Research Grant

The Friends of the Turnbull Library offers an annual research grant available to scholars whose research involves use of the Turnbull.

Research Grant

In 2003 the Friends of the Turnbull, using a substantial bequest from David Bilbrough, established an annual grant for researchers who plan to make significant use of the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library. No research grant was awarded for two years during renovations to the National Library but it has been offered each year since 2012.

The grant is intended to emphasise the distinctive contribution that a research and heritage library makes to public knowledge. It celebrates the significant role of ongoing research and publication based on the Turnbull Library collections and the knowledge of the staff.

From 2007 to 2016, thanks to the generous bequest of Wesley (“Bill”) Secker, the Friends were able to increase the size of the annual research grant to NZ$10,000. From 2017 to 2019, the grant was increased again to $15,000. Now we are celebrating the 80th birthday of the Friends of the Turnbull Library, and generous donations as we approach the CENTENARY OF THE OPENING OF THE TURNBULL LIBRARY IN 1920 have enabled us to provide more research funding!

The 2020 Research Grant has been increased to $20,000

We are now inviting applications for the 2020 FoTL Research Grant, noting that we are particularly interested in new knowledge about Alexander Horsborough Turnbull, the man and his collections, as we celebrate the centenary of the remarkable bequest to the nation of his vast collection of books, paintings, prints, artefacts, photographs, maps, etc (mostly pertaining to New Zealand and the Pacific Islands). Scroll down for more details and the link to the application form.

Previous grants awarded:

Nick Bollinger (photo by Kathy McRae)

Vincent O’Malley

Two research grants were awarded for 2019. Wellington writer and broadcaster Nick Bollinger – author of the acclaimed Goneville: a memoir, published by Awa Press (2016) – is working on a project to chronicle the development of the counterculture in New Zealand during the years 1960-1975. He says the term counterculture became widely used in the 1960s to identify a range of groups and individuals – from Baxter’s poetry to the music of Blerta, from Roger Donaldson (Sleeping Dogs) to Tim Shadbolt (Bullshit and Jellybeans) – broadly sharing a belief in an alternative society. He will be drawing on the rich and diverse collections of the Turnbull Library to trace the roots of countercultural ideas, how they evolved and how they affected New Zealand society.

Co-recipient Dr Vincent O’Malley receives a second grant to continue his ongoing work on a book on the New Zealand Wars, aimed at a secondary schools market. He is the author of The Great War for New Zealand (see below).


Vincent O’Malley

Angela Lassig

In 2018, the recipients were:  Wellington historian Dr Vincent O’Malley – whose fine book The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000, was published by Bridget Williams Books in 2016 – received a research grant to assist him to begin work on a book on the New Zealand Wars aimed at secondary school students as well as a general market. And Auckland dress historian Angela Lassig received a research grant towards the publication of an illustrated book on the history of women’s dress in nineteenth century New Zealand. Ms Lassig has drawn almost all her material from the rich and diverse collections of the Turnbull Library. She will be making use of letters and diaries, cartoons and advertisements, sketchbooks and photographs, to create an accessible social history for the study and enjoyment of New Zealand women’s dress and textile heritage.

The 2017 grant was awarded to Ryan Bodman of Auckland, whose project is a history of rugby league in


Photograph of Ryan Bodman by Claire Eastham-Farrelly

New Zealand. Ryan’s research at the Alexander Turnbull Library includes the oral history archives and the photographic collections. His book will consider aspects of social class and links with marginalised communities as well as sport.



Jarrod Pic

The 2016 grant was awarded to Dr Jarrod Gilbert of Christchurch, to research a book, “Murder: A New Zealand History”. He will chronicle specific case studies to illustrate the crime of murder as a means of shedding light on New Zealanders’ relationship with violence.


Gerri KimberThe 2015 grant was awarded to Dr Gerri Kimber, a UK researcher, who has produced a book about Katherine Mansfield, titled “Katherine Mansfield: The Early Years”. Dr Kimber was in New Zealand in August 2015 (see Public Programme).


Lucy Treep

The 2014 grant was awarded to Lucy Treep of Auckland, who is working on a biography of Maurice Shadbolt.




Since its establishment in 2003, other recipients of the grant are:

Philip Norman

Philip Norman, biographer of Douglas Lilburn.

2_t_beaglehole-smTim Beaglehole, biographer of John Cawte Beaglehole.
3_a_bremner_2005-smAlex Bremner, for work on his publication, Ecclesiology and the Colonial Church; Architecture, Empire, and High Anglican Culture in Britain and the British Colonial World, 1840-70.4_Paul-Diamond-SmPaul Diamond for his photo-essay on Maggie Papakura.
5_J_Shennan-SMJennifer Shennan for a biography of Poul Gnatt.6_Paul-Meredith-sm Philip Simpson




Joint award ($10,000 each) to Paul Meredith for his account of the Maori King's 1914 UK visit and Philip Simpson for a study of the history and uses of the totara tree.

7_charlotte_wms-smCharlotte Williams for a history of relations between Maori and the National Party, 1936-2006.8_Doug_Munro-smDoug Munro for a history of the NZ Opera Company 1954-71.


Research Grant Application 2020: NOW INVITED

The Friends of the Turnbull Library (FoTL) Research Grant will be offered for the calendar year 2020. Apply now grant-apply-2020

Scholars undertaking research in the collections of the Alexander Turnbull Library are invited to apply for the grant worth up to NZ$20,000 offered by the Friends of the Turnbull Library.

The closing date for 2020 applications is Friday 11 October 2019. The APPLICATION FORM 2020 must be completed and returned by that date to or mailed to:

The Friends of the Turnbull Library
PO Box 12 186
Wellington 6144
New Zealand.


1) A brief description of the scope and nature of the research work – setting out its aims and significance, its research plan, and the methods and techniques to be employed.

2) A statement of the relevance of the Alexander Turnbulll Library collections for your proposed research. If possible, you should provide specific information about the book collections or special materials (manuscripts, maps, photographs, etc) on which the proposed research will be based. Please indicate how much time (days, weeks or months) you expect to spend in the Turnbull Library.

3) An outline of your current state of progress on this research project and your estimated completion date.

4) Brief details of any other source of funding (received or pending) for the proposed research project.

5) A brief statement of the proposed form of dissemination of the results of your research, e.g. publication in book or serial, exhibition, lectures, film, etc.

6) Your curriculum vitae, including nominated referees and relevant educational and research achievements and any previous publications.



1) The FoTL Research Grant (up to NZ$20,000 in 2020) will be made to the approved applicant(s) to carry out a piece of research where there is significant use of the ATL collections. This does not preclude the use of other collections.

2) The grant may be split between more than one applicant, and payment may be made in lump sum or instalments, according to the decision of the FoTL Committee.

3) Applicants do not have to be New Zealand citizens.

4) The grant will not normally be awarded for research towards a university degree.

5) Nominated referees will be contacted for all short-listed applicants, to confirm that the applicant has the necessary skills and background to complete and present the research satisfactorily.

6) Applicants will be notified of the Committee’s decision on or before 30 November 2018.

7) Recipients will be required to submit a progress report by 20 September 2019.

8) Recipients will agree to publicity related to the FoTL Research Grant.

9) Recipients may be asked to address a meeting of Friends on the research topic, and/or to provide a report for publication in the Friends’ regular periodicals.

10) Any subsequent publication by the recipients relating to the research for which the FoTL Grant was received should carry an appropriate acknowledgement.
The Friends of the Turnbull Library Research Award is established to encourage research and use of materials held by the Alexander Turnbull Library as set out in the established Rules of the Friends of the Turnbull Library.

Applications for the 2019 grant closed on 5 October 2018.