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
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.