Real Modern: Everyday New Zealand in the 1950s and 1960s
Author: Bronwyn Labrum
Publication date: October 2015
The decades of the 1950s and ’60s continue to exert a powerful fascination, as seen in the lasting popularity of Mad Men, Crown Lynn collectibles and mid-century design. In New Zealand, these years have been remembered in popular culture as a ‘golden age’ of God, Queen and Country, full employment, the baby boom, Sir Edmund Hillary and ‘Ladies, a plate!’ – as well as the birth of the teenager and the seedbed of later change. But what was life really like?
Real Modern tells a vibrant and varied story of real life in this compelling era through images and, above all, objects. It is a rich compendium of the things that New Zealanders acquired and desired, that they used at school, work or play, and that they wore and saw around the country. Accompanied by lively and expert text by author Bronwyn Labrum, these objects evoke everyday life and offer insight into the social, political and cultural history of postwar New Zealand.
Featuring hundreds of stunning new photographs from Te Papa, New Zealand’s national museum, and collections nationwide, Real Modern is a celebration of the things of the 1950s and ’60s and the people who used them. It is a fresh and nuanced view of these familiar yet surprising times.
‘Impressive, interesting and beautifully written, Real Modern represents a valuable contribution to New Zealand history.
For those who lived through the 1950s and 60s this book brings back powerful and intimate memories of daily life; for those who did not, it reveals a fascinating and surprising world.'
– Jock Phillips
‘Joyful’ is the perfect word to sum up this book. Somehow we’ve been led to believe that New Zealand at this time was cautious, stodgy and dull, but Real Modern shows it was anything but. The New Zealand in this book is witty, inventive, adventurous and eager for new experiences. And the clothes were just gorgeous.
Real Modern does more than diligently record the familiar objects of the 1950s and 1960s; it captures the feeling of what it was like to live then…’
– Catherine Robertson
‘Like an archaeological dig, objects give us meaning to an era in history. From the fabrics to the furniture, the Three Flowers talcum powder to the Vance Vivian shops, Bronwyn's book Real Modern does just that for the ‘50s and ‘60s in New Zealand. Real Modern takes us beyond the usual kiwiana and retro labels. A fascinating read. ’
– Wallace Chapman
‘Delicious, disturbing, surprising. Real Modern takes us to the world of things we once loved and dreams we could believe. On every page a discovery and rediscovery of a uniquely New Zealand era, when luxury came by way of the consolette tv, bikini chair, island bench and Loxene shampoo. A book where history unfolds in the glorious panorama of everyday life.’
– Professor Charlotte Macdonald
About the author
Bronwyn Labrum is an associate professor in the School of Design at Massey University and was formerly curator of history and textiles at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. She is the author of Women’s History (1993), and co-editor of Fragments: New Zealand Social and Cultural History (2000) and Looking Flash: Clothing in Aotearoa New Zealand (2007). She has also written widely about New Zealand’s cultural and social history, welfare and medical history, museums and material culture. She has a long-standing interest in the mid-twentieth century and its objects.
NZ RRP (incl. GST): $75.00
Extent: 432 pp
Illustrations: More than 500 colour and black-and-white images
Format: 265mm x 230mm