Newspaper Article – Historical project has it in store

Historical project has it in store

By Lawrence Gullery

It was in the 1960s when Hastings photographer Russell Orr put his name forward as Hawke’s Bay’s voluntary historian.

His idea was to invite people to bring their pictures to his Hastings studio where he would copy and caption the images for a database, then return the original material to the owners.

The idea caught on and he had many thousands of images handed in, depicting Hawke’s Bay’s history. Sadly when he sold the business the new owner let a hot water cylinder boil over the valuable negatives, turning them into “a great stew”.

It was this loss which prompted former Hawke’s Bay Herald-Tribune editor James Morgan to set up the Hawke’s Bay Digital Archive Trust in recent years.

The trust is now preparing to open its new Knowledge Bank at the Stoneycroft Homestead on the outskirts of Hastings in December.

“The aim of the Knowledge Bank is to store Hawke’s Bay’s history, whether that be film, text, or pictures, which will all be digitised and archived,” Mr Morgan said.

“It means everyone, from businesses, clubs and families, who have their history going right back to the beginnings, can bring forward that material and we will record it for them and store it, and they can take home their treasures.”

Mr Morgan said the data would be backed up, or recorded, at four different sites including one offshore. Tom Chamberlain, formerly of Weta Workshop and Paul Hughes from Neocom in Napier were involved in the technical work setting up the Knowledge Bank’s software and computer system.

The Knowledge Bank will be available for people to experience when Stoneycroft Homestead is officially opened to the public by the Hastings District Council in December.

The council bought the building in 2005 with the aim of turning it into a community facility. The Digital Archive Trust secured a lease in December last year.

“Part of that condition was to renew the interiors of the building and we’ve almost finished that all done by voluntary effort,” Mr Morgan said.

The Digital Archive Trust had invested about $180,000 on the internal work, which included installing new technology and fibre optic networks, with help from Unison Fibre.

The largest contribution to the project to date had been about $50,000 from the Eastern and Central Community Trust.

“The rest has come from community groups and we are very pleased with the response we’ve had.”

The Hastings Landmarks Trust held its AGM at Stoneycroft recently where about 40 to 50 people were given a tour of the renovated home.

Photo caption – LEASE: James Morgan, of the Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust, at the historic Stoneycroft Homestead, Hastings.

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  • Duncan Brown
  • Lawrence Gullery


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