The stories of the 20th century could be told through images alone. Here, you can watch Slice of Heaven videos that have drawn on New Zealand’s film, television, and sound archives – our museums of moving images and sound.
You can also watch relevant episodes from the successful television series Tales from Te Papa. Plus we’ve included links to related films and sound recordings available elsewhere online. Check out these valuable resources and expand your experience of New Zealand’s 20th century history.
We'll be adding films to this collection over time, so keep checking this page for updates.
International relations: World War I
New Zealander Dorothy Broad came up with a special way to keep her soldier boyfriend close while he was overseas during World War I.
E P Cox's diary offers a precious first-hand account of life from the front lines during World War I.
International relations: World War II
Witness emotional scenes as New Zealand families send their men off to fight in World War II. See how women keep the country running. Watch American troops in action here.
In 1941, troops march through Wellington, New Zealand, before embarking for World War II action in North Africa.
This 1943 newsreel captures aspects of New Zealand life on the home front during World War II.
Leatherneck's Diary – Weekly Review 76 – Archives New Zealand
When United States forces arrived in New Zealand, the Weekly Review cameras were there. This film contains the first motion pictures released of this event and is based on the diary of a US Marine, Private Bob Hatch.
During World War II, women traded their fancy frocks for overalls. Riria Hotere learns the stories of two avid land girls. The knife they used to kill sheep is on display in Slice of Heaven.
International relations: 1950s New Zealand
Royal tour special – Pictorial Parade 19 – Archives New Zealand
In this 1954 government film, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh tour Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu, Taranaki, and Wellington, attending the historic opening of Parliament and the Royal Investiture (awarding of royal honours).
International relations: Changing foreign ties
A Kiwi doctor brought back these keepsakes from ground zero at Hiroshima. You can see them for yourself in the exhibition. Find out whether they are radioactive after all this time.
Social welfare & the state
View Plunket’s first steps, the desperate times of the Depression, and the formation of the welfare state. This silent film compilation starts in the early 1900s and runs through to the 1970s. In the exhibition, it is projected on a wall overlooking the displays.
This 1939 government film celebrates the building of the railway network as New Zealand’s greatest industrial and commercial undertaking.
The changing railways – Pictorial Parade 65 – Archives New Zealand
This 1957 government film records the latest and last big steam engine rolling out of the sheds and over the Canterbury Plains.
The Wellington dental nurse clinic was dubbed ‘the murder house’ after it opened in 1921. Simon Morton says it's no wonder when you see the ghastly tools used in the trade at that time.
In 1958, twenty miles from Wellington, a vast building programme is under way and new towns are growing in the Porirua Basin.
Diversity & civil rights
What connects a 1956 leather rugby ball and a shiny blue bike helmet from the early 1980s? Simon Morton uncovers the history of rugby rivalry between the All Blacks and South African Springboks, and the mark it has left on New Zealanders.
Des Smith, John Jolliff, Tighe Instone, and Dana de Milo talk about life in New Zealand before the 1986 Homosexual Law Reform Act.
Māori in the 20th century
This 1946 newsreel features Maori Battalion soldiers returning home from WWII and the celebrations their arrival inspires. The narrator soberly recalls the casualty rate of the battalion (five men in seven).
This Arthur Everard-directed documentary produced by the New Zealand National Film Unit pursues four young Māori - Ripeka, Moana, Grace and Phillip - as they transition from school, whānau and rural life To Live In the City. The film follows them as they arrive in Wellington and attend a pre-employment course run by The Department of Māori Affairs which offers accommodation and advice on employment options. A 1991 sequel To Live in the City 24 Years On, picked on the lives of the four, now middle aged.
In the 1950s, the Howard Morrison Quartet were among many Māori musicians and artists influenced by modern, urban culture. Their slick blend of Māori culture, popular music, and comedy was a hit. Watch the quartet here, accompanied by Toni Williams and his Tremellos.
Television broadcasting began in New Zealand in 1960, bringing the world into people’s living rooms. The Play School show revolutionised children’s entertainment in the 1970s, continuing until 1990. Meet some of the original cast, now part of Te Papa’s collections.
Te Papa's collection of historic wallpaper, particularly from the 1930s, may have you asking what treasure might be covering your walls.