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About the data

What types of information do we have?

Optimising searches

Requesting items

Sharing links to items in Archives Online

Member functionality

How to get help from City Archives

How to report an issue with Archives Online


About the data

City Archives holds more than 800,000 items, spanning 1840 to the present day.  Most of this material was created by Wellington City Council (and its predecessors), to document what it did, why it did it and who was involved.

The level of completeness of the data does vary, depending on the standards of the day and time available to document the material when it was originally created and when it was transferred to City Archives.


What types of information do we have?


We document notable people who are related to the records we hold.  They may have been prominent Wellingtonians, Council staff who held significant roles in the organisation, people who were involved in the creation of records (e.g. photographers, architects, property developers), or people who feature in a record. This makes it easier to browse for related items, and also find out about the people themselves.


You can use places to identify records connected to that place in some way. We’ve documented significant places that are referenced in our holdings and will keep adding new places.  Some of the kinds of places we’re documenting are buildings, suburbs, streets, parks. E.g. Wellington Botanic Gardens


Our definition of ‘event’ is that is was timebound, took place for a clear reason and has some significance in the history of our city, e.g. the Centennial Exhibition in 1940 or Nissan Mobil 500 that ran on a street circuit on the Wellington waterfront from 1985 to 1996.


These define a mandated area of responsibility carried out by councils, e.g. waste management, licensing and permissions. They can help you find records related to that function, so are useful for general research into work Council does and finding records related to a specific Council function.  We use the ALGIM IM Toolkit Terms for Council list of local authority functions. 


Activities break functions (see above) down into more granular operational activities of Council, e.g within the function of waste management, there are activities of rubbish collection, stormwater management and waste minimisation.  These are useful if you need a more granular way to find records relating to the work of Council.  We use the ALGIM Toolkit for Council list of location authority activities.


Optimising Searches

Our search provides several options to help you find what you need. 

  • Keywords
  • Date
  • Order your results
  • Refine results

Keyword Searching

Using keywords to optimise your search

Start with one or two keywords, then use the 'Match' and 'Search In' options to narrow down or broaden your search, if needed.

For example

  • John Smith
  • Concrete
  • Kilbirnie
  • Street lights

By default, these terms will return anything that has your word(s) in the metadata for any items in Archives Online.  The words will match even if they're not in a phrase and will even match on partial hits.  So, an example

John Smith

Anything with both John and Smith anywhere in the searchable metadata, so

  • John Smith
  • John Charles Smith
  • John Smith Jr
  • John McPhail - Smith and McSherry
  • Johnsonville, where Smith also appears in the same item's metadata

So, if you wanted John Smith the Councillor, use

John Smith Councillor

If you want the John Smith who owned a Matchless Motorbike, use

John Smith Matchless

Exact matches

If you only want results for people called John Smith, the use the Exact button

Whole Word vs Partial Hits

If you want to remove things like Johnsonville, Smithfield and other variations on John or Smith, then use Whole Words

Titles Only, All Data, Metadata Only

If you're not finding anything helpful, then you could try searching All Data, as this will include any OCR'd text as well as the metadata fields

You can clear your current search anytime by tapping the 'reset' button at the top right of the black search panel


Our date refiner is a bit quirky at the moment.  We are hoping to improve it soon.


Requesting Items

If you find items that you want access to (but they are not available for download), you can request them. We can then get them digitised for you (fees apply), or in some cases you can come in and view them.  

Note that if you want to request all issued permits and consents for a residential property, you can request our Residential Property Package, view here:

To request items on Archive online, you have two options:

Order via Search Results

If you only have one or a few items to request, and they all appear on one search result page, you can order them straight from there by selecting the checkboxes for the item(s) you want and then clicking on the 'Order these items' button (highlighted by the yellow border below):


Order via My Collection

If you have multiple items spanning multiple searches or search result pages, you can build up a collection and then request everything in it.  To do this:

Add items to your Favourites by selecting the star icon (see screenshot above for an example).  This can be done either from the search results, or when viewing an individual item.

You can view your favourites by selecting 'My Collection' in the main menu on the left. This will display all of your favourites and collections:

On the left will be your favourites.  You can then sort these into specific collections (or 'Groups') that you can request e.g. for a particular address. To do this, first select 'Start a new group', then select items in your Favourites and add to the group using the dropdown list at the top of  'all items in my favourites'.

Note that you can also see any requests you have previously made via the 'View Your Request Log' link.


Sharing Links to Items in Archives Online

You can share things you find. There are two simple ways to do this.

Via sharing links

These let you share a link via your favourite social media platforms. Click the one you want and you'll be prompted to log in to your applicable social media account to post the link.

Via collection sharing

Create a specific collection and add the items you want to share and click the 'share this group' icon (the green circular arrow)

This will open up a new web page for you, with the collection shown. You can copy the URL and share that via email, social media, message apps or however you like. Note that the link is permanent, but the content it shows will change if you change that collection group.


Become a Member

You can sign up as a member if you'd like to:

  • Create personal collections and save items into them
  • Transcribe records to help make them more searchable
  • Tag people, places, subjects, etc, to make items more searchable
  • Keep track of the items you have viewed in your current session
  • (December) Request a digital copy of an item, if it isn't already online


How to sign up as a member

Tap the Login button in the left-hand toolbar


Enter your name and email address and hit the Register button.  Once our Archives Online administrators have okay'd your request, you'll receive an email with your password. This should happen within 24 hours. Make sure you change your password to something you'll easily remember.

Changing your password via the 'My Profile' option on the left-hand toolbar


Creating personal collections and saving items into them


How to get help from City Archives

If you can't find what you're looking for, City Archives staff can help.


How to report an issue with Archives Online

Please use the contact us link in the footer of any page to let us know about any issues you've had with the way Archives Online works.  We're interested in your suggestions too, if you notice something we could improve.  We can't guarantee we'll implement all suggestions but we will consider them, as part of planning future enhancements.

if this hasn't answered your questions contact us:

Contact us