Every two years the Wairarapa region hosts a writers and readers festival with the suitably rural title of ‘Yarns in Barns’. Most of the events are held in libraries, shops and halls, but each festival features one occasion whern yards are literally told in a barn – or to be more exact, in an old wool shed. Jamie and Marilyn Strang allow festival goers t congregate in the shed on the ‘Glenside’ property at Gladstone, and each festival a crowd gathers to be fed hot chocolate and and tales tall and true – although not always both.
The Wairarapa Archive has played a strong role in the special event, with staff taking part for the last four festivals, but this year two staff members were part of the afternoon. District Archivist Gareth Winter chaired a panel of authors who have written recently on aspects of war history. Jo Elworthy’s spoke of her father’s memoir, ‘Greece, Crete, Stalag , Dachau’ which was recently published, while Glyn Harper, Professor of War Studies at Massey University, read amusing tales from soldiers’ letters.
Philippa Werry was also on the panel, and spoke out her work on some children’s books relating to World War One, one on the significance of Anzac Day, the other the story of three young men who went off to war together.
The panel was rounded off by Neil Frances, the Wairarapa Archive’s resident military historian, who spoke on some of the lighter aspects of his work on Featherston Military Training Camp, including the response of some of the recruits to the amount of swearing their fellow soldiers indulged in.
The Wairarapa Archive will shortly be publishing a book on an interesting early pakeha settler by one of his descendants.
Albert Allom was a friend of the Wakefield family and arrived in New Zealand as a survey cadet for the New Zealand Company. Along with other survey cadets, he decided to try his hand at being a grazier, and leased land from Wairarapa Maori near Wairarapa Moana. He and a fellow cadet, John Tully (later to marry a daughter of William Mein Smith) called the run ‘Tauanui’. After they gave the lease up it was run by Peter Hume – his descendants still farm parts of it.
During his time at Tauanaui, Allom had a run in with the local chief Ngairo Takatakaputea, also known as Ngairo Rakaihikuroa, and we were keen to use a copy of his portrait as an illustration in the book. The Dunedin Public Art Gallery holds a copy of a Lindauer portrait of Ngairo, so the author wrote to them asking for a digital copy (it has been digitised as it is displayed on their website) and for permission to publish the image in the upcoming book. They said we could use the image and asked for a fee in excess of $100.
The Pitt River Museum in Oxford hold a similar painting and when asked, were happy to provide a copy for publication, royalty free. The director commented that he found it sad we needed to go half way around the world to obtain a copy, a sadness I also feel.
It raises a fundamental question. What is the purpose of a public cultural institution?
Our answer is simple – we are here to get information out. Not in, but out. Why are we gathering cultural items if not to make them available to the public, with as few impediments as possible?
As newspapers downsize their operations there has been a trend for their photographic collections to be sold to international collectors.
In Masterton the trend has been bucked with the recent transfer of nearly 1,000,000 photographs and negatives from the Wairarapa Times-Age to the Wairarapa Archive.
The newspaper, which was form in 1938 following the amalgamation of the towns two dailies, is housed in a wonderful Art Deco building, styled on the now-demolished Miami Herald building. The newspaper printing has been outsourced and the building sold to a local property developer, the newspaper leasing back part of the space. As part of that process the newspaper’s photographs needed to find a new home and the Wairarapa Archive was the logical place for the, given the close association between the newspaper and the archive.
Masterton District Archivist Gareth Winter is excited to have such an extensive collection of photographs added to the Archive’s collection.
“These photographs represent a unique look at a slice of Wairarapa history for the past fifty years. Through these images we have a window into the way our region has developed.”
It will take a long time to process these photographs but they are currently stored in chronological order and can easily be scanned and reproduced for clients.