A project that will preserve and protect historical records for future generations is taking place in Wanaka.
Upper Clutha Historical Records Society volunteer researcher Ken Allan said the society had thousands of historical documents, including photos, maps, letters and first-person accounts dating back to the early days of colonial exploration.
“We’ve just started digitising all the photographs and all the contents, which is a major job.
“Every time someone wants to do research on something, they don’t have to go and handle the paper, which, as you know, over a period of time, the paper does tend to disintegrate,” Mr Allan said.
“There’re minutes from clubs from back to the early 1900s, various societies – not just from Wanaka, but the whole of the Upper Clutha – so you’ve got Makarora, Hawea, Hawea Flat, Cardrona, Queensberry, Luggate, Tarras.
“And then there are things like the pioneers’ records. We’ve encouraged people to come in and lodge documents and information about pioneer families who settled in the area.
“I’ve just been looking at documents where people had written notes on the cabarets that used to be held out on Ruby Island, which is the island out on Lake Wanaka – they started in the late 1920s, 1930s.”
“So there’s lots of family records that have been deposited, as well as photographs, maps going back to when the first map was drawn round here.
“It’s anything of an historical nature – the records of the goldfields up at Cardrona.”
Although the main records were from European settlement beginning in the 1850s, there were some records that recorded the presence of Maori in the region, Mr Allan said.
“There were some Maori settlements here prior to Europeans arriving, very small in number, and some of the events did get recorded,” he said.
Each item was being digitally scanned and entered into a database with a searchable summary of the contents, he said.
A further benefit of digitising would be those records could then be backed up and stored at a separate site, reducing the risk of losing the records in the event of a disaster, Mr Allan said.
“The first thing you’ve got to do is record what you have, and that is really the major project that the society has, is recording the contents into a database.
“The second part will be how do we give easy access to these.”
Volunteer researcher Jo Wilton said the society had bought software used by museums all over the world to record the documents.
An addition to the software could be bought that would enable the collection to be searchable online, but that would happen further down the track once the society had completed more of the digitising and data entry of the records, she said.
The society was always open to receiving material, Mr Allan said.
It could be in the form of photographs, personal memoirs, past business records, diaries, school records and suchlike.
“Our doors are always open to anything that can be saved.
“I think if most families look back over the years, stuff has got chucked out that they wish had not got chucked out.”