The Berlin Wall has risen, Mount Everest has been conquered, Christchurch has been gripped by a sensational murder case, Elvis Presley has parents worried, and the Kiwis have gone to war in Korea.
A turbulent 15-year history of New Zealand, as documented by The Press, will be available for research online for the first time on the Papers Past website from Wednesday afternoon.
The National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa digitized all editions of The Press from 1946 to 1961.
The 88,000 pages of newsprint cover everything from polio pandemics to disasters, from flying saucers to royal visits.
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The newly digitized pages mean that the first century of the Christchurch Journal, from its founding in 1861 to 1961, is now available for research online for the first time.
National Library digitization advisor Melanie Lovell-Smith said she plans to digitize every issue of The Press through 1995 over the next two years.
She said digitization would help fill a black hole for historians from the 1950s to the mid-1990s, where the only way to search for historical newspapers is to manually scroll through microfilm copies.
“It’s really exciting,” she said. “It will be fascinating to see what historians and family historians do with it.
“People will be really happy to hear stories about their family.
“It will be interesting to see if the ease of access has an impact on historians.
“You will find things that you might not have found otherwise that are not as easy to find when scrolling through a microfilm.”
She also said it would be useful for novelists doing research. Eleanor Catton used Papers Past to research her Booker Prize winning novel Lighting, which takes place in 19th century New Zealand.
It is also planned to complete the digitization of the Auckland Star from 1945 until it closed in 1991. The archives from 1870 to 1945 have already been digitized.
News editor Kamala Hayman said the new archives were a “wonderful resource.”
“The considerable efforts of the staff of the National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, to digitizing 100 years of La Presse is the greatest gift imaginable for our newspaper on the occasion of its 160th anniversary.
“It is a wonderful resource, rich in information about the people, places and history of Christchurch and Canterbury. I can’t wait to spend some time exploring.
The New Archives are a living collection of postwar New Zealand as the Cold War unfolded, rock ‘n’ roll emerged, and the Kiwis claimed their rights in the world.
The press covered the Ballantyne fire in 1947, the Korean War in 1950, the Tangiwai rail disaster, a royal tour, and Edmund Hillary climbing Mount Everest in 1953.
He also reported on the Parker Hulme murders in 1954, the last person executed in New Zealand in 1957, the advent of television in 1961, and the rise of the Berlin Wall the same year.
Global seismic events are scrambling for attention on the news pages, alongside farm updates, local events and landmark New Zealand events.
A busy news page from March 1958 is a soup of post-war buzzwords.
The page mentions that singer Liberace performs in Australia, nuclear submarines, long-lasting milk, atomic reactors, Cuba and comedian Bob Hope are denied entry into Moscow.
The pages also capture New Zealand’s cultural landscape in the 1950s and dawn of the 1960s.
There is no reference to the Beatles or Bob Dylan, but the first reference to Elvis Presley comes in October 1956.
The story portrays rock’n’roll as a disturbing youthful epidemic and describes Presley as “the master of this harsh, raspy, rhythmic music.”
There is also a favorable review of the controversial novel by JD Salinger Catcher in the rye, which was banned in Australia when it was released in 1957.