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There can be no absolute measure of cultural significance. There is no fixed point at which documentary heritage qualifies for inclusion in the New Zealand register. Selection for inclusion in the New Zealand Register will be a result of assessing the heritage item on its own merits against the selection criteria, against the tenor of the General Guidelines, and in the context of other items already either included or rejected. See also the Register Companion

The New Zealand Memory of the World Committee must be satisfied that the nominated item or items is of outstanding New Zealand significance.

That is, there must be demonstrated evidence of historic, aesthetic or community significance; not necessarily all of these, but at least one of them.

The first step in determining significance is to compile all available information about the documentary heritage item or collection you wish to nominate. This includes all information relating to its provenance and the background to its creation. You should also investigate comparative examples to determine if your item or collection is rare or unique, is strongly representative of a particular material form or relates to a strong historical theme. Once you have compiled this information you are ready to determine the significance of the item or collection.

The following criteria are adapted from the International Register.


There must be demonstrated evidence of historic, aesthetic, or community significance—not necessarily all of these, but at least one of them.

  • Historic significance
  • Aesthetic significance
  • Community significance

An item or collection of documentary heritage may be historically significant for its association with people, events, places and themes. It may relate to famous individuals, groups or social movements, or to significant social and cultural change. Historic significance is the most common significance for documentary heritage collections.


Treaty of Waitangi
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(International Memory of the World Register)

Women’s Suffrage Petition
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(International Memory of the World Register)

Tokyo War Crime Trials 1946-1948
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(Asia Pacific Memory of the World Register)

An item or collection of documentary heritage may have outstanding aesthetic, stylistic or linguistic significance. It can also be a typical or key exemplar of a type of presentation, custom or medium, or of a former or disappearing carrier or format. An item or collection of documentary heritage may be aesthetically significant for its beauty, craftsmanship, style, technical excellence, demonstration of skill and quality of design and execution.


Marti Friedlander Archive
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Salmond Anderson Architects Records
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Items or collections of documentary heritage may be held in high esteem by a particular community. This is shown when a community demonstrates strong affection for the documentary heritage because it contributes to the community’s identity and social cohesion.


Scottish Migration Collection
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Ng New Zealand Chinese Heritage Collection
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Cambodian Women Oral History Project
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To be selected for registration on the New Zealand Memory of the World Register the documentary heritage should possess the following characteristics:

  • Has demonstrable historic, aesthetic or cultural significance to a community or the nation
  • Be unique and irreplaceable
  • Is a primary or significant source that documents an historical or cultural event that has had a lasting impact and influenced the course of New Zealand history
  • Be an outstanding example of a document or an experience


For the purposes of the Memory of the World Programme, documentary heritage is defined as comprising items which are:

  • Moveable
  • Made up of signs/codes, sounds and/or images
  • Able to be preserved
  • Able to be produced and migrated
  • The product of a deliberate documentary process

A document is deemed to have two components: the information content and the carrier on which the information resides.

Some examples of documents are film, discs, tapes, paper and digital records, manuscripts, photos and posters.