The School Journal in Renwick


Every child educated in New Zealand will have more than a passing acquaintance with our national treasure: school journals. A creative incubator for the likes of Rita Angus, Margaret Mahy and James K. Baxter, their pages have filled young minds for more than a century.

School Journal cover, 1964. Courtesy Renwick Museum. Click image to enlarge

The Alexander Turnbull Library has a complete set of School Journals dating back to 1907 and various university libraries and the Auckland Public Libraries hold issues. But a little Marlborough library has one of the most comprehensive public collections dating from 1907 to the 1980s.

Renwick Museum and Watson Memorial Library
Click image to enlarge

In 1930, a teacher, Herbert Watson, built a small library next to his Renwick home.  The book collection, which included school journals dating back to 1907, was later rescued, with another teacher, Marjorie Pattie, cataloguing and adding to it. This significant collection is now housed in the small volunteer-run Renwick Museum and Watson Memorial Library, near Blenheim.

Climate control comes by way of interior block walls - chilly in the winter, but a welcome refuge in summer.  It's easy to get lost in a time warp in the windowless room, as the musty smell of old paper  escapes from boxes of slim, black and white  journals which contain stories of nationhood and ‘home' (England). Books such as The Home Educator (1896), The Complete Grazier and cloth-bound volumes of childhood favourites also line the shelves of the tiny library.    

You can dip into nostalgia at an exhibition of School Journals at the Renwick Library and Watson Museum. 1 And at your fingertips, the National Library has an online exhibition celebrating 100 years of school journals at

Written by Joy Stephens and published  in North & South, 2012

Edited February 2021


Sources used in this story

  1.  For information see  To examine the historic collection by appointment, contact Gwenda Hodson, phone 03 5784927. [The Renwick Museum & Watson Memorial Library is located next to the Postshop on High Street and is open daily from 9am - 5pm. Staff are on hand Mondays from 10am - 4pm or by arrangement. Admission is by donation.]

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  • Is it possible please to locate and photocopy and send to me a school journal play called “White Men Aren’t for Eating”. It was written by me under the name D R Campbell and published in a Part 3 School Journal about 50 years ago...Ed. we have sent this request to the Museum

    Posted by Don Campbell, ()

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