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about the swainson/woods collection

The Swainson/Woods Collection, donated to Puke Ariki in 2005, is a nationally and regionally significant photographic collection that traces both the lives of Taranaki people and the development of photography through time.
The collection is the culmination of two local photography studios, Swainson’s Studios and Bernard Woods Studio, which operated between 1923 and 1997. It features studio portraiture of individuals, families, sports teams, social groups and clubs, along with – amongst a great many other things – images of businesses, community events, Newton King’s funeral, Queen Elizabeth’s royal visit, portraits of soldiers before their departure for war, images of immigrants to Taranaki and Bernard Woods’ candid photography of social events.
It’s a priceless record of Taranaki life that was almost lost.
Since the Swainson/Woods collection arrived in 2005, the 110,000 negatives it comprises of have been cleaned, catalogued, and re-housed with the support of the Lottery Grants Board, the Taranaki Electricity Trust (TET), Puke Ariki Trust and Puke Ariki

Digitising History

From July 2013 to August 2016,  Puke Ariki undertook a major digitisation project enabling the community to reconnect with this comprehensive visual record. With support from the TSB Community Trust, the Puke Ariki Trust and continued support from the Taranaki Electricity Trust, more than 110,000 negatives from the Swainson/Woods Collection have now been digitised and uploaded to Puke Ariki’s online catalogue.

Connecting With The Community

“The only way to keep this archive of images alive is to do things with it, lots of different things… ” Prof Geoffrey Batchen

The collection has been shared and explored through a number of community initiatives.
Ongoing digital exhibitions at the Waitara, Inglewood, Eltham and Opunake Libraries, and at Percy Thompson Gallery in Stratford, help us showcase the collection throughout the region with support from the Taranaki Electrical Trust. Photographic Memory, a major temporary exhibition featuring the collection, was held at Puke Ariki in 2013. This was followed by Top of the Shots, a satellite version of Photographic Memory which toured Taranaki, and Best in Show which profiled top dogs from the collection! Images from the collection are finding their way onto social media, publications, presentations and more.

Can you help us?!

Now the collection has been digitised we need your narratives and memories to be added to our records to create a rich and valuable resource for future generations. We would love to hear your stories and learn the names of the people in the collection!
You can do this by:
Searching the collection online here using surnames and keywords. A commenting function allows you to easily add your own voice to the records.
A photograph from the collection also appears in the Can You Help Us? feature published weekly in the Taranaki Daily News. Give us a call if you spot someone you know!

Ordering images

Did you you know that you can order copies of the images in the Swainson/Woods collection? Puke Ariki is happy for them to be used in research, publications, displays and personal genealogy. There are some conditions for the use of the images – click here for full terms and conditions and the online order form.