Pieces of history preserved

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    PROGRESS has been made on two major projects at the Invercargill Public Library – the Southern Cross newspaper digitalisation and transcription of a collection of World War 1 letters.

    The major project between the Invercargill Public Library and the National Library to digitalise Southern Cross newspapers from 1893 to 1920 started last year, collection manager Linda Te Au said.

    The newspaper was published weekly from 1893-1946 and contained classified advertisements, general news, social notes and news from areas such as Bluff, Colac Bay, Woodlands and Thornbury.

    “The project involves microfilming our copies up to 1920 and then digitalising them,” Mrs Te Au said.

    “We send the actual newspaper to Wellington to be microfilmed, then a copy is sent to Invercargill and another is stored at the National Library in Wellington.”

    Mrs Te Au said the project would take three years. When completed, the Southern Cross newspapers would be available to be viewed on the online website Papers Past, which already gave researchers access to other historical newspapers from throughout New Zealand.

    Archivist Rebecca Smith was overseeing the transcription of letters of four Southland soldiers during World War 1 which had been stored either at the Southland Museum & Art Gallery or Invercargill Public Library archives.

    “They were the letters they wrote home to their families,” Ms Smith said.

    Two of the soldiers were Ernie and Charlie McIntyre, brothers from Thornbury. The other two were John Hall, of Glenham, and Len Shepard, of Wendonside.

    Although the soldiers wrote regularly there were often gaps in the dates, such as when mail ships ran into trouble or were sunk, she said.

    Altogether, there were 280 to 300 letters which would be transcribed.

    “First all of the original letters had to be scanned, then transcribed.”

    For more than two years, a team of volunteers has been transcribing and digitalising the letters for the Since Writing You Last website.

    “We wanted to provide access to the original letters without them being damaged by handling.”

    As well as talking about the war – with the soldiers in Egypt, France, Palestine and England – some of the letters tell of adventures after the war when some of the soldiers took the opportunity to travel and meet family on the other side of the world.

    But the letters were not just about the war, the men were still interested in what was happening at home, she said.

    As far as wartime censorship was concerned, Ms Smith said “viewers will be surprised by how much they said without saying anything”.

    The launch of the website Since Writing You Last will take place on the official launch of Southland Heritage Month on Wednesday, March 1, 6pm, at the Invercargill City Libraries & Archives meeting room. The launch is free, with an RSVP to 3 211 1573 or rebecca.ith@ilibrary.co.nz

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