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Faces from the past . . . North Otago Early Settlers Association president Helen Stead admires a portrait of George Jones, who settled in Oamaru in 1877, at the association's hall in Severn St. Mr Jones purchased the Evening Mail newspaper that year and renamed it the Oamaru Mail. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

The North Otago Early Settlers Association is exploring options to display portraits of Oamaru’s early settlers not already on show at Victorian-era tourism attraction Whitestone City in Harbour St.

The portraits, which number about 200, have been gifted to and collected by the association since it was established in 1939.

They were hung in the centennial rooms, built in 1940 to mark the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, at the association’s hall in Severn St.

While some original portraits remain at the hall, most are now held at the Waitaki District Archive after an agreement was reached between the association and Tourism Waitaki that resulted in the Waitaki District Council-owned entity taking ownership of them.

Between 80 and 100 of the portraits have been copied and reframed and are now on public display at Whitestone City, while a small number of copies hang on the walls at the hall or are stored there.

Speaking at the association’s annual meeting last week, president Helen Stead said Whitestone City had now “run out of space” to display the portraits, which meant the association was now considering other options to display the remaining images.

She planned to meet with incoming Tourism Waitaki general manager Margaret Munro, who starts in the role on March 12, to discuss whether the portraits could be displayed at the Forrester Gallery.

“When the Forrester Gallery extension development goes ahead, I expect we will look at what we have got down there. Exactly where they will all go is something for another time.”

She said “pressure for space” was an issue, as was making sure the portraits were displayed publicly.

“Our concern up until now has been we would like them to be publicly available, in a public place. Being in this building [the hall] with it locked and not opened on a regular basis means they are just hidden away.

“Now, at Whitestone City and maybe the Forrester Gallery, it’s an open space people can go.”

She said he had discussed the idea with Forrester Gallery director Jane Macknight, who supported it.

However, where the portraits would go had not been discussed in detail.

Mrs Stead said the project to copy and reframe the remaining portraits, funded by Tourism Waitaki, was continuing.

In other business, Ivan Main, Rex Murray and Joan Thomas were recognised at the meeting for their long service to the association.