Archivist shelves long career

Presbyterian Archives Research Centre director Yvonne Wilkie will still be scouring the shelves for a few years yet, despite retiring from the centre after 20 years this week. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
Presbyterian Archives Research Centre director Yvonne Wilkie will still be scouring the shelves for a few years yet, despite retiring from the centre after 20 years this week. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
After 20 years as Presbyterian Archives Research Centre director, Yvonne Wilkie (71) is not so much retiring as fading into the shelves.

She has become a fount of knowledge, a veritable encyclopedia of New Zealand Presbyterian Church history, but the church will not lose her entirely when she retires tomorrow.

Instead, Mrs Wilkie will begin updating the official Presbyterian Church history book in time for the church's 150th New Zealand anniversary in 2016.

She will concentrate on updating about the last 40 years - the time that has elapsed since the history was last updated.

Having lived and breathed church history for the past 20 years, Mrs Wilkie has seen a lot of people achieving their research goals and nothing makes her happier in her work than seeing archives used.

''It is just great to see a collection come in and get sorted and processed and on the catalogue and people using it.''

The archives draw about 650 inquiries each year from genealogists, academics and others seeking information about their place or project.

They include a big missionary collection relating to Presbyterian churches in the Pacific Islands.

''We have got an anthropologist coming over because they are going to do a dig on Vanuatu, on one of the islands, and they want to see what material the dig might uncover.''

The church has also had missions in southern China and gets inquiries from people there who are interested in the history of their place.

''They are interested in what was going on. So much has been replaced so they want to know what was there previously.''

Mrs Wilkie said the church was ''a difficult animal to understand at times'' but keeping the records had been fascinating and she had ''loved every bit of it''.

''They [the archives] tell a story about a group of people that make up part of society and the activities they have done and what they believe.''

Mrs Wilkie was a school teacher before she started working on the archives.

 

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