Wealth of ma­te­rial in old news­pa­pers

For­mer news­pa­per photo li­brar­ian Carolyn Cameron has cre­ated a new niche for her­self as a his­tory re­searcher. Cather­ine Healy went to meet her.

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS -

Spend­ing hours scour­ing old news­pa­pers is a fairly soli­tary pur­suit. It’s not ev­ery­one’s idea of fun but to re­searcher Carolyn Cameron it’s a won­der­ful life.

New Zealand’s early broad­sheets are a rich source of his­tor­i­cal in­for­ma­tion for her books.

‘‘I read al­most ev­ery page in ev­ery news­pa­per,’’ she says.

She ex­plains that re­ly­ing on a com­puter to find your key words in old news­pa­pers isn’t good enough. A blot of ink or a badly printed page means the word won’t be found and a vi­tal piece of his­tory could be missed.

Ms Cameron is a ‘‘Devon­por­to­nian’’ who moved to Par­nell in 2005 and be­came fas­ci­nated with the sto­ries be­hind Auck­land’s old­est sub­urb.

She be­lieves his­tory should be shared.

Go­ing right back to the source and look­ing at orig­i­nal doc­u­ments is the only way to get things straight, she says.

‘‘If you just quote from books you re­peat other peo­ple’s mis­takes, and then those mis­takes be­come his­tory.’’

For years Ms Cameron worked as a li­brar­ian and a photo li­brar­ian for news­pa­pers. It was a job she loved and still misses.

On leav­ing school she wanted to be an air host­ess or a li­brar­ian but her op­tions soon nar­rowed af­ter she dis­cov­ered she was afraid of fly­ing.

She ended up work­ing in a bank.

‘‘I could do it well but it was just a job, there was not much sat­is­fac­tion in it.’’

It wasn’t un­til she was about 40 years old that she fi­nally got her dream job work­ing at The New Zealand Her­ald as a li­brar­ian.

She’s pas­sion­ate about pho­tog­ra­phy and en­joys tak­ing pho­tos. Find­ing the right im­ages to il­lus­trate her re­search is one of her favourite as­pects of her work.

She has recorded the his­tory of the first 20 years of Euro­pean set­tle­ment in the Par­nell area from 1840-1859. It be­gan as a way to fill time but has be­come her oc­cu­pa­tion.

‘‘I took vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy and de­cided that while I was look­ing for work, I’d write. It was go­ing to be one book on the his­tory of Me­chan­ics Bay, Par­nell, St Georges Bay and Judges Bay. It would have been big, even as a soft­cover it would have sold for around $80. And given that I’m self­pub­lish­ing I thought that was im­pos­si­ble for me to sell.’’

By di­vid­ing the book into three small book­lets Ms Cameron aims to make the in­for­ma­tion more ac­ces­si­ble.

She hopes fam­i­lies will buy the book­lets so that young peo­ple can learn about the sub­urb.

‘‘There’s so much to write about, I’m go­ing to keep go­ing and try and churn out one a year.’’

The first book­let on Me­chan­ics Bay is avail­able at Par­nell Pa­per Plus, White Heron Dairy, Glad­stone Road and Hill­top Su­perette for $20. The book­lets on the Vil­lage of Par­nell, St Georges Bay and Judges Bay will be pub­lished in 2014.


Sat­is­fy­ing read­ing: His­tory re­searcher Carolyn Cameron says go­ing right back to the source and look­ing at orig­i­nal doc­u­ments is the only way to get things straight.

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