Thursday, November 30, 2023

Invitation to make history in Hawke’s Bay

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Digital archive invites people to capture and share their experience of Cyclone Gabrielle.
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An opportunity to record history as it is happening has prompted the Hawke’s Bay Knowledge Bank to open its doors after Cyclone Gabrielle.

Launched 10 years ago, the Knowledge Bank is a digital record of Hawke’s Bay and its people that continues to grow as residents donate material from times past to be digitised and uploaded to a public website.

A planned open day for early March was postponed due to the cyclone, and that triggered a new plan. 

“We noted a lot of photos appearing on personal Facebook feeds and that got us thinking this would be a great opportunity to record history as it’s happening,” Knowledge Bank administrator Linda Bainbridge said.

“It was like, actually we are making history now so let’s record it now.

“We decided to turn the open day into a three-day open house to encourage people to bring in their photos, videos, audio recordings and other material related to the recent cyclone event.

“It just seemed all in keeping with the purpose of the Knowledge Bank.”

Bainbridge said there is a wealth of fading photographs, farming history, letters, recordings and much more stashed away in old shoeboxes and family collections.

“Most of it doesn’t belong in a museum but it is certainly worth keeping, and modern technologies allow us to capture and preserve this valuable community resource for future generations on a much larger scale and at a lower cost than preserving the physical objects.”

The first step is digitising or capturing the information from whatever format it is in from photographs to film, even as memories in someone’s head.

“We have skilled people who can sit down and write up an interview. That may be the case for some remote farming communities recalling the cyclone event as that may be the only resource they have to record how the event happened for them.”

There are more than 80 volunteers involved in recording with the Knowledge Bank, overseen by the Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust.

The trust was started by a small group of five locals who wanted to ensure that the collective memory of Hawke’s Bay was not lost.

“They realised that new technologies meant the fascinating records and memories of day-to-day life in the district could be stored and shared relatively inexpensively, making them available to today’s residents and the coming generations. 

“Currently our youngest volunteer is 22 and the eldest 92 with an average of 75, so we welcome more any time, whether with specific skills or with the desire to learn the skills required.”

Fittingly, the Knowledge Bank is housed in Hastings’ historic Stoneycroft Homestead, a Victorian colonial home built in 1875 and acquired by the Hastings District Council in 2005 in recognition of its historical importance.

The homestead, set in 2ha of land, is registered as a category 2 historic building with Heritage New Zealand.

Hawke’s Bay Digital Archives Trust volunteers were heavily involved in the fundraising and physical work that brought the building up to the standard it is today.

Stoneycroft will host the Knowledge Bank’s open house from 10am-2pm each day for March 16-18.

“We will have a team of volunteers here and we encourage people to bring in all they can as this cyclone destruction and the many homes, family photos records lost just highlights the real purpose of digital archiving, especially a vital opportunity like now to record current history.”

The open days will also be showcasing historical events including the Esk Valley floods of 1929 and 1938, Cyclone Bola and the 1931 Napier earthquake.

Items of interest for digital archiving can be emailed to

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