Middlemarch woman's efforts to compile material about the
area in the 1950s has gone so well she has decided to
continue the project into subsequent decades.
Dawn Coburn started compiling mainly photographs and stories,
preferably told by the photograph's owner, about six years
ago, when she moved back to Middlemarch after leaving there
as a 15-year-old.
Mrs Coburn bought her grandparents' home in Middlemarch about
10 years ago and moved there permanently in 2008.
Not long after she arrived she was approached about extending
a book her aunt, Helen Thompson, wrote.
The book, East of the Rock and Pillar: A history of the
Strath Taieri and Macraes Districts, was published in
But Mrs Coburn (73), who graduated from the University of
Otago with a doctorate in surveying and information science
after completing a thesis titled Gone Tomorrow? Choosing
the past to create the future in 2012, was not interested
in writing a book.
However, she was interested in photography, so agreed to
carry the project on, via a different method.
Thus East of the Rock and Pillar: A new view was born.
Six years later and she has thousands of photos, stories,
scrapbook and newspaper cuttings, representing all aspects of
life in the area in the 1950s.
It had been a rewarding experience, and interest from
submitters was growing.
A core group of 15-20 people met in Middlemarch every six
months to work through new material.
''It's taking on a life of its own.''
Five sets of three folders and one trial booklet of the
material were being kept where people could see them, at the
Kissing Gate cafe, local library, Quench cafe and cycle
The master, which can be added to, is at the Middlemarch
Mrs Coburn had also worked on a pre-1950s segment of the
compilation, using photographs of some of her relatives.
Those photographs, preserved on glass negatives, had survived
nearly 100 years.
She found them in the house when she moved in.
Other images found electronically were also included.
She decided to continue the project, aiming to work on a new
decade each year, starting with the 1960s.
It would become a living archive to which she hoped people
would continue to contribute.
She felt it was important to document the past and the
present in print, as there was no promise how long digital
images would survive.
''[A living archive] is a concept not often used because
people don't see it's necessary until it's gone.''
• Do you have material that may help the project? Email