Heritage collections

The Library has a special role to collect, preserve and make available materials that relate to the stories, people and history of the Nelson area and community. It is considered the lead library in the Top of the South Island. 

In addition to local material, the Library holds a number of other heritage collections. All of these are located in the Research Room, are listed in the library catalogue and are for library use only.

Nelson Heritage Collection

This collection aims to include a comprehensive collection of publications about Nelson and the Nelson region.  A wide range of materials is included  - books, magazines, community newspapers, catalogues, electoral rolls, directories, local council publications etc.. Material is added if it has research or heritage value for Nelson.

For collection purposes, geographical coverage is the original boundary of the Nelson Province (the Top of the South Island).

The New Zealand Heritage Collection

The core of this collection is the Nelson Institute collection which reflects colonial visions of New Zealand. Items of significant research or heritage value are occasionally added to this core collection. Click here for a full list of items held.

Māori Heritage Collection

This collection is housed in the Research room and is for library-use only.  The core of the collection is historic books relating to Māori from the Nelson Institute.  Items are added to the collection if they are of significant heritage or research value, relating to Tangata Whenua or Top of the South Island iwi, are vulnerable or fragile, or are a key resource generally for Māori. See more on Maori research

Government Documents

The Library holds New Zealand Government Papers back to 1858 and Ordinances and Statutes dating back to 1841, plus New Zealand Geological survey Bulletins and Year Books.


The Library archives local community newspapers and the Nelson Mail in the Research Room. The Nelson Mail is held in print until we receive a microfilm version. The library holds a complete run of the the Nelson Mail and its predecessors on microfilm. A full description of our newspaper collections and news media online resources is provided in our News Media pages.

The Research Room

This temperature controlled room houses the Heritage Collections, which require special care. It is available for quiet study, but bags must be left in the secure lockers at the Information Desk.
Laptops may be used on the wireless network.