Half a century of history
Timaru Herald 1864-1920 editions now onlineMATTHEW LITTLEWOOD AND LIAM HYSLOP
Century-old editions of the Timaru Herald are among the newspaper pages helping the Papers Past website team digitise their three millionth newspaper page.
Editions of the Herald from 1901-1920 were part of the most recent batch to be digitised for the website run by the National Library, including the 50th jubilee edition from June 1914.
Internal Affairs Minister Chris Tremain visited the preservation laboratory in Wellington on Monday, and said the work being done there was important in the preservation of New Zealand's history.
"But it's not only about preserving it but making it available to people throughout New Zealand.
"Before if you were living down in Timaru it's either a big drive or a costly flight to come to Wellington; now you can just log online and search topics of interest to you."
For small towns in particular the ability to see how the town was developed in the early stages was important, Tremain said.
National Library assistant newspaper curator Graeme Shaw said the upcoming 100-year commemoration of World War I had put a greater importance on digitising papers from that time.
"We've had a real focus on the WWI years and that's why the Timaru Herald has been selected here, with the papers from 1901-1920 covering that period.
National librarian Bill Macnaught said most of the newspapers were held by the Alexander Turnbull Library, but support from other sources had helped fill the gaps.
"We have been delighted to work with local libraries, historical societies and newspapers to help put these precious papers online.
Each newspaper sheet undergoes a preservation process which curiously involves placing the paper in a liquid solution for a number of days.
Papers Past has editions of the Timaru Herald from 1864-1920 available to view online at http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz.
World War I newspaper reports and correspondence from South Canterbury soldiers are now a click away, thanks to the project.
The website now contains issues of The Timaru Herald from 1864 to 1920. Until recently, it featured issues of the Timaru Herald only up to 1900.
South Canterbury Museum curator Tony Rippin said this was fantastic news, particularly for those compiling research for the upcoming WWI centennial commemorations.
"In South Canterbury, the museum is assisting with the "SCRoll" project, which will develop short biographies of all South Cantabrians who died in service to their country during WWI," Rippin said.
"This would make such a project that much easier, we would have all these resources at the click of a mouse."
Rippin said newspaper coverage of WWI was fascinating.
"At the start, the Government was quite free with information, but they become slower in releasing the casualty lists as the public became more aware of the horrors of the war," he said.
"There was definitely a nationalistic fervour in the early reports, a sense that people were doing their bit to serve their country and way of life. It became more troubled as the war progressed, particularly after Gallipoli."
During WWI, the Timaru Herald also published soldiers' letters to their wives and parents.
"Some of them were quite graphic . . . it's harrowing reading. But the soldiers were also desperate to reassure the people back home [that] they were fine," he said.
Rippin said Private Jasper William Wilkes' correspondence was particularly revealing. Wilkes was wounded in Gallipoli.
"In a letter to his mother, Wilkes described a bullet wound that knocked out six of his teeth and went through the floor of his mouth as ‘only a scratch'. Remarkably, he not only survived the wound, but lived another 30 years."
There will be several other archival and genealogy projects which will benefit from making more of the newspapers available online, he said.
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