Newspaper Article 2013 – Volunteers saving the Bay’s history

Volunteers saving the Bay’s history

It’s been a demanding first year for those running the region‘s knowledge bank, but things seem to be calming down now, Clinton Llewellyn reports

The Hawke‘s Bay Knowledge Bank is about to celebrate its first 12 months at Hastings historic Stoneycroft House – and manager James Morgan is almost glad it is over.

Mr Morgan. the secretary-manager of the Digital Archives Trust, his fellow trustees and a close-knit group of volunteers have endured their fair share of challenges over the last year some serious, some unusual since the renovated 1875 homestead re-opened as the digital archive.

Recently the regional council had to winch in a staff member by helicopter to clear an infestation of rooks – birds declared an agricultural pest in the 1970’s that had nested in a large eucalyptus tree at the Omahu Rd property.

Back in January, just a few months after opening. there was a more serious problem when fallen trees in a storm cut power to the server at Stoneycroft, which threatened to wipe out the growing amount of historic information that volunteers had digitised. “that almost put us back to the drawing board,” Mr Morgan said. “But the beauty of it was that it showed the benefit of having four different back-up servers located around the country and the value of being able to store the history of Hawke’s Bay in this way,” he said.

It had been smoother sailing since then and there were now “several terabytes” of historical information that had been digitized and safely preserved on the four remote servers, he said.

The historical information had been digitised by a dedicated group of about 20 volunteers who were donating hundreds of hours a week, under the supervision of Hastings district council archivist, Chris Johnson.

The information was then uploaded and free to browse at the website which, much like everything else at Stoneycroft is the work of volunteers.

The website master is Chris Webb when he is not running his Mogul business; trustee and retired broadcaster Heugh Chappell gives his time to record oral histories in the recording room that was once the office of Stoneycroft owner, Dr Diamond Ballantyne; and Havelock North photographer Tim Whittaker has been lending his expertise to the process of how to digitise historic maps.


Photo caption – One year on: Digital Archives Trust secretary-manager James Morgan, in front of Stoneycroft House in Hastings, home of the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank. which turns 1 on November 30. Photo CLINTON LLEWELLYN

Project needs time and ‘big bickies’

FROM Page 6

But more help was always welcome, Mr Morgan said. “We could do with 20 volunteers every day to cope with the amount of information we need to digitise,” he said.

Donations were also welcome, Mr Morgan said, with the trust, reliant not only on donated funds but also equipment, such as the recent gift of 15 computers by Bannister and von Dadelszen lawyers.

Some people who brought in their family history documents were happy to donate an amount to be issued digital copies for other family members, but other than that, the only income came from the annual $25 fees paid by Friends of the Knowledge Bank, but they numbered less than 100.

Mr Morgan said the trust’s aim was to cover its costs but also invest in new technology like a new $26,000  ST View scanner it wants to buy to digitise old newspapers, currently preserved on microfiche.

“It costs us big bickies to run the show, and to get equipment like the scanner so yes, we are permanently in need of funding. We would love anything from a tuppence to $2 million.”

Mr Morgan said a November 30 open day would be fitting way to mark three years of planning, followed by 12 months spent restoring Stoneycroft, laying a kilometre of cabling and installing computer hardware and software and the first year of operations. “The last two years have been huge in demand of our time, and the next two years will be equally as huge,” he said. “But we are making some great strides. I believe in three or four years when the people of Hawke’s Bay see what we are accumulating now, they will be gob smacked,” he said.

Records for posterity

Elsie Leipst has a simple reason for giving over her collections of newspaper clippings, photographs and journals covering her 40-year career as a Plunket and Hawke’s Bay Hospital nurse to be digitised by the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank.

“I have no family to leave it to. I am 94 now, so at my age I have got to do something,” said Ms Leipst, one of the first graduates of the hospital’s now defunct training school, who moved up to clinical nursing director when she retired from the hospital in 1974.

Her friend, renowned Hastings potter Bruce Martin, 87, who founded Kamaka Pottery with late wife Estelle in the mid 1960s, is another who is in the process of having his historical documents digitised.

He had already sorted a lot of his records for his forthcoming book, The Herron Migrates, which details the couple’s business and their trips to Japan to work with master potter, Sanyo Fujii, “But a lot of it is also Hastings history,” said Mr Martin whose Japanese-style anagama kiln on the back of his Bridge Pa property, the largest in New Zealand built with help from Mr Fujii, is now under the protection of the Historic Places Trust.

The Knowledge Bank wanted more locals to come forward with their “shoe boxes of memories”, said communication officer, Nikki Beattie.

“People forget about their family history or the documents get disposed of. We want to preserve it for posterity rather than them discovering that 20 years later, much to their horror, the earwigs or mould have deteriorated it,” she said.

People cold [could] loan or donate their records to the knowledge bank – which would be given a unique collection number and be uploaded to the website and order digital copies of documents for the other family members, she said.

The accumulated knowledge could also help “fill in the gaps” for other Hawke’s Bay families researching their ancestry, while historic land records such as maps, title deeds, and photographs, would also help preserve the “history of the land,” she said.

Phone 06 833 5333.

Photo caption – Saved: Elsie Leipst, left, Knowledge Bank communication officer Nikki Beattie, renowned Hastings potter Bruce Martin and manager James Morgan pore over her newspaper cuttings in the restored cottage kitchen at Stoneycroft House in Hastings. Photo: CLINTON LLEWELLYN

Original digital file


Non-commercial use

Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ)

This work is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 New Zealand (CC BY-NC 3.0 NZ).


Commercial Use

Please contact us for information about using this material commercially.

Business / Organisation

Hawke's Bay Knowledge Bank

Date published

20 November 2013

Format of the original

Newspaper article

Creator / Author

  • Clinton Llewellyn


Hastings Mail


Accession number


Do you know something about this record?

Please note we cannot verify the accuracy of any information posted by the community.

Supporters and sponsors

We sincerely thank the following businesses and organisations for their support.