COVID doesn’t put a brake on history

Hundreds of previously unseen historic records, photos and notices have been added to Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank’s website over the last eight weeks, despite COVID-19; and more are ready to go up.

A very fast distribution of computer equipment just before lockdown to volunteers who wanted to work on Hawke’s Bay’s history from home meant transcribing and editing could continue.

Stoneycroft Homestead in Hastings, where Knowledge Bank is based, closed early during the crisis in recognition of the average age of the 90-plus volunteers, about 79, and that many had underlying health issues.

The homestead reopened last week, however volunteers have been encouraged to continue to contribute from home if they wish, said Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust chairman Peter Dunkerley.

“We certainly have some who are keen to get back to Stoneycroft to catch up with their fellow volunteers, but there are others who are more comfortable staying home until we know more about the future of this virus.”

Stoneycroft remained closed to visitors in the meantime and a date for the resumption of face-to-face oral history interviews had not been decided.

Mr Dunkerley said the many hundreds of hours of work the volunteers had completed over lockdown to keep the records flowing was “nothing short of fantastic”.

About 500 new text documents and 12 collections had been uploaded up and another 35 new collections and five oral histories were ready to go up.

Knowledge Bank, run by the Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust, is dedicated to preserving the region’s historic events, celebrations, tragedies and day-to-day life, scanning and transcribing family and business photos and documents loaned to the organisation by locals.

The volunteer group had been bolstered over the lockdown period with people unable to work in their regular jobs offering to take on short term projects, including a woman in Brisbane.

The team had kept in close touch, mainly via a Facebook group, sharing their baking stories, jokes, and putting up their Teddy in the window photos. “There’s been quite a few jokes about the difference in ‘standing a bear’ in the window and ‘standing bare’ in the window. Luckily, I don’t think anyone got their messages mixed,” said Knowledge Bank administrator and volunteer coordinator Linda Bainbridge.

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