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Massive history project fascinates MP Lee

Shining “nuggets” of history gleaned from hand-written diaries, oral histories and preserved newspaper clippings fascinated MP Melissa Lee when she visited Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank last week.

Ms Lee was in Hawke’s Bay for the Parekura Horomia Memorial Tournament; playing for the parliamentary netball team facing a Hawke’s Bay invitational side made up of friends and whanau of the late Hon Parekura Horomia. Despite her team suffering a loss against the locals, Ms Lee said the weekend was “wonderful”.

One of the highlights was a visit to the Knowledge Bank, housed in historic Stoneycroft House, in Omahu Rd, Hastings.

The charitable organisation, in its seventh year, gathers up local histories to preserve the stories of the past for future generations. It transcribes handwritten diaries, scans fading photographs, records oral histories, collates historic newspapers and preserves film footage.

Ms Lee, National’s spokesperson for Broadcasting, Communications and Digital Media, was impressed with the sheer number of volunteers assisting with the massive project. “The recording and preservation of the region’s past is very important. The Knowledge Bank has some wonderful examples of the nuggets found in our history.

“The diary of a farmer includes weather records from 100 years ago; these are little snapshots of how people lived all those years ago, in their own words.”

Ms Lee was equally impressed with the historic building, both inside and out. In one of the upstairs rooms a uniform and photos of the last private owner of the home, Dr Diamond Allan Ballantyne, took her interest. His wife, Joyce Ballantyne, was responsible for the house gaining its Historic Places Trust listing. “It is fascinating. This is the kind of history that tells us how a region came to be what it is today; what makes it different from anywhere else in New Zealand, and the world.”

Hawke's Bay Digital Archives Trust chairman Peter Dunkerley said the visit was most welcome. “We have strong support across Hawke’s Bay, including the financial support of both the Hastings and Napier councils, and this was an opportunity to raise our profile at a national level. Ms Lee had some very good suggestions on where we could look for further support, which was very helpful.”

Even with the volunteers providing their wonderful work, the facility is an expensive enterprise to run, said Mr Dunkerley. “The range of technology we need to record the historic documents and the type of facilities we need to store material while we digitise it, as well the older technology required to access things like personal videos, is quite astounding.”

The Knowledge Bank has more than 80 volunteers transcribing, digitising, recording oral histories and proofreading. Five hundred and ninety five collections have so far been donated to the organisation, each containing anything from one to 1500 items, with 238 loaded onto the organisation’s website to date. Another 74 are in the process of going up. On top of that, 174 out of 274 completed oral histories are accessible through the website.

Mr Dunkerley said the best way to keep up with latest uploads was to follow the Facebook page: Hawke's Bay Knowledge Bank, as every upload was notified through that forum.


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