Canterbury quake to be with us forever

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 23/10/2011
Cathedral
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RECORD: The ceismic.org.nz website will provide a way to store people's experiences of the Canterbury earthquakes.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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A Canterbury University professor who seized on an idea to create a digital archive of people's earthquake experiences will see his million-dollar project come to fruition this week.

On Thursday, Ceismic will be officially launched. The digital archive will draw together stories, images and documents about the Canterbury quakes that have been collected by a consortium of organisations, including Canterbury University, the National Library, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority, Te Papa, Canterbury Museum and New Zealand on Screen.

The archive will become, not only an historic record of how people and organisations responded to the quakes, but an evolving resource that will be accessible to researchers around the globe for generations.

Associate Professor Paul Millar came up with the idea of creating a digital archive after being evacuated from his home following the February 22 quake.

"I was thinking about Christchurch and my commitment to it and wondering what I could do that would usefully contribute to the rebuild. Someone pointed out to me that shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center, the Center for History & New Media at George Mason University in the US started to collect 9/11 material. I thought about that and thought we could do something similar here. I thought it was important for us to preserve our stories and our images and do it in such a way that we could easily access them," Millar said.

He took his idea to university officials, who immediately agreed to the project.

However, as work got under way it became clear it was a much bigger task than Millar first imagined.

"We realised there were a whole lot of organisations that were charged with collecting various sorts of materials," Millar explained. So the idea of a consortium led by Canterbury University was born.

Millar said members of the consortium would each collect materials for the archive and eventually all of it would be brought together at www.ceismic.org.nz, which would have a specially designed search engine that would allow people to filter the information.

It was a long-term project, to which Canterbury University had already pledged around $1 million.

"We're not just doing this for us now – we're doing it for future generations and other communities that experience disasters in the hope that what we've been through can be of use to them," Millar said.

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Public contributions to the Ceismic archive are being sought. To find out how best to share your quake experience check out www.ceismic.org.nz.

- Sunday Star Times

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