By Paulien Martens, Curator Human History
The Barker Collection contains over 4,000 letters, photographs and personal artefacts related to the Barker family. This Collection is especially well-known for the photographs of Dr Alfred Charles (A C) Barker, which provide an intimate insight into the development of colonial Christchurch and its people. We look after over 600 of Barker’s photographs taken between 1858 and 1872. Prior to these images, the only pictorial sources we have available to us of Christchurch are paintings, drawings and hand-drawn maps. This makes them an invaluable source for researching how the settlement and its people changed over time.
The personal items of the Barker family in this Collection also shed light on aspects of colonial family life. A C Barker and his wife Emma (née Bacon) arrived in Lyttelton at the end of 1850 on board the Charlotte Jane with their three young children, Richard, Samuel and Arthur. Alfred was the shipboard surgeon and established a medical practice once he arrived in Christchurch, taking up photography a few years later. Alfred and Emma would go on to have five more children: Sarah Elizabeth, Mary, Francis, John and William. Sadly, Emma died in 1858, not long after the birth of their eighth child.