Old portraits being catalogued

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Plans to find out more about the stories behind hundreds of faces that line the walls of Oamaru’s Early Settlers Hall are starting to take shape.
The Early Settlers Hall is full of more than 150 portraits of North Otago’s first settlers, as well as other memorabilia.
The contents of the hall, in Severn St, are looked after by the North Otago Early Settlers Association.
However, the association’s numbers are dwindling and, at a meeting last year, a vote was conducted among the members to decide whether it should continue.
It was decided, by a majority of one vote, that the association should remain active.
That led to concerns from Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and North Otago Early Settlers Association president Helen Stead about the future of the hall’s contents.
A proposal was tabled that would lead to the guardianship of the portraits and memorabilia being assumed by the North Otago Museum and Forrester Gallery.
It is possible the treasure trove of North Otago’s early history will end up on public display at the North Otago Museum.
That was unable to be confirmed until the matter had been discussed further with Mrs Stead, Mr Kircher said.
However, some progress has been made.
Mrs Stead said a group from the association took several photographs and portraits last week from the hall to the museum’s archive, where they, along with archivist Chris Meech, researched information about the subjects.
“We are looking in the long run of having them available for the public to see,” she said.
“That is our long-term goal: an on-site and online footprint.”When research was completed, it would be presented to the association’s members, she said.
The idea is to catalogue each photograph and portrait numerically, and have an electronic system in place so people can punch in the number to read information about the subject, such as where they were born, when they died, what ship they arrived on, where they lived, and other stories if sufficient information could be found; similar to the system used at Dunedin’s Toitu Otago Settlers Museum.
If the portraits and photographs are moved from the hall, the future use of the building is unclear.
The proposal suggested the building, which is used for emergency services training by the council, could be leased out.