Settler history made ‘real’

Embracing history . . . Celebrating the opening of the Hidden Threads exhibit at the Cromwell Muesum last Thursday are (from left): Cromwell Muesum director Jennifer Hay, Cromwell and Districts Community Trust trustee Mary Hinsen, Lawrence Chinese Camp Charitable trust chairwoman Denise Ng, Cromwell and Districts Community Trust chairwoman Ali Ballantine, Cromwell and Districts Community Trust trustee Janeen Wood and Cromwell Museum Trust chairman Martin Anderson. PHOTO: RUBY SHAW

More light is being shed on the vital role Chinese miners played in the Cromwell community through a collaborative exhibition from Cromwell & Districts Community Trust and the Cromwell Museum Trust.

The ‘‘Hidden Threads’’ exhibition opened to about 40 people at the Cromwell Museum last Thursday night, which also included updates and discussion about recreating a historical Chinese settlement.

Lawrence Chinese Camp Charitable Trust chairwoman and keynote speaker Denise Ng said she was thrilled by the exhibition and the potential of the settlement project.

‘‘They’ve really looked at the people, making it real — rather than just facts and figures.’’

The exhibition highlighted the ways in which the Chinese were part of the Cromwell community and their contribution to it.

New Zealand Chinese stories were now part of the school curriculum and the world was more open to inclusion and diversity, which made the project possible, she said.

‘‘It’s really good we’re starting to recognise that all of the communities in New Zealand are Kiwis.’’

Paperwork is being finalised for the next phase of the Cromwell Chinese Settlement — the physical development of the site and adopting technology to support the settlement.

The settlement will be based near the lake edge off Melmore Tce, as the original settlement was inundated when Lake Dunstan was filled in the 1990s.

Cromwell & Districts Community Trust chairwoman Ali Ballantine said the project had come about following consultation from the Cromwell community.

‘‘The community told us that they particularly wanted to celebrate Cromwell’s rich heritage — and that includes the heritage of the Chinese community.’’

The settlement would include a recreated miner’s hut and footings of the buildings, and the trust hoped to offer educational materials in several languages.

Ms Ballantine said the location would provide a link with the planned Cromwell Museum and Events Centre in Melmore Tce.

When complete, the settlement could form part of the proposed Golden Highway, a project mooted by Ms Ng’s father Dr James Ng, which aimed to link Chinese goldmining sites across Otago and Southland.

Ms Ng said she was now reigniting her father’s project, along with Dunedin tourism operator Neil Harraway.

‘‘Throughout the region, we’ve got all of these different [historic] places . . .but they’re all kind of just disparate areas’’, Ms Ng said.

‘‘We want to bring that together into one network.’’

The project would benefit the region’s tourism industry, as well as being a valuable educational resource, she said.

The project was under development and needed community backing, she said.

‘‘We just need people who can bring us help in all the different aspects that come into play to make this happen . . .We need people of passion and foresight.’’