Leslie Adkin (1888-1964) was a farmer near Levin, but is better known as an amateur scholar, geologist, ethnologist, author and photographer. Te Papa has nearly 7000 of his negatives, 830 colour slides, 24 photo albums and 51 diaries – and then the Turnbull Library also holds some! Athol McCredie gave members a fascinating glimpse into the life and photography of Adkin.

Adkin was also a keen tramper in the nearby Tararuas (before tramping really took off as a leisure activity). His theories on the geological formation of the Tararuas were controversial but later proven largely correct. He worked with local Maori to publish a guide to place names and sites in Horowhenua in 1948; and then a similar book on Wellington titled ‘The Great Harbour of Tara’ in 1959.

Adkins photographs of everyday life – his sisters washing dishes or his wife peeling potatoes for example – are one of his important contributions that few other photographers recorded in the early 20th century. One of the particularly interesting aspects to Adkin’s photography was his meticulous recording of places and people photographed and visited, in his diaries and on maps he drew (his family could find his recording habits and careful posing of photos an exasperating trait!)

However, in an exciting project, Athol and others are linking his photographs to his relevant diary entries on the Te Papa Collections catalogue. Unfortunately, it isn’t yet possible for the general public to find these by searching the catalogue, however this photograph is an example of what the entries look like: “The Right Honourable WF Massey opens the show”. It would then be possible for anyone interested to search Papers Past and find in a news report what Massey said in his speech – for example this report in the Stratford Evening Post.

Vivienne Morrell

Feature image: Detail from: Family series, by Leslie Adkin. Te Papa (A.006672)