Borderland, from Archive to Gallery: Working on James Cowan's Papers


  • Ariana Tikao



In 2012 the Alexander Turnbull Library purchased a large collection of writer/historian James Cowan’s (1870-1943) working papers, adding to an already substantial holding. This descriptive article focuses on the arrangement and description of these papers, and the subsequent curation of the exhibition Borderland: The World of James Cowan, curated by Ariana Tikao. The article discusses the archival principles of provenance and original order in relation to these papers, and also issues surrounding the physical arrangement and the creation of the records. It goes on to delineate the structure of the exhibition, describing key themes of Borderland such as the Ōrākau battle, Cowan’s involvement with film, Pākehā Māori, and Cowan’s connections with Tikao’s own whānau, of Banks Peninsula.


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