Hi-tech going into heritage house
By CLINTON LLEWELLYN
Work has begun to transform Hastings’ historic 1875-built Stoneycroft House into a modern digital archive to preserve Hawke’s Bay’s history.
More than two years since ﬁrst proposing the establishment of a digital Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank, the Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust ﬁnally secured an 18-year lease of Stoneycroft from Hastings District Council on November 25.
Ever since, a small army of volunteers has been busy stripping back the interior walls and ceilings of Stoneycroft ready to be restored to their original state.
Last week, electricians started work laying cabling before ﬁbre optic cables are connected to the two-storey Victorian homestead, which will allow the digital archive to be accessed online.
“We couldn’t get a move on until we got the lease but things are now happening in a heck of a hurry, so it’s very exciting,” said HB Digital Trust secretary-manager, James Morgan.
Mr Morgan, one of four trustees of the registered charity along with Dr David Barry, Peter Dunkerley and Heugh Chappell, hoped the digital archive would be open to the public by February or March.
He said when the reincarnated Stoneycroft did re-open it would house at least $100,000 worth of state-of-the-art digital equipment.
“When it’s ﬁnished, this place will be capable of holding more of Hawke’s Bay’s history than the National Archives can handle,” Mr Morgan said.
“But having said that, we are working in with the National Archives and all our standards [of documentation] are the same as theirs, so that’s important .”
Stoneycroft will be open to genealogists and professional and amateur -historians as well as the general public -who will able to scan and digitise all manner of historic items including photographs, portraits, documents and maps.
“That way when the jug of water spills over the old family portrait, there will always be a back up,” said Mr Morgan.
All the information will be included in the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank, a “massive” database which will be searchable online, via a website currently under construction.
The database will be backed up on hard drive at ﬁve different sites, including one overseas location, “just in case another big earthquake hits”, said Mr Morgan.
Depending on future funding, there are also plans for a theatre room to show digitally preserved ﬁlms and to build Hawke’s Bay’s ﬁrst “story booth” at Stoneycroft where people will digitally record oral histories and personal memoirs.
One of the ﬁrst keynote projects for inclusion in the knowledge bank would be the creation of the ﬁrst ever digital Who’s Who of Hawke’s Bay, a biographical index of the region’s pioneers compiled with the help of local genealogists.
One already under way is collating the story of the old County Club in Hastings, which closed a few weeks ago.
Volunteers salvaged the club’s roll of honour and moved it to Stoneycroft, took photographs and made high-resolution copies of portraits, cartoons, maps, newspaper clippings and records of special occasions, all of which will be digitised and included in the archive.
Memorabilia from the old Warren’s Bakery in Hastings will also be installed once the kitchen at Stoneycroft has been renovated by Hastings District Council.
If the trust’s full ambitions for Stoneycroft were realised, the project could cost as much as $1 million, according to Mr Morgan. Private donations so far totalled only $50,000 and apart from the district council helping out with resource consent, Stoneycroft’s kitchen and plans for a new gazebo and rose garden, the trust has received no funding from the the various Hawke’s Bay councils. People interested in making taxdeductible donations to the project can email Mr Morgan at [email address withheld]
Photo captions –
New home of history: Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust secretary- manager James Morgan (far right) and some of the small army of volunteers working to prepare historic Stoneycroft House in Hastings into the home of the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank, a state-of-the-art digital archive which will record the region’s history.
Volunteers are (back row) Shirley McKay and Bronwyn Arlidge, (front row) Jeannie Wright, Lily Baker, Marguerite Young and Grant Ancell.
Historic piece: James Morgan with the honours board of the defunct County Club, now housed at Stoneycroft.