Looking back in time at Valley

Cardrona Heritage Trust member John Scurr addresses the audience during a launch event for an...
Cardrona Heritage Trust member John Scurr addresses the audience during a launch event for an online heritage project at the Cardrona Hotel. PHOTO: REGAN HARRIS
A gold mine of information on the history of the Cardrona Valley is now just a click away, thanks to an online database that went live last week.

The Cardrona Heritage Trail is a project collating more than 150 years of the valley’s history into a single location, from the arrival of European settlers through to the still-mysterious origins of the Cardrona Bra Fence.

Compiled over 14 years by the Cardrona Heritage Trust, the database includes textual, visual and in some cases audio records from as far back as the 1850s, much of the information sourced directly from families with generations’ worth of history in the valley.

Speaking at a launch event at the Cardrona Hotel on Thursday evening, trust member John Scurr said the testimonies of residents past and present had been crucial to the success of the project, as "the history of Cardrona sits deep within people that know Cardrona, that were born and raised in Cardrona".

He hoped the sense of "family spirit" that had kept the Cardrona community together for more than a century was reflected in the work that had gone into its newest project.

"Mustering sheep, gathering cattle and killing rabbits … whatever it was that needed to be done, this community worked together to do it."

The Cardrona Heritage Trust made use of a grant from the Central Lakes Trust (CLT) to bring the project to life, and contracted Wānaka-based media professional Mark Sinclair to begin the process of digitising their records about six months ago.

Mr Sinclair said while the project had originally been envisioned as a brick-and-mortar museum, the creation of an online archive was a more immediate solution to the task of preservation, and one that could evolve.

"What we’ve got here is a great stepping stone to saving a lot of the stories and information and making them available to future generations … and actually getting people involved in the history today."

Now that the site is live, the trust plans to promote it with a series of QR codes displayed at popular locations in and around Cardrona and Wānaka, including the former’s iconic hotel, general store, community hall and cemetery.

Mr Sinclair said the trust’s vision was to eventually have the QR codes at specific sites to direct people to articles and images relevant to that location, allowing visitors to view how it looked in the past.

He said the process of collecting and archiving new information would continue in earnest, and encouraged those at the launch to scour their family records for any potentially unearthed stories which might be contributed.

"Let’s talk about what we’ve got and bring it together so that future generations can actually know some of this stuff and that your family histories can live on."