean finding even more money for a museum-quality storage facility and the college felt it had little choice but to auction them off.

„From my point of view, and I’ve done this for nearly 25 years now, it’s the most exciting collection of books I’ve ever had to sell,“ says Dunbar Sloane auctioneer Anthony Gallagher.


The rare books and artwork will go under the hammer later this week.

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Many of the books had been sitting at the Isel Park museum storage unit for more than 30 years, Mr Lash said.
„The time had come to really think about how relevant they were to the college.“
Seven of the artworks depict a Nelson subject or are related to Nelson’s history, including two rare R P Malcolm paintings of Nelson College’s original wooden building and college house, valued at between $4000 and $10,000.
Dunbar Sloane head of art Helena Walker said the two watercolour paintings, her favourites, were of stunning quality.
It was unusual for a trust to sell so many pieces, and with works of New Zealand historical nature highly desirable, interest from the Nelson community was high, she said. She hoped the paintings would be retained by the community.
Former Nelson art teacher Brian Strong, a Nelson College old boy who taught art in the region for 30 years, said he understood why a school would sell part of a collection if it was finding it hard to make ends meet financially.
He said the John Gully works were interesting because of his link with the school as a past teacher.
„It’s a shame they have got to go, but that’s what collectors do eventually. If the income is for the needs of development, I can understand them putting the works on the market.“

College book collection snapped up at auction
Nelson Mail, New Zealand – 6 Nov 2008
An auction of 180 historic books belonging to Nelson College has raised $60000 for the school, with all but two books sold on Thursday. …
Via Google News (article not available)

Book Auction Catalog, PDF (no provenances given)

It’s very short-sighted to sell heritage items belonging to the own institution’s history …

Image: http://www.slv.vic.gov.au/miscpics/0/0/3/doc/mp003051.shtml

Autor: Klaus Graf

Historiker und Archivar, Blogger

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