Project preserves links to the past

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Southland Oral History Project co-ordinator Rosie Stather.

ACCESSING Southland’s history has been made easier with the Southland Oral History Project (SOHP) now boasting more than 300 fully catalogued recordings which are available to the public.

SOHP co-ordinator Rosie Stather said with the assistance of a $6250 Community Trust South grant, more than 250 recordings were catalogued during the past 18 months, significantly boosting the total number of recordings now searchable on the project’s database.

The grant, alongside ongoing funding and assistance from the Invercargill City Council and Heritage South, had helped SOHP achieve increased awareness, and the project had been accessed by the public as well as academics.

“The collection is relevant at a national, as well as at a local, level. With active promotion planned for the collection, we anticipate numbers of people accessing the wealth of information available on the region’s history will steadily increase,” Mrs Stather said.

There had been a wide range of requests for information, including some relating to Ngai Tahu history, authors researching book topics, and many people looking for information about family members.

“We also believe that with New Zealand history about to become a compulsory part of the school curriculum we will see a steady increase in access to the collection by schools and students looking for authentic local historical information,” she said.

It had been particularly pleasing to be able to help family members access recordings of loved ones who had since died.

Tales about rabbiting, cheesemaking, local body politics, the depression years, mutton-birding, farming, film-making, World War 2 and sports were just a few of the many topics covered in recordings, she said.

People could arrange to listen to interviews at the Invercargill Library and there were plans to continue to increase the material available online, she said.

The SOHP was also hoping to digitise recordings from around the region which had been stored on cassette tapes, to preserve these for future generations.

SOHP worked closely with the library team to promote the collection at events around Southland, and also visited schools and rest-homes to share stories.

Mrs Stather said Southland’s stories helped define who we were as a people and a region.

“The project aims to capture these stories as a collective memory of what it is to be part of this community. Oral histories provide a window into a world that is fast disappearing.

“The project covers a broad range of subjects, not only the defining events in Southland’s local history, but also our traditions, our everyday way of life and what it means to be a Southlander,” she said.

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