Film reel frame of a woman standing and man seated.

Meet the First Lady Mayor

27 Oct 2016
Ngā Taonga archivists have unravelled the mystery of New Zealand’s second-oldest surviving film – and oldest complete film.

Watch how archivists solved the mystery and restored the film of the First Lady Mayor of the British Empire – and Onehunga – 116 years after it was shot.

The film, from 1900, is of Elizabeth Yates. She was elected Mayor of Onehunga in 1893, just weeks after New Zealand women became the first in the world to vote in a general election.

Elizabeth Yates was the First Lady Mayor of the British Empire and at the time she became a media sensation and public celebrity.

During 2016, Ngā Taonga film conservator Dr Leslie Lewis did a lot of detective work to identify both the woman in the film as well as the man who shot it – photographer Enos Pegler.

Portrait image of a man.

Photographer Enos Pegler shot the film

Restoring and preserving the fragile 116-year-old film took weeks of painstaking repair, grading, stabilising, mastering and scanning by Ngā Taonga’s in-house digital restoration team.

Watch this short clip to see the difference before and after the film was restored: