The Colonial Museum was established in 1865, and housed in Museum Street in Wellington. James Hector, a Scottish physician and geologist, was appointed as the Museum’s first director.
He left many documents relating to his life and work such as a collection of newspaper cuttings dating between 1874 and 1888 on the natural sciences and his correspondence from the Colonial Museum from 1865 until 1903.
The Museum Archive also has research material gathered by Museum staff in many areas of study in the sciences and humanities since 1865, particularly in ethnology (the study of the characteristics of different peoples), the natural sciences, and the Pacific.
There is also the archives of the National Art Gallery dating from when it opened in 1936. This includes material on the development of exhibitions and the acquisition of artworks.